I’ve been keeping an eye on the acting career of Onalaska native Mark Proksch since he pulled off best prank I’ve ever heard of, posing as yo-yo master Kenny Strasser back in 2010 and getting himself on live local TV news segments on which he demonstrated no yo-yo skills but showed a gift for awkwardness and oversharing.
He has done a quite a bit of TV acting, including a bunch of episodes of “The Office” as well as “New Girl,” “Portlandia,” “Son of Zorn” and “Better Call Saul,” and I’ve always gotten a jolt of excitement when he comes on the screen — “Hey, I know that guy!” But on those TV shows, he plays minor characters, and his screen time is so fleeting that I’m always left wanting more Proksch.
This week, though, I got to feast on Proksch as he has a starring role in “Another Evil,” a low-budget indie black comedy. It hit movie screens last Friday in Los Angeles, New York, Toronto and Vancouver, but a big-screen showing isn’t likely here, so I ordered it on iTunes and kicked back to watch it with my daughter, Becca, who studied film in college.
In “Another Evil,” Proksch plays Os (short for Oscar), a ghost hunter/exorcist hired to deal with the haunting of the desert getaway home of Dan, an artist played by Steve Zissis. Dan, the only one in his family who has had a direct encounter with the ghost, had a ghost hunter in before Os (played by former “Daily Show” correspondent Dan Bakkedahl, a native of Rochester, Minn.).
The first ghost hunter confirms for Dan that, yes, there are ghosts in the house, but that they’re cool, no need to evict them. Dan, who has come face to face with one of them, wants a second opinion and brings in Os, leaving his family back home to meet up with Os.
With his leather coat and hat and a big trunk full of ghost-hunting goodies, Os from the start seems like a more serious professional than the first guy — a “straight-up ghost assassin.” But he’s still goofy in his own way, and almost all of the comedy in “Another Evil” comes from Proksch’s portrayal.
There’s a little Kenny Strasser in Proksch’s Os, in the way he shares too much with Dan, desperately seeking a buddy as his de-ghosting work seems to go as off the tracks as his own personal life — Os’s marriage is breaking apart.
Written and directed by Carson Mell, the movie never gets quite as scary as you might expect from a film called “Another Evil.” There are a couple jolts when we see the bloody-bearded apparition, but the real tension comes from Os becoming increasingly unhinged and desperate. The plot twist involving the ghost’s second appearance seemed like an easy way out and had me saying “What?!?” instead of being spooked. I’m not a huge horror movie fan, but I think this could have been an even better movie if it had taken a darker turn there.
I’d have to say the biggest jolt in the movie came from Proksch’s full moon scene. I’m being intentionally vague here because I don’t want to give it away, but the scene was pretty funny and slightly horrifying at the same time, sort of a turning point in the movie where you start to really question whether Os has all his marbles.
I got a lot of great laughs from watching Proksch do his thing in “Another Evil,” and you can get a good taste of his portrayal by watching the snippet posted online where he sets up a trap to catch his first ghost at Dan’s house. His explanation of why spirits remain in the earthly sphere and how his trap works is hilarious.
Proksch doesn’t expect “Another Evil” will get a theater screening in La Crosse, but people can watch it at home on Amazon, iTunes, YouTube and Google Play. He expects it will end up on Netflix at some point, too.
I sure hope we can get the chance to see Proksch do more big-screen work, and I’ve definitely got my fingers crossed that Comedy Central will pick up his sit-com, which had a pilot episode filmed last year. I’m thinking he is working on another movie, as he posted on Twitter that he was “on set” as an explanation why he was behind in answering questions posted on Reddit.com.
What amazes me is that Mark Proksch is not the only Mark from Onalaska making his mark in Hollywood. Proksch’s good friend (and pranking pal) from high school, Mark Hefti has been doing a lot of writing and producing. He’s got a couple of movies coming out that he wrote and had a production role in, one is “Lady Ganga,” a documentary about a woman’s remarkable reaction to her cervical cancer diagnosis that should be in the running for an Oscar nomination, and “Riley’s Peak,” a feature film that gave Hefti the chance to hang out with Jon Voight and Jamie Kennedy on the set during filming.
Rock on …