Mark Proksch is great. So great, in fact, that I, jealous man that I am, almost felt bummed when I learned he had achieved some mainstream success with What We Do in the Shadows (2019-2022). Like my favorite German indie group, Fotos, I want him sitting at 14k listeners per month on Spotify (or IMDb, whatever). As Kenny “K-Strass” Strasser, he went around Midwestern morning shows and announced himself as a representative of Zim Zam, schlepping school to school with his trusted yo-yo, teaching kids about the environment. Though a disciple of the Garth Brooks of the yo, Eric Stringer, he often just injured himself and complained about his parents’ divorce. Under his own name on On Cinema (2012-Present), he impersonates W.C. Fields so well that, should you close your eyes, you’d be transported back to Six of a Kind (1934) or The Bank Dick (1940). And who could forget his performances as Abdul Sharif, Frankenstein, the Wolfman, and WC-3P0 on Decker (2014-2020). And now I have him to myself once again. Mark Proksch, it turns out, has graced the silver screen in 2016’s Another Evil.
Carson Mell’s horror comedy tells a tale as old as time (or, at least, as old as the Wolfman): a successful artist, Dan (Steve Zissis), who paints black holes surrounded by colors, and his wife, Mary (Jennifer Irwin) find that their mountain lodge is haunted. They call in a ghost hunter named Joey Lee Dansing (Dan Bakkerdahl), who wears jorts and a soiled tank top and totes an Arizona Iced Tea. Joey Lee tells them the ghosts are friendly after spending a solid hour hanging out with them “in their world.” Dan has seen a woman, jowls bloodied, crawling up his stairs like a grown-up version of the girl from Ring (1998). He is nonplussed, though Mary seems receptive. But Dan protests and calls in the big guns: Os Bijourn (Mark Proksch).
Os is, we hear, serious. And we know he’s serious because he tells Dan upfront that Joey Lee is a loser who loves ghosts and never does what needs to be done. He looks like the Dud crossed with Will Smith from Wild Wild West (1999). He tells Dan they have to trek up into those mountains and crush those ghosts—it’ll be a boys’ weekend sort of thing. Dan, still convinced his wife is underestimating the problem, wholeheartedly agrees. He can get some painting done, if nothing else.
Os is an odd one, a peapod short a couple of the little green guys. Dan wakes up to Os naked in the living room, screaming (attuning himself for spiritual combat, it seems). He makes the same breakfast every morning, supplemented by an Irish coffee. He thinks the ghosts want to steal his stuff. He never stops talking about how his wife is leaving him because he won’t stop adopting stray cats. At first, he relates that he got into the paranormal because he met Satan outside his bedroom window as a child. Later he admits this is a lie. In his “real” backstory (aided in the telling by his constant drinking) Os regales Dan with a story improper for polite ears. Read on at your own risk, ye with fear of the ghoulish.
Okay. Os says he used to run with a tough crowd. One night he ate so many pills that he went along with the head of his gang to a mortuary with these sisters every boy in town wanted to get with. Os and his buddy start competing to get the girls’ attention, which quickly led to manipulating corpses—blood, gore, and, most notably, an exploded eyeball.
You might assume this desecration summons Satan. Not quite. Os is not so simple.
It’s later at a diner at the end of the night, reflecting on what he’s done, that Os decides to go to the bathroom. He’s stopped by an unbelievably attractive woman who says she knows what he did and he better come with her. They go to her mansion, have sex, etc. The next day—surprise—the house is gone. Os knows her to have been (gasp) Satan.
Dan is a pretty straightlaced fella. But he plays along night after night after night because he desperately needs these ghosts gone. He even takes a kind of shine to Os, confessing to him that there’s no meaning to the black circle paintings—he just started doing them out of desperation when his wife became pregnant. Soon, the two are sharing more about their lives, becoming the sort of friends you make on a retreat or a cruise.
But no one can take Os forever and the rest of the film concerns Dan’s attempt to rid himself of the ghosthunter (ghosts be damned). He lies and says he shooed it away himself. Os celebrates with a can of his finest wine, the stuff he’s been saving for a special occasion (“they made it for the GIs,” he explains). He begins making chicken noises. Dan accepts some pain now for salvation later.
Of course, Os doesn’t leave—but the movie from there becomes less convincing. The movie’s emotional center is the sort of bond that can develop under immense pressure in an enclosed space. Os is a real weirdo and Dan is a total square. But enough time and enough alcohol can fix that. One is lonely; one has a family (who we see are reasonably close in the opening scene). In the face of the supernatural, however, Os has the upper-hand, and so the slow negotiation-turned-friendship begins.
It’s certainly not a perfect film. It’s light. The direction is standard. It has that blue tinge that’s plagued digital as long as I’ve been consciously taking movies in. At best, it could squeak by on the Bechdel Test. But it ain’t made for those things. It’s about a laugh and the bonds we share and the weirdos we know and love. That’s enough—Mark’s enough—for me.