The Field Guide to Evil (2018)

I think this is the first anthology I’ve reviewed on the blog? The only other time I’ve used that tag was with The Star Wars Holiday Special, and that was mostly a “for lack of a better word” situation. The Field Guide to Evil is a horror anthology that focuses on multicultural folklore, broadening our horizons by showcasing creatures and demons from around the world. But unfortunately for this film, not every story is told as well as the others. There were some shorts I loved, and others that just left me feeling meh.

So how do I review the film as a whole? Why, with cold, hard math! I’m going to have bullet points for each short film and give them a rating, then take the average and use that for this post. Am I going to use this system in future anthologies? Maybe! Let’s not pretend I’m consistent about anything. Anyway, let’s begin!

  • The first segment is “The Sinful Women of Höllfall” from Austria and the writing/directing duo that brought us The Lodge and Ich Seh, Ich Seh, AKA Goodnight Mommy. A girl who drinks goat’s milk straight from the teat explores her sexuality with a girl who fakes her period, but their sinful dalliances invoke the wrath of the trud (sometimes known as an alp). Is is guilt manifested, sleep paralysis, an angry guardian, or a real monster? Kind of vague! Atmospheric and queer, 4 out of 5.
  • Next is “Haunted by Al Karisi, the Childbirth Djinn” from Turkey and the director of Housewife and Baskin. A negligent caretaker gives birth and is immediately haunted by a shapeshifting goat demon that wants her baby, to drive her crazy, or just kill her. I don’t think we saw her do enough bad things to justify the ending, 3 out of 5.
  • Then from Poland is “The Kindler and the Virgin” from the writer and director of Córki Dancingu, AKA The Lure. A strange woman tells a man that if he eats the hearts of three recently deceased people, he will gain power and knowledge. I too always take advice from manic pixie dream girls who leap out of trees and leave slime on my back! I honestly have no idea what happened at the end, 2 out of 5. Extra disappointing since I loved Córki Dancingu
  • The fourth tale takes us to America–more specifically the United States–with “Beware the Melonheads.” A family on vacation runs into the so-called melonheads–evil children with giant heads. The dad’s stunt fall alone gives this story +1 to its score, but the big heads on the kids look awful–they try to hide some of them with bandages, but it looks even worse–so -1 for that. 3 out of 5.
  • “Whatever Happened to Panagas the Pagan?” starts the second half of the anthology with a film from Greece. A kallikantzaros (basically a goblin, although the translation apparently is more along the lines of “vampire” or “werewolf”) comes up from the Underworld during Christmas to join a party, but in a twist it’s the humans who are the truly monstrous ones. You ever party so hard you end up in Hell? I know some can relate. 4 out of 5.
  • Next is “The Palace of Horrors” from India. Headhunters for a circus come to West Bengal in 1913 to find “freaks” and stumble upon something… otherworldly. Very Lovecraftian, not in the “eldritch abomination god” way, but in “the incident drove me to the brink of madness, but I’ll recount it for you regardless.” Black and white was a good style choice, 4 out of 5.
  • The seventh short film is “A Nocturnal Breath” from Germany. Two siblings are tormented by a drude, a nightmarish entity that possesses a person but escapes sometimes, leaving the host body effectively dead until it returns. What would you do to keep your family together, and are you sure said family would do the same? This one was great, so 5 out of 5.
  • “Cobbler’s Lot” is the last short from Hungary. Two cobbler brothers are both in love with a princess; one falls prey to the seduction of nymphs, while the other lets his jealousy consume him. It’s shot to resemble a silent film, but in color and with limited sound effects. Very “art film,” but I loved it. 5 out of 5. Saving the best for last, I guess!

Checking the average of all eight scores nets the film a 3.75. Normally you’d round that up to an 4, but I’m bumping it down to a 3 and a half (or 7 out of 10). Some of these shorts worked really well, while others were hampered by their limited runtime. It was fun to get some bite-sized foreign horror, reminding me to watch more non-English flicks in the near future.


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