Tag Archives: Evil Dead

Fright Club: Addiction Horror

Addiction is its own horror story, which may explain why so many filmmakers use monstrous imagery as metaphor for addiction. We count down the best horror films that use addiction to freak you out.

5. Enter the Void (2009)

Gaspar Noe films from the point of view of Oscar, an American who deals drugs in Tokyo.  When Oscar is shot in a police raid, the camera follows his subconscious as Noe tries to illustrate a nightmarish link between drugs and death.

Noe’s trademarks – jarring opening credits, roller coaster camerawork, extended takes – are all here, and the result is a nearly two-and-a-half hour barrage of extreme violence, graphic sex, drug-fueled hallucinations and an often hypnotizing gloom that may leave you feeling physically beaten. It’s an experience. But like most of Noe’s work, it’s also hard to turn away from, even if you want to.

4. Habit (1995)

Writer/director/star Larry Fessenden explores alcoholism via vampire symbolism in this NY indie. Fessenden plays Sam, a longtime drunk bohemian type in the city. He’s recently lost his father, his longtime girlfriend finally cut bait, and he runs into a woman who is undoubtedly out of his league at a party.

And then he wakes up naked and bleeding in a park.

The whole film works beautifully as an analogy for alcoholism without crumbling under the weight of metaphor. Fessenden crafts a wise, sad vampiric tale here and also shines as its lead.

3. The Addiction (1995)

Like most of director Abel Ferrara’s work, the film is an overtly stylish, rhythmically urban tale of brutal violence, sin and redemption (maybe). Expect drug use, weighty speeches and blood in this tale of a doctoral candidate in philosophy (Lili Taylor) over-thinking her transformation from student to predator.

Taylor cuts an interesting figure as Kathleen, a very grunge-era vampire in her jeans, Doc Martens and oversized, thrift store blazer. She’s joined by an altogether awesome cast—Annabella Sciorra, Edie Falco and Christopher Walken among them.

Ferrara parallels Kathleen’s need for blood to drug addiction, but uses her philosophy jibberish to plumb humanity’s historical bloodlust.

2. Evil Dead (2013)

With the helpful pen of Oscar winner Diablo Cody (uncredited), Fede Alvarez turns all the particulars of the Evil Dead franchise on end. You can tick off so many familiar characters, moments and bits of dialog, but you can’t predict what will happen.

One of the best revisions is the character of Mia: the first to go and yet the sole survivor. An addict secluded in this cabin in the woods with her brother and friend specifically to detox, she’s the damaged one, and the female who’s there without a male counterpart, which means (by horror standards), she’s the one most likely to be a number in the body count, but because of what she has endured in her life she’s able to make seriously tough decisions to survive – like tearing off her own damn arm. Nice!

Plus, it rains blood! How awesome is that?!

1. Resolution (2012)

Michael (Chris Cilella) is lured to a remote cabin, hoping to save his friend Chris (Vinny Curan) from himself. Chris will detox whether he wants to or not, then Michael will wash his hands of this situation and start again with his wife and unborn baby.

But Michael is in for more than he bargained, and not only because Chris has no interest in detoxing. Directors Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson (working from Benson’s screenplay) begin with a fascinating and bizarre group of characters and a solid story, layering on bizarre notions of time, horror and storytelling in ways that are simultaneously familiar and wildly unique. The result is funny, tense, and terrifying.

Fright Club: Amputees in Horror

If you watch much of horror, there’s something you might notice. People lose a lot of limbs in these movies. Naturally, we decided to look into this. We spent some time with the tragic (or maybe deserving) amputees of Audition and American Mary and others, but there turned out to be so many badasses who only get cooler once the limb is missing that we decided to hang out with them.

Thanks to the B Movie Bros for joining us for the podcast to talk through the list. Listen in HERE.

6. Arlen (Suki Waterhouse) – The Bad Batch (2017)

Writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour creates another unusual heroine with this one. Arlen’s a vane bit of white trash deemed part of “the bad batch.” Shortly into her investigation of her new home, she learns that at least one of the neighborhood communities is less welcoming – if better fed – than the other.

No crybaby, though, Arlen faces life as a double amputee with a lot of nerve and eventually some hallucinogenic drugs. What she does more than anything is refuse to conform and instead paves her own path.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVfpKaftzv4

5. Alonzo (Lon Chaney) – The Unknown (1927)

When Tod Browning makes a movie about side show freaks, color us excited. In this unseemly tale, the great silent monster Lon Chaney is The Amazing Alonzo, an armless knife thrower/sharp shooter/guitar player/smoker in a circus. He has eyes for his show partner Nanon (Joan Crawford, pre-wire hanger), but the circus strongman is hot for her.

So, it all sounds a tad like Browning’s infamous Freaks. But Nanon spurns the strongman because she can’t stand to be groped by men’s hands – which makes it seem like Alonzo is a shoe-in, except that he is not what he appears to be.

Camera trickery, an actual circus performer, and Chaney’s convincing performance work together to create a believable side show character in Alonzo. Browning couples this unsettling performance with an air of seediness and some bizarre plot twists to leave a lasting impression.

4. Candyman (Tony Todd) – Candyman (1992)

Oh my God, that voice! Yes, Candyman is a bad dude, but isn’t he kind of dreamy?

Like a vampire, the villain of Cabrini Green needed to be both repellant and seductive for this storyline to work, and Todd more than managed both. With those bees in his mouth and that hook for a hand, he is effortlessly terrifying. But it’s Todd’s presence, his somehow soothing promise of pain and eternity, that makes the seduction of grad school researcher Helen (Virginia Madsen) realistic.

Todd would go on to love again in the Candyman sequel Farewell to the Flesh, proving that you do not need two working hands to wreak bloody havoc.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XROa2ZOqh8Q

3. Mia (Jane Levy) – Evil Dead (2013)

With the helpful pen of Oscar winner Diablo Cody (uncredited), Fede Alvarez turns all the particulars of the Evil Dead franchise on end. You can tick off so many familiar characters, moments and bits of dialog, but you can’t predict what will happen.

One of the best revisions is the character of Mia: the first to go and yet the sole survivor. She’s the damaged one, and the female who’s there without a male counterpart, which means (by horror standards), she’s the one most likely to be a number in the body count. But because of what she has endured in her life she’s able to make seriously tough decisions to survive – like tearing off her own damn arm. Nice!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxrbNDDWass

2. Cherry (Rose McGowan) – Planet Terror (2007)

Losing a leg – in most horror movies, this would spell doom for a character. Not in Robert Rodriguez’s half of Grindhouse, though. Indeed, for Rose McGowan’s Cherry Baby, an amputated limb turns her to the film’s most daring badass.

A machine gun for a leg! How awesome is that?! McGowan strikes the right blend of hard knock and vulnerability to keep the character interesting – beyond the whole leg of death thing. I mean, you’d hardly call her boring.

The entire film is a whole lot of throw-back fun – gory, lewd, funny, gross (so, so gross). It’s so much fun that even a lengthy Tarantino cameo doesn’t spoil things. And it makes the point that people who’ve been struck by physical disabilities can still be total badasses – not to mention hot as F.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jmMApNy48Sc

1. Ash (Bruce Campbell) – Evil Dead 2 (1987)

What?! Like you didn’t know he’d be #1. Hell, he’s the entire reason we did this list.

When his hand turns evil, Ash does what he needs to do. Of course he does – he’s already dismembered nearly everyone who’s ever meant anything to him, what loyalty does he owe his own hand at this point?

Plus, if Cherry Baby was cool with a machine gun leg, how awesome is Ash with a chainsaw for an arm?!

Super cool. Groovy, even.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awxz-8XR938





Fright Club: Best Final Girls

A staple of the horror genre – the final girl. She’s been beaten, tied up, duct taped, stabbed and generally misused, but she soldiers on. Whether through virtue, savvy, or just general badassedness, these women are not above doing what’s necessary to make it through to the sequel – even if that means putting on Jason’s dead mother’s moth-eaten sweater, because that shit had to be gamey. So today our Senior Aussie/Slasher Correspondent Cory Metcalfe joins us again to celebrate the best final girls in horror.

6. Erin (Sharni Vinson – You’re Next, 2011)

Erin is Australian, which is clearly the deciding factor here. She joins her boyfriend for a family holiday in a gorgeous vacation home deep in the woods. Which sounds worse, the first meeting with the family or “deep in the woods”? In her case, that is seriously a toss-up. The gathering is disrupted by violent, mask-wearing psychopaths, but they weren’t prepared for Erin.

Erin’s one of the few at the event who’s new to the family, so she’s hard for the villains to predict. And we find that her boyfriend – a college prof who dates his students, including Erin – doesn’t know nearly enough about her. It’s a great tale of unreasonably low expectations. It’s also, a great character because Erin is savvy, tough, and fearless.

5. Mia (Jane Levy – Evil Dead, 2013)

With the helpful pen of Oscar winner Diablo Cody (uncredited), Fede Alvarez turns all the particulars of the Evil Dead franchise on end. You can tick off so many familiar characters, moments and bits of dialog, but you can’t predict what will happen.

One of the best revisions is the character of Mia: the first to go and yet the sole survivor. She’s the damaged one, and the female who’s there without a male counterpart, which means (by horror standards), she’s the one most likely to be a number in the body count, but because of what she has endured in her life she’s able to make seriously tough decisions to survive – like tearing off her own damn arm. Nice!

Plus, it rains blood! How awesome is that?!

4. Sarah (Shauna McDonald – The Descent, 2005)

Sarah is another one who appears to be the weak link but proves her meddle. She suffers an almost unendurable tragedy in the opening scene, and a year later, when she and her friends regroup to spend a holiday together spelunking in West Virginia, she appears to be the delicate one. What she goes through in the early part of the film informs her ability to survive – as her friend Beth points out (to her and to us) when Sarah gets caught in the narrow tunnel.

She’s quiet and observant, smart and proactive – all excellent qualities once we find out that the group is not only lost inside an unmapped underground cave with no hope of being found, but that the cave already has residents, and dude! Are they creepy!

The way Sarah evolves, and the turns the character and the film take, are surprising and impressive.

3. Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 1974)

Back in 1974, the “final girl” formula hadn’t been perfected. The slasher genre barely even existed, but Tobe Hooper already knew how to play with genre expectations. Yes, Sally Hardesty is the sweet one, the pretty one, the one likeliest to be the last in line for that chainsaw, but there’s a lot more to her than halter tops and bell bottoms.

Marilyn Burns mines for something primal in this performance, which is absolutely necessary if we’re to believe this girl has what it takes to survive the cannibal family. Sally’s mania is recognizable, necessary to the viewer. No one is yelling advice or judgement at the screen because who in the hell could possibly know what to do in this situation?

Unlike so many female characters in horror before her and since, Sally doesn’t whimper and rely on the villain’s conscience to save her. She negotiates, and when she realizes that’s getting her nowhere, she makes tough choices (like throwing herself out a window – because no fate could be worse than the one that clearly awaits her otherwise). In keeping with the film, Burns’s performance is gritty, unpleasant, insane and perfect.

2. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis – Halloween, 1978)

In 1978, Laurie Strode became the definition of “final girl” in much the same way that Carpenter’s horror masterpiece became the definition of slasher – the blueprint for the genre. For many, Jamie Lee Curtis’s girl-next-door is the ultimate final girl.

There’s great reason for that. She distilled everything that came before and became the model for what would come after in the slasher film: virtuous, smart, self-sacrificing. But Curtis does it with more intelligence and onscreen grace than those before or (mostly) after in the slasher genre. She’s virtuous, but not judgy. She’s hot, but not overtly so. She’s also brave and smart.

The reason the character transcended genre trappings to become iconic is not the writing or the film itself, but Curtis’s performance. An effortless intelligence shines through regardless of Laurie’s actions, and it elevates the film and the genre.

1. Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver – Alien, 1979)

Who could possibly push Laurie Strode to second place? Ellen Ripley could.

Sigourney Weaver’s character in Alien and its many sequels is a savvy, tough, no-nonsense survivor. She is clearly the smartest member of the Nostromo crew: she understands chain of command and values quarantine regulations; she’s the first to recognize Ash (Ian Holm) as a villain; she understands the need to blow the ship; she outsmarts the predator.

Her sexuality is beside the point, which is entirely refreshing in this genre and for the role of final girl. She also changed the game for “final girls.” No longer could we accept a beautiful, sobbing mess who made ridiculous decisions, refused to fight back, and survived based entirely on her virtue. Ripley is never a victim, rarely makes an uninformed decision, and kicks all manner of ass. That’s why she survives. She’s not hoping to be saved, she’s just doing what it takes to get the F out of Dodge and keep Earth safe.

Thanks, Ellen!





Counting Down Cinema’s Best Trilogies

The third Hunger Games installment is set to smash box office records this week. It’s part of that rare brotherhood of series where the sequel is stronger than the original, like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. We’re eager to see what they can do with #3, which got us to thinking about our favorite trilogies. Today we are counting down the best trilogies in film.

10. Dead Trilogy

George A. Romero may have gone to the well a few too many times, but the first three installments of his Dead series – Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead – were groundbreaking achievements that created the pattern for all future zombie films. Packed with social commentary as well as bloody entrails, they are as weirdly compelling today as they were when they were first released.

9. Back to the Future

Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd head to the 1950s, back to the Eighties, back to the Fifties, and eventually to the Wild West in a charming, funny, nostalgic time travel fantasy.

8. Evil Dead

Truth be told, the 2013 reboot is a worthy addition to the franchise. But it’s Bruce Campbell and the 1981 goretastic Stoogesque original, its 1987 reboot/sequel, and the epic third installment Army of Darkness that create the three headed monster we love.

7. Godfather Trilogy

Honestly, this is here on the merit of the first two films alone. Though the third installment is not the debacle it is often labeled, it is certainly comparatively weak. But since I and II are among the greatest American films ever made, we’ll let that slide.

6. Dollar Trilogy

Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly stole from Kurosawa, established Clint Eastwood, and changed the landscape of the American Western. Morally complicated and full of violence, Leone’s trilogy is a landmark in cinema – American, Italian or otherwise.

5. Vengeance Trilogy

Korean filmmaking genius/madman Chan-wook Park unleashed three riveting, bizarre tales of vengeance beginning in 2002 with Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, the unnervingly merciful tale of kidnapping, compassion and revenge. He followed it the next year with his masterpiece, Oldboy, a revenge fable so bizarre it defies simple summarization. He capped the trilogy in 2005 with Lady Vengeance, another twisted and human tale of vengeance and unattainable redemption.

4. Star Wars

If a trilogy ever had as much impact as the first three Star Wars films, we don’t know of it. Yes, there are weaknesses in Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi (Ewoks, for example), but it’s a galaxy we’d return to regardless of its distance.

3. Lord of the Rings

Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy is a majestic, gorgeously filmed and beautifully crafted nerdgasm. Scary, heroic and genuinely epic, it’s a fantasy world that offsets the magic with enough authenticity to give the trilogy compelling urgency. Jackson’s vision is magnificent. (But enough already, please?)

2. Dark Knight

Christopher Nolan recast superheroes with his dark, brooding Batman Begins. Provocatively written and fascinatingly cast, the film spun into the superior sequel The Dark Knight, proving that a superhero movie could be among the very best films made in any year. Then he capped it with The Dark Knight Rises and the kind of excitement, revisiting of themes and satisfying closure required of a genuine cinematic trilogy. Nicely done!

1. Toy Story

When Pixar unleashed Toy Story in 1995, the world changed for animation, family entertainment, and movies on the whole. What a glorious achievement – too good for a sequel. And yet John Lasseter revisited Buzz, Woody and gang in ’99 with new buddies and a toy-centric plot that was as riveting as the first film. And then, showing true genius, Lasseter returned to Andy’s house in maybe the most honest and heartbreaking coming of age film ever digitally created. Tell us you didn’t cry during Toy Story 3 and we’ll label you a sociopath.





Countdown: Best in Horror, 2013

 

At one point, it looked like 2013 was going to be a bloody banner year for horror. Remember that time? We’d already seen the magnificence of the Evil Dead remake as well as the spooktacular glory of the original The Conjuring, and we still had You’re Next, The Purge, Insidious: Chapter 2 and Carrie to go? Too bad those last few couldn’t live up to expectations.

The year did produce a handful of really excellent horror flicks, though. Here is our Top 5.

5. Byzantium

Director Neil Jordan returned to the modern day/period drama vampire yarn this year. Thanks to two strong leads, he pulls it off. Saoirse Ronan is the perfectly prim and ethereal counterbalance to Gemma Arterton’s street-savvy survivor, and we follow their journey as they avoid The Brotherhood who would destroy them for making ends meet and making meat of throats. Jordan’s new vampire drama attempts a bit of feminism but works better as a tortured love story.

4. Simon Killer

The effortlessly creepy Brady Corbet plays the title role in Simon Killer, a college kid alone in Paris after a messy break up. He’s loathsome and  cowardly and impossible to ignore as he hatches a plan with his new prostitute girlfriend – a wonderfully tender Constance Rousseau – to make some quick cash. The film draws you in like a thriller before morphing into a sinister character study that will leave you shaken.

3. We Are What We Are

Not enough people saw this gem, and even fewer saw the brilliant Mexican original, but both are essential horror viewing. The reboot takes a very urban, very Mexican tale and spins it as American gothic, with wildly successful results. From the same writing/directing team that brought forth Stake Land (if you haven’t seen it, you really should), this is one of the few Americanized versions of foreign horror to satisfy – although you may not be hungry again for a while.

2. Evil Dead

Naming #1 was a tough call because of this one, among the all time best reboots in horror history. Fede Alvarez (with some help from the Oscar winning pen of Diablo Cody) respects the source material while still carving out his own vision. Goretastic, scary, and unexpectedly surprising given how closely it aligns itself to its predecessors, the movie has it all – including more gallons of blood than any film in history. Seriously.

1. The Conjuring

James Wan mixes the percussive scares of modern horror with the escalating dread of old fashioned genre pieces, conjuring a giddy-fun spookhouse ride guaranteed to make you jump. And he did it all without FX. A game cast helped, but credit Wan for the meandering camera, capturing just what we needed to see at the exact second that it would do the most damage.





You’re Next Did Nothing First

 

by Hope Madden

 

It looked like 2013 might be the year of the horror film. First came the visceral thrill of the Evil Dead reboot, then the spectral fun of The Conjuring. With the buzz surrounding the indie fright film You’re Next, it looked like we might be in store for the season’s third solid genre pic.

Nope.

Adam Wingard’s film has been lauded as Scream meets The Cabin in the Woods, which isn’t entirely wrong. You’re Next is a derivative work that copies Scream’s wink-and-nod use of genre tropes and applies them to a home invasion storyline, this time set in an isolated, wooded area.

Pudgy, weak, whitebread Crispian (AJ Bowen) brings his girlfriend to his parents’ secluded anniversary celebration. Uninvited guests in animal masks pick off attendants, but they’ve underestimated one guest.

Wingard is part of a new generation of horror filmmakers, a fraternity style community with members who work together frequently. Indeed, Wingard worked with Ti West on the compilation VHS; Bowan co-starred in West’s House of the Devil; West handles a small role in You’re Next as a boyfriend/filmmaker/victim.

Unfortunately, none of them makes particularly good films.

Not that You’re Next is especially bad. It’s just that, aside from some relatively entertaining sibling bitchiness, most of the ideas are cribbed from better films. Masked home invaders is far scarier in The Strangers; the animal masks saw their debut in 1973’s The Wicker Man ; many of the home invasion defense moves come directly from Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs. It’s a long list.

Yes there’s a twist and some humor, but folks calling this film “a cut above” have clearly not seen some of the competition. Hell, You’re Next is not even the best “cabin in the woods” film released this year. What it is, is safe.

You’re Next subverts tensions before they can generate real terror. Wingard either lets the audience in on the secret or injects a bit of humor every time the film gets honestly tense. He undercuts each scene’s opportunity to scare, falling back on humor or action movie one-upsmanship instead.

One of the many genius moves Wes Craven made with his genre-upending 1996 film Scream was to balance humor and scares, to mine that tension that either bursts with a scream or a laugh. That’s the work of a horror filmmaker who knows what he’s doing.

You’re Next is the work of Adam Wingard. It turns out, that’s not quite the same thing.

 

Verdict-2-0-Stars

 





Cabin Carnage for Your Queue

Oh glorious day, everyone – it’s here! Today we can take home and forevermore enjoy Fede Alvarez’s update to the Sam Raimi cult favorite Evil Dead. Groundbreaking amounts of gore accompany this sly reimagining of the beloved cabin in the woods horror. Expect bloody fantastic results.

One of the reasons Evil Dead works as well as it does is that there is already a “cabin horror” shorthand we all know, based on the array of stellar existing films. If you haven’t seen the film’s originator, do so now. If you haven’t seen Drew Goddard’s ingenious Cabin in the Woods, again, go do it right now. We’ll wait.

But for a hilarious, frightening, bloody mess you may have missed, try Dead Snow. Nazi zombies, everybody! Hell yes! Co-writer/director/Scandinavian Tommy Wirkola embraces our prior genre knowledge to mine for comedy without ignoring the scares. Wirkola’s artful imagination generates plenty of startles, and gore by the gallon.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cz4KnSI_47c

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9pn_bwdUeiM





Weekend Countdown: Best films..so far..in 2013

The year’s half over. What were the  best films so far? Well, #1 opens this week at the Gateway. Have a look!

 

5. Evil Dead

Fede Alvarez remakes Sam Raimi’s beloved indie splatter fest with the right amount of respect (to the original), humor, and more than enough gore. This infectious bloodletting surprises even the most ardent fan of the original with ingenious twists, solid performances, and a script doctored brilliantly by Oscar winner Diablo  Cody.

 

4. This Is The End

Seth Rogan’s posse gathers for an end of the world party to lampoon their own images and spin a hilarious yarn about celebrity, the rapture, and Michael Cera’s cocaine habit. Jonah Hill’s demon possession is inspired comedy, but the film’s a clever, weirdly good-natured laugh riot from start to finish.

 3. Much Ado about Nothing

Thank God for nerds. Joss Whedon turns his considerable skill to breathing new life to Shakespeare, with the second big party on the list. Mining the Bard’s comedy for actual laughs, Whedon stacks his cast with hyper-talented buddies, and a scene-stealing Nathan Fillian alone is worth the price of admission.

 

2. Mud

Writer/director Jeff Nichols follows up his flawless (and criminally underseen Take Shelter) with another exquisite film. This coming of age tale about a boy, a disappearing way of life, and a fugitive named Mud charms and surprises.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pv30J05U2nI

 

1. Stories We Tell

A fascinating, thoroughly entertaining documentary from Sarah Polley.  While laying bare the secrets in her own family history, Polley expertly speaks to all families, and the questionable truths in which we often take comfort.

 

Runners up: Star Trek Into Darkness, Before Midnight, Frances Ha, World War Z, To the Wonder, The Bling Ring, How to Make Money Selling Drugs  and The Iceman. Happy viewing!





Weekend Countdown: Top 5 “cabin in the woods” flicks

In honor of Evil Dead, we’re counting down our favorite “cabin in the woods” horror films that are not associated with that particular franchise.

5. Tucker & Dale Versus Evil (2010): This hilarious Shaun of the Dead-style send up of hillbilly horror entertains with every frame.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFFh25DmPNU

4. Resolution (2012): Self-aware, atmospheric and creepy, Resolution doesn’t rely on traditional slasher implements to get under your skin.

3. The Blair Witch Project (1999): There is, too, a cabin. At the very end, remember? After we lose Josh and Josh loses his tongue. Oh, you remember – Mike’s standing in the corner like a naughty child, and Heather…. poor, poor Heather…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D51QgOHrCj0

2.  Antichrist (2009): “Nature is Satan’s church.” “Chaos reigns!” “Keep her away from the hand tools.” (No one said that last one, but man, somebody should have.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBdDcQONmkM

1. The Cabin in the Woods (2011): Kind of a cross between Tucker & Dale and Resolution, this funny, wickedly clever, joyous deconstruction of horror tropes leaves you just giddy.





Like Visiting an Old, Very Very Bloody Friend

By George Wolf

Back in ’the early 80s, a low budget horror flick called The Evil Dead got an unexpected boost from legendary author Stephen King. His  public endorsement thrust the obscure title into the spotlight, and on its way to cult status among horror fans. Evil Dead 2 followed in ’87, and then Army of Darkness in ’92. While the series grew increasingly campy, the original story of a deserted cabin, stupid kids and a certain book of the dead remains iconic.

It gets new life with Evil Dead, and fans that have been chomping at the bit will not be let down. The camp is long gone, replaced by solid writing and surprisingly steady direction. Oh, and blood, lots and lots of blood.

Director/co-writer Fede Alvarez, in his feature debut, isn’t concerned with Stooge-worthy splatter . His reboot lovingly reworks Sam Raimi’s tale, eliminating nearly all the humor but absolutely none of the bloodletting. Did I mention it’s bloody?

The film puts more backstory and character development in the mix, but the core remains. We find two couples and one sister holed up in an old cabin, but this time David (Shiloh Fernandez, a bit weak), his girlfriend and his buddies are there to help his sister Mia (Jane Levy, from TVs Suburgatory, in a fantastically gritty performance) quit her drug habit.

Though it’s impossible to pick out the contributions of each of the screenwriters updating Raimi’s script, certain elements – like this back story – scream of Diablo Cody (Juno, Young Adult, Jennifer’s Body), as an ingenious concept gives the film potential subtext by way of an unreliable narrator. Is this reality, or is Mia just insane and detoxing?

Solid writing and Alvarez’s gleefully indulgent direction allow the film – not only a remake, but a remake of a film that tread the overworn path of “cabin in the woods horror” – to remain shockingly fresh.  This is thanks in part to a handful of inspired tweaks, a couple fine performances, and a fearless but never contemptuous eye for carnage.

From the super-creepy opening sequence, Alverez’s update announces its fondness for the source material and his joyous aspiration to stretch that tale to its fullest, nastiest potential. He also shows a real skill for putting nail guns, machetes, hammers, electric meat slicers, hypodermics, even your standard bathroom mirror to fascinating new uses. Bloody, bloody uses.

It’s a quick,intense ride, but don’t be in a rush to leave the theater. For fans of the series, there’s a little gift at the end of the credits.

Bloody good fun!

4 stars (out of 5)