Writer: John Mangan
Director: Martyn Pick
Evil Never Dies (aka ‘The Haunting of Harry Payne’) starts with ex-gangster Harry (Tony Scannell) being released from prison after serving ten years for murdering his gangland partner. Now ‘retired’ he plans to live a quiet life in the country near the care home where his wife Susan (Katy Manning) is a resident. But soon after he arrives the first of a number of brutal murders takes place – murders for which Harry is the obvious suspect. But there’s a supernatural element involved as well, with a local legend of the ghost of a white lady. Throw in the owner of the local New Age shop and her mentally challenged best customer and you have a large number of potential elements and red herrings.
Which is the biggest problem with this film. There are lots of very interesting pieces but it takes a long time before they come together to form any coherent picture. I don’t just mean that the answer to the question is left to the end – that’s understandable. But for much of the film you don’t even know what the question actually is.
One reason for this is that much of the story is gradually developed in flashback. As the film unfolds we slowly learn about Harry’s relationship with his partner. And, eventually, we learn why his wife is in a care home. Normally I like a slow reveal, but this is a bit too slow. I could have done with some more signposts as to exactly what I was watching. Was it a supernatural horror? A story of gangland revenge? A metaphor for Harry’s guilt? Clearly a sense of confusion was what the writer was aiming for, I just think he took it too far.
Stylistically the film is superb. Even with a confused plot it kept my attention. The word I would use is ‘fascinating’, in the archaic sense of the word. I didn’t know what I was watching but I couldn’t stop watching it.
In the end all the parts do come together in a way that is dramatically satisfying if not particularly logical. So I ended up enjoying Evil Never Dies, but I’d have enjoyed it a lot more if the storytelling had been a little more straightforward.