The title evokes the horror genre, which is apt considering that this portrait of a remote boarding school in ’50s Sweden is likely to instil the fear of God into all but the most fervent followers of Thomas Arnold’s nineteenth-century ideas on public-school education. By the time the opening credits are complete, troubled Erik Ponti (Andreas Wilson) has been expelled from his local school for violent behaviour and is on board a train bound for Stjärnsberg, a strict boarding school where a select band of sixth-form pupils known as ‘The Council’ lay down the law and dish out violent, degrading punishments to anyone who refuses to respect their wishes (or, indeed, polish their shoes). ‘The best thing is to be ordinary,’ advises Erik’s roommate, the deliciously named Pierre Tanguy (Henrik Lundström). It’s advice that Erik ignores, and very soon he’s engaged in a battle of wills with several sadistic senior boys – a battle that results in intimidation and violence, and upsets the unnatural order of Stjärnsberg.Director Mikael Håfström carves something of a folk hero from Erik, whose muscled body, slight tan and leather jacket sets him apart from his wan, waspish schoolfellows. It’s an approach that is strengthened by a brooding performance from Wilson. ‘Evil’ is best when wallowing in the rules and routines of this hermetic world, inspiring scenes that recall Lindsay Anderson’s much superior ‘If…’. But you may yearn for that earlier film’s comic surrealism and sense of otherworldly mystery: although ‘Evil’ is brutal and engaging, it is essentially a traditional story of a plucky underdog overcoming immense repression and as such lacks much aesthetic or narrative daring. Still, it’s a compelling tale.