Our Evil (Mal Nosso), the feature debut of writer/director/producer/editor Samuel Galli, is a film of two halves. In the first, hulking, bald, middle-aged Arthur (Ademir Esteves) wakes at 2.32am, searches the dark web, skimming over items like ‘credit card cloning’ ‘cannibalism’ and ‘necro’ to open a section on ‘assassination (South America)’, where he watches an online clip of the bloodily sadistic handiwork of Charles (Ricardo Casella). “I hate people,” Charles later tells Arthur, explaining why he not only has no regrets about his murderous employment, but genuinely relishes it, killing for fun as much as profit. In other words, Charles is irredeemable – yet in spite, or perhaps because, of this, he is hired by Arthur. It becomes clear that the target is Arthur’s own daughter Michele (Luara Pepita), a smiling, generous, loving student who is Charles’ polar opposite (“I like people,” she tells Arthur, “helping people”, in an echolalic reversal of Arthur’s words and ethos). On the eve of Michele’s 20th birthday, Arthur seems haunted by his decision, but no less determined – and viewers are confronted with the moral mystery of why evil is being invited to exalt over good.
The answer comes in the film’s second half – essentially a post-hit clip left for Charles to watch, in which Arthur explains to camera (with flashbacks) his troubled adolescence, his oneiric encounters with a circus clown (Antony Mello), and his precise connection to Michele. The film is organised around careful symmetries: not just the video files which Arthur and Charles respectively view to learn about each other, but also sequences in which hands are shaken, money is exchanged, and balances are restored. And if we are encouraged to make certain assumptions about Arthur in the first half, those are overturned in the second, as what appears to be a simple story of barroom deals and death comes to take on supernatural, even theological dimensions. For Our Evil is all at once a brutal hitman/serial killer thriller and a genre-bending morality play that somehow evokes both The Sixth Sense (1999) and The Exorcist (1973). In the end, as at the beginning, this is an allegory of the endless struggle between good and evil – and in finding justification for the very worst of acts, it offers viewers, as well as several of its characters, entry to an otherworldly moral stage where all valid tickets will be honoured, and all benign intentions rewarded.