HORROR TV YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: ASH vs EVIL DEAD (2015)

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ASH vs EVIL DEAD (2015)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

“Evil shows up, it blows up!”- Ash Wiliams

The original Evil Dead is one of my all time favorite horror flicks. While I do enjoy the more humorous sequels and really liked Fede Alvarez’s remake, the first flick will always remain the one dearest to my horror-loving heart. Since 1992’s Army Of Darkness, Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell have teased us with the possible return of Ashley Williams and the deadites, with nothing materializing…until now!

Ash vs Evil Dead is a ten episode series created by Sam and Ivan Raimi along with Tom Spezialy and produced by Sam Raimi, Robert Tapert and star Bruce Campbell, who were all there for the original movie it’s based on. The half-hour show premiered, appropriately, on Halloween night on Starz and is a delightful throwback to the film series, blending the comic elements of the latter two films with the ferocious and abundant gore of the first flick. There are also numerous references and nods to the first two films* that will delight and give goosebumps to any Evil Dead fan. The story finds Ashley Williams (the legendary Bruce Campbell), over thirty years after his battle with the deadites, wearing a wooden hand, living in a trailer park, working as a stock boy at the Value Stop and still in possession of the Necronomicon. The aging Ash still sees himself as a ladies’ man and when trying to impress one conquest, a stoned and horny Ash reads from the book. The deadites are unleashed once more and now Ash must find a way to end this nightmare once and for all…a quest that may lead him back to the cabin where it all began. Along for the ride are his co-workers, Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) with a pretty police detective (Jill Marie Jones) and a mysterious woman (Lucy Lawless) in hot pursuit. Will Ash succeed, or will he screw things up once again?

I had a blast with this series both for nostalgia’s sake and sheer entertainment value. There are a few weak episodes, such as one that takes place in an occult book store and an episode where they visit Pablo’s Brujo (Shaman) uncle. The latter is a little flat…though it sets Ash on his path and we get a little fun with a possessed Kelly. The rest are a blast, with the premiere episode…which Sam Raimi directed…and the final three, set at that fateful cabin, really cranking it up to 11. That’s where this series really ignites with Ash and company back in the place were it all began, which is lovingly recreated and splattered once again with limbs and gore. Some of the moments there rival some of the best bits in the original movie and it was great to revisit this place, now sacred to horror fans. The team of directors and writers (see episode list below for creative talent) all do good work, to varying degrees, with Tony Tisle and Rick Jacobson having the best material to interpret with the episodes set at the cabin. The plentiful gore is well done for the most part, though there was far more CGI blood spattering than I would have liked, but the show seemed to be modestly budgeted and on that level, accomplishes a lot. There are the customary cartoonish stunts and over-the-top slapstick expected with the later installments of the films, too and it’s all choreographed well and is a lot of fun. Aside from a lot of classic songs by legendary artists on the soundtrack, original film series composer Joseph LoDuca is back to score the bloody good times, as well. There is also some cool behind the scenes stuff after a few episodes to add something a little extra for fans. As the series has already been renewed for a second season, it’s no spoiler that Ash’s work isn’t done by the time the season finale concludes.

The cast are really top notch and get the tone of the material perfectly. It’s great to have Ash back with Campbell wearing chainsaw and ‘boom stick’ once more. The horror icon is in top form, returning to the role of Ash as if it were only yesterday that he finished filming Army Of Darkness. He brings Ash’s over-confident swagger and off-kilter one-liners to bare, while maintaining both the lovable buffoon and unexpected hero aspects of Ash that we all know and love. As his work buddy, Pablo, Ray Santiago is both charming and funny as the young man who idolizes Ash…and crushes on Kelly…and believes Ash is a warrior destined to save the world. Santiago has nice comic delivery and timing and can keep up with Campbell in the physical slapstick department. The beautiful and talented Dana DeLorenzo is the third member of the deadite fighting trinity as the feisty and fiery, Kelly. DeLorenzo is a gifted comedian (check out her youtube video to see some fun impressions) and can keep up with the boys in the ass-kicking department, as well as, with some physical comedy of her own. Her deadpan line delivery adds a nice contrast to the over-the-top style of her male co-stars, too. Rounding out is tough but sexy Jill Marie Jones as a cop who at first suspects Ash of murder, but slowly succumbs to his ‘charm’ and Lucy “Xena” Lawless, who looks great and still can kick major ass as a sexy and mysterious woman pursuing Ash with the help of his dismembered hand. A great cast. My personal hope is that next season they can get Jane Levy to appear as Mia from the remake. That would be fun.

As with any series, the kinks usually get worked out in the first season and shows usually find their footing in the second. This bodes well for Ash vs Evil Dead as the show was a real blast with only a few weak episodes to slow down it’s roller coaster ride here and there. It recaptured the Evil Dead magic of all three movies, deftly combining the slapstick fun of the second two, while bringing back the over-the-top, giddy gore of the first movie…all with the patented off-the-wall camera work. It’s well directed and cleverly written by the various talent involved and Campbell is back as if he never left and has two future stars in the making as his loyal sidekicks. Groovy!

*According to Wikipedia, rights issues prevented the use of any Army Of Darkness material.

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Ash with sidekicks Kelly and Pablo ready to battle the Evil Dead

EPISODE LIST

  1. El Jefe – directed by Sam Raimi and written by Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi and Tom Spezialy
  2. Bait – directed by Michael J. Bassett and written by Dominic Dierkes
  3. Books From Beyond – directed by Michael J. Bassett and written by Sean Clements
  4. Brujo – directed by David Frazee and written by James E. Eagan
  5. The Host – directed by David Frazee and written by Zoe Green
  6. The Killer Of Killers – directed by Michael Hurst and written by Nate Crocker
  7. Fire In The Hole – directed by Michael Hurst and written by Sean Clements, Dominic Dierkes and Ivan Raimi
  8. Ashes To Ashes – directed by Tony Tilse and written by Michael J. Bassett
  9. Bound In Flesh – directed by Tony Tilse and written by Rob Wright
  10. The Dark Ones – directed by Rick Jacobson and written by Craig Digregorio

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 groovy chainsaws.
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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: EVIL DEAD II (1987)

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EVIL DEAD II (1987)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Upon seeing it in 1981, Evil Dead fast became of of  my all-time favorite horror flicks. Fast paced and ferocious, with lots of inventive gore and stunning low budget visuals. When this sequel was announced I was obviously excited!

Sequel opens with a quick recap/retelling of the first film getting us up to date as the camera rushes towards a screaming Ash (Bruce Campbell) and then continues anew as we see what happens to him. Ash, now alone, is trapped in the cabin with the forces of evil trying to get at him. He battles not only his dead girlfriend’s (Denise Bixler) corpse, but his own possessed hand, which he promptly cuts off with a chainsaw. Ash is soon joined by the daughter (Sarah Berry) of an archeologist, who formally inhabited the cabin, and she and her party think Ash has murdered her parents. Soon enough, though, the evil in the woods makes itself known and as Ash joins forces with his new companions. Their numbers dwindle as the evil lays siege to the cabin and Ash must face this ancient terror in a final showdown.

This flick is considered a classic and by many, the best of the series. I enjoy the film immensely now, but will admit I was disappointed that the film took on a more comic/fantasy tone rather than continue in the tradition of the first film’s intensity and blood-spattering. It took me a few repeat viewings to get used to it’s slapstick style humor and more cartoonish approach to it’s evil entities. Under Sam Raimi’s guidance, the film still shares the energetic momentum and dizzying camera work of the first flick, but now in a much lighter and more comic-bookish approach. As such, there are a lot of imaginative bits here and poor Ash is put through the ringer, once more, only this time in a much lighter and laugh inducing manner. There is a bit of gore, but most is now colorful splashes of green and blue blood, as our Evil Dead are dealt with by Ash and his trusty chainsaw hand, which has become a cinematic icon in itself. The effects are well-done and again, inventively designed and while still moderately budgeted, director Sam Raimi gets the most out of his buck using imagination and ingenuity. It lacks the terror of the first film, but makes up for it with a delightfully morbid lunacy, that is infectious even if you preferred the tone of the first movie. Simply put, the movie is a hoot and one of the best horror comedies ever made.

Bruce Campbell is borderline brilliant here with his slapstick comedy and reactions to all that’s going on. His over-acting is intentional and dead-on considering what is happening around him. The scenes where he is getting beaten up by his own possessed hand and then battling that hand once dismembered, are classic scenes of both comedy and horror and are wonderfully performed by Campbell and directed by Raimi. The rest of the cast are fine. Bixler is pretty and sweet in her brief appearance as Linda. She also has some fun scenes as a taunting disembodied head. Berry is pretty and carries a little intensity as Annie who, at first, thinks Ash killed her parents, then bonds with him to fight the evil. We have Richard Domeier as Annie’s boyfriend and is adequate and handsome, but doesn’t get to do much. Rounding out is Dan Hicks (Maniac Cop, Intruder) and future soap opera star Kassie DePaiva (billed as Kassie Wesley) as a redneck couple guiding Annie to the cabin and become entangled in the supernatural shenanigans. Both play their roles stereotypically and appropriately over-the-top.

No arguments, this is a horror classic in it’s own right and maybe it was best to take the film in a different direction than just giving us more of the same. I was disappointed a bit in 1987, but as the film did only modest box office, a lot of people took their time discovering it. While the first is still my favorite of the series, this is a blast of a good time and has some very imaginative and inventive set pieces that still work almost three decades later. Maybe a disappointment to me when I first saw it in 1987, but one that has won me over completely.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) chainsaws.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: WYRMWOOD (2014)

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WYRMWOOD (2014)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

“The name of the star is called Wormwood; and a third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the waters, because they were made bitter.”- Revelations 8:11

Leave it to the Australians to give life back to the stale zombie genre with this delightful mash-up of Evil Dead and The Road Warrior. This fun and sometimes intense and gruesome flick, tells the story of brother and sister, Barry (Jay Gallagher) and Brooke (Bianca Bradey) during a mysterious zombie outbreak. Not much is given to us about the cause except for an abundance of shooting stars on the night it begins and a biblical reference to Wyrmwood, a star which falls to earth during Revelations and brings a plague of death. Barry is with his family and Brooke doing a photo shoot in the town of Bulla Bulla. Barry looses both his wife and daughter to the mysterious condition which, for some reason, spares those with A- blood. He eventually teams up Aborigine camper Benny (Leon Burchill) who lost both his brothers. Together they run into some locals and discover that while this ‘situation’ has rendered gas and fossil fuels inert, the zombies’ blood is quite flammable and the methane-like gas they exhale works as a fuel substitute. So, they go out armed and armored to gather ‘fuel’ and rescue Barry’s sister. Brooke, on the other hand, has been kidnaped by a sinister military group who keeps her restrained and gagged in a lab where there are performing experiments on zombie and human alike. Experiments, unbeknownst to her captors, that render Brooke with the ability to telekinetically control the living dead. Obviously the two siblings and their stories will come together…and then the bloody fun begins.

As directed by Kiah Roache-Turner from a script he co-wrote with his brother Tristan Roache-Turner, this flick is a blast of fun and a breath of bloody fresh air for the zombie sub-genre. A sub-genre made stale by an over-saturation of movies and weekly zombie TV shows. They make even the silliest aspects of the story work, and work very well. They take their story very seriously…though it is laden with that off-beat Australian sense of humor, which seems to fit in perfectly with the more gruesome aspects of this deviously twisted tale. The film has a really cool visual style and is obviously made by those who love these kind of movies and who also know what makes them work. This energetic mash-up is filled with subtle references to films like Dawn Of The DeadEvil Dead, the Mad Max films and even a playful nod to The Walking Dead involving a Samurai sword. Roache-Turner, however, creates his own flick from all the hat-tipping, despite borrowing concepts from George Romero and George Miller and makes his homage to the movies he loves in his own style. One of the things I loved most about it was that the combination of eclectic elements is mixed so well and works far better than it sounds like it should…cause it’s mixed in the right amounts and given the respect it deserves. The film is action packed but, never at the sacrifice of it’s off-kilter story, or characters, and can be very intense at times. There is also a lot of gory violence, which appears to be mostly…and thankfully… well-rendered live effects, too. Abundance of action and bloodshed aside, though, what makes it really work so completely is a charming group of main characters and some delightfully eccentric supporting characters, such as a sinister scientist who prefers to listen to K.C. and the Sunshine Band while he conducts his gruesome experiments. There really is little to not like about this film, made by film geeks for the film geek in all of us. Roache-Turner is certainly a filmmaker to watch.

As for the cast, they are all engaging. Gallagher is a charming and solid hero as Barry. Despite his loses and what is happening, he is valiantly going to find his sibling, as she is all he has left. Burchill is delightful as the oddball Benny. The character is given a lot of charm by the actor and is extremely likable. He has some of the best lines and is a perfect side-kick for Barry. As Brooke, Bianca Bradey is strong and sexy and her tattooed heroine becomes quite the powerhouse once she learns to use the side-effects of the experiments against those who hold her captive. The actress spends about 75% of the movie tied up with a fetishistic gag in her mouth and has to express her emotions and thoughts in her eyes and body language and Bradey does a great job. Long before she gets free, we like her immensely and are rooting for her. The supporting characters are also an eccentric lot and help add an offbeat atmosphere to the story and film. They seem both over-the-top and yet, somehow believably human, at the same time.

What little faults the film has are minor and not really worth bringing up when the filmmakers get so much, so right. They somehow mash-up quite a few different genres worth of ideas to fuel their homage and, as such, make sure to give nods to the types of film’s that inspired them. It reminded me of Neil Marshall’s Doomsday in that the entire film existed to pay homage to others yet, somehow, is it’s own movie. Energetic, delightfully gory and with a fast and furious pace, Wyrmwood is a real blast of George Romero meets Sam Raimi meets George Miller and yet remains very Kiah Roache-Turner. One of the year’s best horrors, so far, in my book and by a filmmaking talent to keep a close watch on!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 Road Warrior-esque zombie fighters!

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 25 MUST WATCH HORROR FLICKS FOR THE HALLOWEEN SEASON

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While I watch dozens of horror films during the month of October… these are 25 favorite horror flicks that I feel are absolute musts to watch during the Halloween season!

(Click on the titles below the movie poster gallery to get to our reviews!)

 

Click on the titles here to go to the review page for the corresponding movie!

  1. HALLOWEEN
  2. TRICK ‘r’ TREAT
  3. PHANTASM
  4. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD
  5. THE FOG
  6. ANY (OR ALL) OF THE UNIVERSAL CLASSIC B/W HORRORS!
  7. PUMPKINHEAD
  8. EVIL DEAD
  9. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET
  10. THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE
  11. ZOMBIE
  12. THE THING
  13. THE HOWLING
  14. THE FLY
  15. HORROR HOTEL
  16. DAWN OF THE DEAD
  17. DAY OF THE DEAD
  18. FRIDAY THE 13th
  19. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT
  20. HALLOWEEN II
  21. HALLOWEEN III
  22. THE VIY
  23. WRONG TURN
  24. THE OLD DARK HOUSE
  25. THE DESCENT

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: EVIL DEAD and THE LORDS OF SALEM

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I’ve covered these two movies before but, as I recently named them as my top 2 favorite horrors of 2013, I decided to watch them together and found they made quite a chilling double feature so, if you are looking for an evening of frights and chills on the couch, why not give these two a try together…

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EVILD DEAD (2013)

The original Evil Dead is one of my all time favorite fright flicks so, I was very apprehensive about a remake. With Sam Raimi, Robert G. Tapert and even Bruce Campbell on board as producers, I hoped the material would at least be treated with respect. Now having seen this new vision of one of the all time horror classics, I can say not only was the material treated with respect but, it is one of the best horror remakes and one hell of a nasty, scary, bloody blast. The best thing is that co-writer and first time director Fede Alvarez smartly takes the basic premise and does his own thing with it. This version has heroine addict, Mia (Suburgatory’s Jane Levy) being taken by big brother, David (Skateland’s Shiloh Fernandez) and 3 friends to an old family cabin to try to get Mia to quit her habit cold turkey. But, someone has been in the cabin since they were last there and something gruesome has definitely gone on inside with blood stains and dozens of dead animals hanging in the cellar. Of course there is also a mysterious book and within it ominous warnings that certain words not be read aloud… so, of course, someone does… and at the same time Mia is alone in the woods… uh, oh… I don’t need to tell you that soon Mia is possessed by some horrible demonic entity and the gruesome blood soaked nightmare begins as the ancient evil wants to claim them all. Alvarez really crafts a strong, gruesome and scary horror of the likes we haven’t seen in a while. It’s vicious and nasty with top notch gore and make-up that is done the old fashioned way without any CGI. When limbs fly… and they do, it is good old fashioned prosthetics and I loved the lack of CGI when it came to the ghouls and gore. Alvarez and co-writer Rodo Sayagues (Diablo Cody was supposedly hired to work on the script but, if she was credited, I missed it.) basically give us enough elements of the original to make it recognizable as an Evil Dead flick and thus fits in with the series but, makes the flick it’s own animal. And that’s the way to do a remake like this. And Alvarez is the real deal who knows how to make a good old fashioned horror movie complete with suspense, tension and intensity, not to mention, plentiful scares. He also gives the film a strong atmosphere and I really liked his visual style. He gets good work from his cast too, especially leading lady Levy whose character has a few stages to go through from heroine addict to a demon possessed creature to… well, you’ll have to see the flick to find out. Shiloh Fernandez is also very good, after a lifeless performance in Red Riding Hood, he shows us the actor we saw in Skateland was no fluke. The rest, Lou Taylor Pucci as Eric, Jessica Lucas as Olivia and Elizabeth Blackmore as Natalie, do fine making their characters more then demon fodder and they are all likable enough to make us afraid for them when all hell breaks loose.  The flick is not perfect but, any flaws are minor and can be overlooked due to all that is done right. Evil Dead 2013 may not be as groundbreaking as the original and only time will tell if it will be highly regard like it’s predecessor but, it is a strong, visceral horror that gives equal parts suspense and scares with all the goo and gore. Maybe not quite a classic but, a film worthy of the title Evil Dead. Well done!… and stay to watch after the credits!

Check out our look back at the original classic that started it all!… HERE!

A very solid 3 and 1/2 demon possessed sitcom stars

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THE LORDS OF SALEM (2013)

If Stanley Kubrick, Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci got drunk and decided to make a horror movie together, Lords Of Salem would probably be close to what you’d get. Even back in the White Zombie days, rocker/director Rob Zombie has always shown a heavy influence from movies, especially horror so, it’s no surprise to see such influences in his films. And this time, Zombie sheds the 70s grind-house style that his earlier films have had and goes for something that evokes the work of the previously mentioned filmmakers and also some of the 70s occult themed flicks like the infamous Mark Of The Devil. To a degree, it is Zombie’s most solid effort as director but, also his most experimental as Lords gets downright head trippy and surreal at times, especially in it’s last act. If you liked his dream sequences in Halloween 2, there’s lots more where that came from. Today’s impatient audiences weaned on cookie cutter horrors and endless sequels may not appreciate what Zombie has done here but, to me it was a disturbing breath of fresh air. In a time of CGI phantoms and overused jump scares, I really like that Zombie had the courage to make something that aims to simply unsettle and disturb you with it’s atmosphere and imagery and doesn’t rely on cheap scares and elaborate post production hocus-pocus. Lords tells the creepy story of late night Salem DJ Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie) who receives a wooden box with a record in it from someone referring to themselves simply as “The Lords”. When she plays the vinyl album she suddenly starts to have increasingly disturbing hallucinations and her life starts to spiral out of control. When author Francis Matthias (Bruce Davison) begins to investigate, he finds that an ancient evil in the form of a devil worshiping witch coven, once burned at the stake, may be returning to Salem and Heidi might be key to their vengeance. Director/writer Zombie tells his disturbing tale with a deliberately slow burn yet, never at any moment does he ease up on the atmosphere that something sinister and very wrong is going on here. Whether it’s the haunting visuals that he fills the film with or the excellent use of Griffin Boice and John 5’s score… which evoked Fabio Frizzi and Goblin at times… the film oozes atmosphere and keeps us involved even if the film’s narrative flow doesn’t always follow a tradition path. And as for the visuals, they range from haunting to shocking and as disturbing as they can be, they are also beautiful. This is certainly, at the very least, a visually striking film. And despite all the shocking imagery, I actually feel Zombie showed some restraint at times which made the horror elements all the more horrifying when they arrive. And Rob is not the only Zombie to watch here, Sheri, who proved she had some acting chops as Deborah Myers, is again very effective here as Heidi, a woman with emotional troubles and past bad habits who is being drawn into a living nightmare that she is not equipped to fight. Jeff Daniel Phillips is also good playing one of the two Hermans who DJ with her, a man with feelings for Heidi who tries to help her without knowing the true cause of her emotional down-turn. And Zombie also peppers his film with genre vets like Ken Foree (the other Herman), Meg Foster, Sid Haig and the effectively spooky trio of Dee Wallace, Patricia Quinn and Judy Geeson as Heidi’s neighbors, who are more then they appear. Overall Zombie has created his most interesting work yet and one that won’t appeal to everyone. It evokes a type of horror in the vein of Argento’s early films or Fulci’s The Beyond, that they don’t make anymore. But, that’s why I liked it so much. Zombie remembers a time before the MTV generation when horror films took their time to draw you in and had loads of atmosphere. He also knows, like those films, that there is a time to shock you too, and he does that well. And finally, he knows that sometimes the best way to make sure you leave the theater spooked is to not wrap everything up in a neat little bow and thus leave you looking over your shoulder when you are home at night. I would recommend this film highly for those who don’t mind a slow burn and a splash of avant garde with their horror. Not perfect but, a really spooky flick for those that can appreciate it.

A very spooky and disturbing  3 and 1/2 haunted heroines

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HALLOWEEN FAVORITES: THE FOG, THE EVIL DEAD and THE HOWLING!

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For Halloween Favorites today we have not one but three must watch favorites of mine for the Halloween season. I’ve covered these three classics before as part of Tomb Of Nostalgia so, instead of reposting all the reviews, all you have to do is click on the film’s title and the link will take you back to our original post! So enjoy a look back at The Fog, The Evil Dead and The Howling for this edition of Halloween Favorites!

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THE FOG (1980)

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THE EVIL DEAD (1981)

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THE HOWLING (1981)

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: EVIL DEAD 2013 and CABIN IN THE WOODS

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I admit I’ve covered these two films here already at the Movie Madhouse but, I watched this double feature last night and had a bloody good time with it so, I thought I’d share. They make a great double bill!

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EVILD DEAD (2013)

The original Evil Dead is one of my all time favorite fright flicks, so I was very apprehensive about a remake. With Sam Raimi, Robert G. Tapert and even Bruce Campbell on board as producers, I hoped the material would at least be treated with respect. Now having seen this new vision of one of the all-time horror classics, I can say not only was the material treated with respect, but it is one of the best horror remakes and one hell of a nasty, scary, bloody blast. The best thing is that co-writer and first time director Fede Alvarez smartly takes the basic premise and does his own thing with it.

This version has heroin addict, Mia (Suburgatory’s Jane Levy) being taken by big brother, David (Skateland’s Shiloh Fernandez) and three friends to an old family cabin to try to get Mia to quit her habit cold turkey. But someone has been in the cabin since they were last there and something gruesome has definitely gone on inside, with blood stains and dozens of dead animals hanging in the cellar. Of course there is also a mysterious book and within it, ominous warnings that certain words not be read aloud…so, of course, someone does…and at the same time Mia is alone in the woods…uh, oh…I don’t need to tell you that soon Mia is possessed by some horrible demonic entity and the gruesome blood-soaked nightmare begins as the ancient evil wants to claim them all.

Alvarez really crafts a strong, gruesome and scary horror of the likes we haven’t seen in a while. It’s vicious and nasty with top notch gore and make-up that is done the old fashioned way without any CGI. When limbs fly…and they do, it is good old fashioned prosthetics and I loved the lack of CGI when it came to the ghouls and gore. Alvarez and co-writer Rodo Sayagues (Diablo Cody was supposedly hired to work on the script, but if she was credited, I missed it.) basically give us enough elements of the original to make it recognizable as an Evil Dead flick and thus fits in with the series, but makes the flick it’s own animal…and that’s the way to do a remake like this. Alvarez is the real deal, who knows how to make a good old fashioned horror movie complete with suspense, tension and intensity, not to mention, plentiful scares. He also gives the film a strong atmosphere and I really liked his visual style.

He gets good work from his cast too, especially leading lady Levy whose character has a few stages to go through from heroin addict to a demon possessed creature to…well, you’ll have to see the flick to find out. Shiloh Fernandez is also very good, after a lifeless performance in Red Riding Hood, he shows us the actor we saw in Skateland was no fluke. The rest, Lou Taylor Pucci (Spring) as Eric, Jessica Lucas as Olivia and Elizabeth Blackmore as Natalie, do fine making their characters more than demon fodder and they are all likable enough to make us afraid for them when all hell breaks loose.

The flick is not perfect, but any flaws are minor and can be overlooked due to all that is done right. Evil Dead 2013 may not be as groundbreaking as the original and only time will tell if it will be highly regarded like it’s predecessor, but it is a strong, visceral horror that gives equal parts suspense and scares with all the goo and gore. Maybe not quite a classic, but a film worthy of the title Evil Dead. Well done!… and stay to watch after the credits!

Check out our look back at the original classic that started it all!… HERE!

Rated A very solid 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) demon possessed sitcom stars

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THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012) 

The Cabin In The Woods was originally filmed in 2009, but wasn’t released due to financial problems at it’s original studio, MGM. The film was finally released by Lionsgate in 2012 after an almost 3 year wait…and worth the wait it was!

If anyone knows how to have fun with pop culture horror conventions, it’s Joss Whedon (Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The Avengers) and he and Director Drew Goddard craft a funhouse of a horror movie by doing just that…and we are happily along for the bloody fun ride. Cabin is a movie where the less you know going in, the better…so, I’ll simply say that it starts out with the classic “five young partiers heading up to an isolated cabin” scenario and then turns this horror sub-genre into something quite different and deviously fun.

Aside from a really clever script, Cabin benefits from the fact that Drew Goddard knows how to craft suspense and scares, despite letting us in early on what is going on. We also get a bunch of likable characters to root and care for and the cast is as likable as the characters they play. This is very important to make a horror flick work and so many films today makes their leads unlikable jerks who we could care less about. We are only scared when we care what happens to the protagonists and here we do. From plucky heroine Dana (Kristen Connolly) to hunky Curt (Thor’s Chris Hemsworth) to stoner Marty (Fran Kranz), we really like all five characters and it adds to the film’s effect that we don’t want to see them suffer the fate that has befallen them. And what a clever and cruel fate Whedon and Goddard have in store for their victims…and, in turn, providing a clever and inventive blood-soaked horror for all of us.

The FX are top notch and the performances from his cast, especially leading heroine Connolly, are all good and help make the wicked scenario work. The script provides plenty of scares and gore, but also gives us some tension-relieving laughs with Whedon’s trademark sly humor. Everything is blended together well by director Goddard, who gets us primed and ready for the “all hell breaks loose” final act…and that is a blood spattered treat, let me tell you!

A real horror movie blast! Also stars Jesse Williams as Holden, Anna Hutchison as Jules and a really fun surprise cameo that I won’t spoil here! One of the most inventive and fun horror movies in quite a long time! Highly recommended!

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) cabins!

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: EQUINOX (1970)

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EQUINOX (1970)

Four college students (Edward Connell, Barbara Hewitt, Frank Bonner and Robin Christopher) venture into the woods to meet a professor (Fritz Leiber) who, unknown to them, has discovered an ancient book of evil. They find the cabin destroyed and once acquiring the book from a creepy old man (Irving L. Lichtenstein), find the devil himself is after them to get it back.

While this does sound like the plot of an Evil Dead film, it is actually the plot of the low budget horror, Equinox which was released in 1970. Over a decade before Raimi’s classic, the film does share a lot of plot elements, such as the students being possessed, here by the park ranger disguised Satan, and even the book itself is quite similar to Raimi’s Necronomicon. It’s never been stated that the film was an influence on Raimi’s flick, but Evil Dead effects artist Tom Sullivan admits seeing the film and it inspiring him to make movies. Draw you own conclusions.

Equinox is campy by today’s standards and is slow paced, unlike Raimi’s roller coaster ride, but there is some fun to be had and some nice SPFX for such a low budget flick. Equinox started out as a low budget short film, put together by three future FX legends, Dennis Muren, Jim Danforth and Dave Allen in 1967. It was made for about $6,500, from a story by Mark Thomas McGee and directed by Muren. So there is some great FX work for the time and budget, including some very cool stop-motion animated creatures, representing the Devil’s minions and Old Scratch himself in winged demon form. Producer Jack H. Harris saw their film and hired writer/director Jack Woods to film some new footage and expand the 70 minute short film into feature length and re-edit it. The film was finally released in 1970 as Equinox, shortened from the original title of Equinox…A Journey Into The Supernatural. I saw this as a kid and must admit it creeped me out back then. I watch it now and it’s more campy fun than scary, but it’s no denying that it is a valiant low budget effort, despite some very amateurish acting from the cast, including director Jack Woods, who also appears as The Devil in park ranger form.

This film, like Raimi’s, is now considered a classic. Whether it inspired Evil Dead or not, both films represent the achievement that future filmmakers can make on a micro-budget, if their hearts and talent are in the right place. Evil Dead fans should check it out for the interesting similarities, even if we may never know if Raimi indeed saw and was influenced by it, or if the familiar elements are just coincidence. It’s been released in a wonderful restored edition by the Criterion Collection, which includes the original short film and effects work that didn’t make the final cut. A campy, fun horror that gave the world, Dennis Muren, Jim Danforth and the late, great David Allen…and maybe…just maybe, Evil Dead.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated A campy fun 3 (out of 4) blue giants!

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