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Director: Vito Dinatolo
Cast: Scott Baxter, Chad Bishop, Jamie Bernadette
Production Company: Gravitas Ventures
Runtime: 89 minutes

“Trust nobody.” Military veteran, Jay Williams’ ex-sergeant makes this explicitly clear, and it is also wise advice for the audience. Award-winning filmmaker, Vito Dinatolo takes the viewer on a surreal road trip through a wasteland of the undead, with his genre-bending feature film, Face of Evil (2016).

It’s the 4th of July, and private Jay Williams (Scott Baxter) has returned from serving a tour of duty in the Middle East. He is already having trouble adjusting to civilian life, when a mysterious epidemic breaks out during his welcome-home celebration.

Of course, Jay’s friends become infected, turning into supernatural zombie-demon creatures of some sort. Things only get more chaotic and confusing as the story progresses, but Jay’s former sergeant (Chad Bishop) shows up to help him survive this nightmarish ordeal. Together, they embark on a quest to figure out what the hell is actually going on.

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The film benefits highly from its a solid cast: Chad Bishop chews up action movie dialogue with a slow Southern drawl; Janet Roth embodies the classic femme fatale archetype, as Jay’s ex- girlfriend; and Jamie Bernadette brings balance with an appropriate amount of softness, as Jay’s concerned sister. Scott Baxter contributes humanity to the lead role, as the awkward outcast having difficulty adjusting to his situation.

The moments of conflict within a man who no longer identifies with the home he left behind are, at times, as strong as moments depicting more external fears, such as zombie chases or other violent scenes. The supporting cast even does a believable job as a group of friends at a weekend backyard party.

The approach to world-building has an immersive effect, largely due to the production design. The initial bachelor pad setting as a hoarder’s nightmare looks obviously exaggerated, but is pulled off with a low-budget comedic charm. The plot device of a power outage allows the dark-lit sets to be used advantageously, creating a stylistic horror movie vibe. Whether the action takes place inside the house or outside in the world, Dinatolo manipulates blocking and lighting to create a sensation that is, at times, both claustrophobic and agoraphobic.

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There is some gore and violence, although, these aspects never go over the top, which works to the film’s advantage. Blood, bodily fluids, and zombie-demon make-up FX are used sparingly throughout, but effectively.

Dinatolo is successful in maintaining a creepy and hallucinatory atmosphere for the entirety of Face of Evil. The film starts out with a typical infected/zombie outbreak scenario, then diverts suddenly into the paranoid conspiracy thriller sub-genre, developing further into I-don’t-know-what. There are some genuine moments of tension and confusion, which keep the viewer guessing until the very end. In ways, it is reminiscent of Ben Wheatley’s Kill List (2011), or Bava’s Demons films.

– Luke Meneok, The Nasty Snob

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