Evil Never Dies (2013)
“Discipline. That’s What It’s All About.”
Director: Martyn Pick
Cast: Tony Scannell, Graham Cole, Anouska Mond
Synopsis: Ex-gangster Harry Payne confronts his violent past and vengeance from beyond the grave.
The cast of Evil Never Dies is largely comprised of old TV actors most of us will have forgotten we ever knew. In the lead role of Harry Payne, a gangster haunted by ghosts from his past, there’s Tony Scannell, who graced our small screens for a good number of years as D.S. Roach in the long-running police series The Bill, and his police officer nemesis is played by Graham Cole, whose more than 1000 appearances in the same show makes Scannell’s 200-odd look paltry. Fliss Walton, who plays Cole’s colleague, is one of those familiar faces whose resume suggests you haven’t seen her on TV as frequently as you believe, although she does appear in Holby City every now and then. And Katy Manning, who plays Payne’s wife, will be familiar to a legion of middle-aged men as Jo Grant, one of Dr Who’s assistants from the early 1970s. Sadly, the cast list is the most memorable aspect of what is otherwise a frustratingly disjointed, and at times near-incoherent low-budget effort from director Martyn Pick and writer John Mangan.
The movie opens with Payne’s release from prison after serving a ten-year sentence for the murder of his former best friend and partner-in-crime Eugene McCann (P. H. Moriarty). Payne has decided to abandon his life of crime, and has bought a pub in the small Norfolk village of Rayleton, close to the sanatorium in which his wife is cared for. But his arrival coincides with the first in a series of gruesome murders which the superstitious locals blame on the ghostly ‘White Lady of Rayleton’, but which Payne’s old nemesis Inspector Bracken believes is the work of the former gangster.
As far as plot goes, that’s about it. Mangan introduces us to a number of other characters, but they have either marginal or zero influence on the storyline, and are simply there to provide the padding that the meagre plot so badly needs to fill out even its brief 77 minute running time. One of these characters is a chap named Tark, played by John Mangan, the film’s writer, and he’s entirely superfluous. In one scene, Payne awakens from a nightmare and sees from his bedroom window Tark walking off somewhere in the early dawn light. Payne follows him to a graveyard and watches as Tark shakes hands with a figure whom we never clearly see. Who could this mysterious figure be? Don’t ask me. He’s never identified and the incident is never referred to again, even though Payne breaks cover from his hiding place behind a headstone when gripped by a psychic episode. Given that Payne’s clutching his temples and screaming for all he’s worth you’d think that Tark and his mysterious mate might be alerted to his presence. But, no…
This psychic episode is one of a number by which Payne is seized throughout the film, although many of these seem to take the form of straightforward flashbacks to the incident that resulted in his lengthy incarceration. This idea of combining the gangster and psychic/supernatural genre is not a bad one, but Mangan cloaks his tale in such a dense fog of mystery that we remain largely unaware of the supernatural elements until near the movie’s end — although the eventual solution to the mystery of who’s committing the murders does at least add an unexpected twist to the motive and methods of the murderer, whose identity few will have failed to figure out before the movie’s half over.
Director Martyn Pick does show technical promise at times, although he goes a little over the top in his attempts to either create a distinctive look to the movie or demonstrate just how good he is. I’m not sure which it is, but we can at least give him the benefit of the doubt for the time being. Whether he gets the opportunity to improve on Evil Never Dies depends largely on whether he can find a better screenplay to work from, or whether he can exert the necessary influence to tighten up the kind of unfocused mish-mash of half-realised ideas with which he struggles here.