Steven Boone’s video essay for Fandor takes as its subject an obscure horror movie from 2002. Reflections of Evil is a low-budget, even schlocky experimental film from director Damon Packard. But Boone treats it with respect – the kind of respect usually reserved for art-house fair or serious documentaries. The resulting video essay makes great use of the essayist’s prerogative to weave personal experience into the evaluation of a work of art. He looks at this horror rarity as if it were a documentary of sorts, chronicling his own neighborhood and the state of American society in one big swoop.
As Boone himself puts it, “Reflections of Evil is everybody’s American hell, rendered as a grisly bad joke. Every American satirist from Mark Twain to Rudy Ray Moore seems to have fallen backward into Packard’s shredder. What comes out the other end is blood and toxic smoke, along with fragments of notes, warnings, threats—from those living in that moment just after 9/11 to those of us who have survived up to this latest moment of imminent collapse. Packard saw everything coming, because he saw that it was already here. The intervening years have just been an exponential ramping up of surveillance, violence, austerity, decadence, spectacle.”
Reflections of Evil is not, in Boone’s estimation, the result of one director’s offbeat creativity. Rather it is a symptom of a “dying nation”: a by-product of the horror that has become commonplace in our modern society. When Boone proposes a sequel to Reflections of Evil, made with smartphone footage of police brutality, drone footage of bombings and violent television footage, that thought isn’t even farfetched.