Evolution follows a young boy, Nicolas, who lives on a remote island with other boys of similar age. They are cared for by a group of older women in a facility resembling an aged boarding school/hospital. The seemingly emotionless women take care of the boys with a silent, yet stern order. As Nicolas becomes increasingly curious and concerned about his environment, he begins to investigate the grounds. What he discovers is a horrific experiment for which all the boys appear to be the subjects.
So obviously this is not the film starring David Duchovny and Julianne Moore. This is a much more enigmatic, somber and visceral tale of an island home to monsters creating monsters. There are no moments of levity, few words and the emotions displayed are subtle at their strongest moments. This is a highly visual story woven by a boy's oft-silent investigation upon the island he calls home. There are answers left unspoken, as most things in this film are, but their are motives and causes alluded to in which the darkest pits of your imagination can fill the gaps.
For being such a slow-paced, tranquil film, it is surprisingly disturbing and horrific. The director's choices for when to show the brutality of the scenario made me squirm. It was properly fed by the atmospheric fodder that surrounded each intense moment.
In some ways it felt like the Cold War period films of old that feared aliens inhabiting our bodies and turning us into mindless drones. We watch our protagonist begin to learn the truth, and as we learn more along with him, we are introduced to an ever-growing dread that feels disconcerting and hopeless. We all know there's something wrong along with our protagonist, but we are forced to watch the situation regress into an impossible scenario from which a happy ending can spawn.
It is this blend of powerful imagery and atmospheric intensity that makes the film an effective piece of horror cinema. And yes, I believe I do consider it horror, despite its genre-bending qualities. It is perhaps the most quiet film spanning the entirety of its runtime that I would consider a horror piece. Yes, there are some horror films that have little action, and others that share a similar perspective on a reliance on atmosphere. But Evolution's constant, crawling pacing is unmatched in a film that can actually twist your emotions.
Evolution is not for everyone. Its pacing and minimalism remind me a lot of The Witch, to give you an idea of what to expect. On top of that, you can expect subtitles to riddle the bottom. So be prepared for that, and know this film may not be for you. There is a part of me that, with the limited dialogue, wishes they had made it a completely silent film. I gained such a small amount from the dialogue that I didn't collect from the body language and cinematography that had they extended a few scenes and added a couple of others, this could have been an even more unique film. But, that is hardly a criticism...merely a dream that may have been able to reach a realistic fruition.
Horror Qualifier: 7/10
Horror Quality: 5/10
Film Quality: 8/10