Posts Tagged ‘Sam Raimi

05
Feb
15

Innocent Blood (1992)

innocentbloodposterThere is a lot of danger out in the world for poor old saps like Q and myself who still prefer to own physical media over its digital counterpart. The sloughing off of someone else’s excess assures the bloat of our own, from used media stores who dare to charge $7 for discarded DVDs to thrift stores who offer up videocassettes at 25 cents a pop, the world of garbage is our delicious oyster. I guess it goes both ways, though: there is some measure of relief knowing that, after watching a particularly underwhelming feature, we can take it somewhere and turn it into new-to-us gold! After dumping 20-or-so shitty flicks and getting a pretty penny in store credit, my ability and desire to discern a worthy purchase from a shitty gamble goes out the window, and the stack we take home often times ends up larger than the one we ditched! First-world hoarder problems, I suppose, but this is all the long way ’round to explaining why we ended up with a copy of John Landis’ Innocent Blood. The cover looked promising, and while Landis has his ups and downs, I thought for sure a vampire flick set in my former home of Pittsburgh was a shoe-in for a keeper.

Watch out boy, she'll chew you up.

Watch out boy, she’ll chew you up.

The film follows a charming French vampire named Marie (Anne Parillaud, also known as that chick from La Femme Nikita), who skulks around the seedier parts of Pittsburgh hoping to feed on the flesh of the evil mobsters who’ve made it their playground. See, Marie doesn’t believe in killing innocent humans, it’s the devils she’s after. When she happens upon local gangster Tony (Chazz Palminteri) she’s relieved to have found herself a meal for the night, and we get a glimpse into her rules: never leave evidence, and never make the mistake of allowing them to come back as vampires. After a long awaited feast, she cleanly takes care of Tony by blowing his head off by a shotgun.

Having acquired a taste for this particular type of wise guy, Marie sets her sights on the top of the food chain: the number one mob boss in all of Pittsburgh, Salvatore “The Shark” Macelli (Robert Loggia). Unfortunately, his taste for garlicky mussels throws her off her game and she doesn’t quite get the chance to finish him up. Leaving him for ‘dead,’ Marie flees the scene, and its aftermath sure confuses the shit out of undercover cop Joe (Anthony LaPaglia). It seems a blessing in disguise that all the mobsters he’s trying to nail are getting picked off, but he can’t shake the feeling that something supernatural is going on here; I mean, why are there bodies nearly completely drained of blood?

Frank Oz is greeted by quite a surprising corpse.

Frank Oz is greeted by quite a surprising corpse.

Marie’s carelessness with Macelli’s body of course turns into a boon for the mob: his re-animated corpse is seemingly indestructible! Being the opportunist most mob bosses are, he realizes the cops will be no match for him and his crew if they’re all turned into bloodsucking monsters. Now it’s up to Joe and Marie (oh yeah, somewhere along the way they met, fought, made-up and banged) to save the ‘Burgh from the undead.

Somehow, all of Innocent Blood‘s potential just never adds up to a very good movie. Sure, there are some moments that are slightly amusing, but for a film that wants much more to be comedy than horror, it’s never quite funny enough. The jokes just fall a little (or a lot) flat, and I can’t put the blame on the actors; I really think it is due to lackluster writing. Ultimately it’s rather a shame; I wanted very much to like this movie, but it was just… so… anemic.

Sam Raimi and a chicken bone.

Sam Raimi and a chicken bone.

There were times during (and even after) watching Innocent Blood that I thought it might be worth keeping in our collection. After all, genre cameos abound: Frank Oz, Sam Raimi, Dario Argento, Tom Savini and even Forry Ackerman all make appearances. Though they’re delightful, they’re not enough to make the film worthwhile. It seems that lame jokes, a star-studded cast and unimpressive computer-generated special effects don’t make a very good movie. I did find myself thinking this might actually be a good candidate for a reboot: a nice make-over by the right people could bring this plot line to its full potential. As it is, I can’t say I recommend it.

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02
Nov
14

The Evil Dead (1981)

TheEvilDeadposterAfter giving the recent remake of The Evil Dead a fair chance, I had no choice but to pop in the original. It had been a long while sine I’d seen it, or even Evil Dead II, and I needed to refresh my memory before really making a final judgement call on the glossy makeover version. So we dedicated the 27th day of our 31 Days of Horror to the mother of all cabin-in-the-woods horror movies, and it should come as no surprise to anyone on the planet that it far outshines its expensive remake.

A group of friends are taking a little trip into the unknown: a cabin in the middle of nowhere. Ash (Bruce Campbell), his girlfriend Linda and sister Cheryl accompany another couple, Scott and Shelly, for what is supposed to be a relaxing weekend. If only that damn Cheryl wasn’t so uptight, and didn’t freak out when they played this tape recording they found in the basement of an academic reading aloud some weird, old book, they could have had more fun. Or maybe Cheryl was right to be creeped out by the mysterious tape recording…

Indeed, not long after they shut the recording off, there’s a strange rustling out in the woods. What could it be? Perhaps the awakening of a sleeping evil that wants to take the happy-go-lucky-campers’ souls? It would seem so. At the very least there is no doubt it has some pretty nasty intentions once we see

Ash takes on the Evil Dead

Ash takes on the Evil Dead

it tree-rape Cheryl. When she comes back to the cabin, she seems a little off. It isn’t long before the rest of the group realizes something has possessed her, so they throw her into the basement from whence she can spout vindictive, raspy comments in her I’m-possessed voice! Will the group be able to survive the spreading evil?

I like to imagine when people say they enjoy gory horror movies, it’s movies like The Evil Dead they are talking about. As the movie progresses, each scene gets gorier, nastier and bloodier, but its tone is never really mean-spirited. It certainly doesn’t fall under the torture-porn category that is so popular these days; it isn’t watching people suffer for suffering’s sake. Instead, it seems a lot more like a showcase of the

Linda is so pretty!

Linda is so pretty!

special effects and make-up talent behind this movie. The stuff looks great, and what’s so great about it? One, it’s real. I know, I know, you’ve heard it a million times before, but get used to it, because you’re just going to keep hearing it: CG sucks and this movie is prime example of why. Nothing takes the audience out of a movie more than shitty special effects, and there is shitty CG and there is shitty claymation and there is shitty make-up, but of the three I’ll take the latter two over the former any day. Shitty CG is just so lazy, at least I feel if it’s something someone has touched with their hands they at least gave a shit. There is just nothing better than watching real, material special effects unfold in a movie like this. It’s glorious. And it’s even more glorious when the filmmakers manage to make it look good on a low budget; that’s when the true imagination, innovation and talent shines through, and it’s all over The Evil Dead. It’s quite clear why this movie set the template for so many that came after it.

Can Cheryl be contained by her chains?

Can Cheryl be contained by her chains?

Just as I felt silly writing up Evil Dead II, I feel silly writing this one up. If this is a movie you should see, you have already seen it. Though, now that I’m all old and out of touch with the young kids, I wonder – what horror movies are those kids watching? Are movies like The Evil Dead even on their radar? If they aren’t, should I be thankful for the remake in hopes that it piques their interest? I guess the answer is yes. I don’t want horror to die! I want a special-effects and claymation renaissance! Get on it, kids!

01
Nov
14

Evil Dead (2013)

EvilDead2013PosterWell kids, October is now over. All the people who aren’t horror fans are going to start watching romantic comedies in preparation for the upcoming, gooey holiday season. But we are different than them; for us, the horror doesn’t stop when November comes along. Anyway, being that I have a full-time job and need to do things other than write blog posts, I still have six movies we watched during 31 Days of Horror that I need to write up. Who knows how long it will take, we might be near December by the time I’m done with this damn tag. Anyway, at a certain point we decided it was our duty to watch the Evil Dead remake. Usually, I’d stay away from such things, but since it actually got some decent reviews, I figured I had to see what all the hype was about. So we picked it for day 26. I’m still wondering what all the hype was about.

Surely, you know the story, but this time there are a few tweaks. Instead of just a group of friends going to a cabin for a getaway, it’s a group of friends going to a cabin to make sure their pal Mia (Jane Levy) kicks her drug habit once and for all. Her estranged brother David has taken time out of his busy life to be there for her, too, I guess. Their mom got cancer and died and the dick wasn’t around for either of them, so I guess he decided he could at least support his sister through her delirium tremens, or something.

Mia atop a familiar-looking car.

Mia atop a familiar-looking car.

Anyway, the cabin they go to is supposedly their childhood summer home. Since their family seems to have dissolved into some big, dramatic mess, they haven’t been there for a while. Seems in their absence some witchcraft types took up residence; the basement is loaded with decaying animal carcasses, and the smell is so bad they almost decide to leave then and there. But Mia’s had a rough time with the drugs and all and her friends have decided they’re not going to leave until she’s drooled her last bit of detoxed saliva. David isn’t sure if this is a good idea; he doesn’t want to defy Mia. Their relationship is fragile after he’s dicked her over for all these years. But in the end he knows it’s what’s best for her, and he goes along with the idiot crowd.

As you know, there is a book. It is a book that shouldn’t be read, but it’s going to be read anyway. This time it’s a high school science teacher named Eric who becomes absorbed in the thing and decides to read it out loud, even though

That book looks scary. Let's read it out loud!

That book looks scary. Let’s read it out loud!

every single page of the damn thing warns him not to do so. His utterances awaken an ages-old demon that possesses and kills the group one by one. If only they hadn’t mistaken Mia’s post-tree-rape trauma for withdrawal, perhaps they could’ve gotten out of there in time…

I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t hate this remake. There were times I even caught myself enjoying this movie, and unlike the original I kind of felt skeeved out by the time I was getting to bed. The trouble is, being that the film is titled Evil Dead it will never be separated from the original, and therefore can never (at least in my mind) be considered actually good. It just baffles me a little bit that people who obviously enjoyed the original film and constantly wink at those in the know throughout their own version of it would actually make a film like this. It just doesn’t feel like they every really decide if they want it to have any humor or not. I found myself watching scenes with my head cocked a little thinking ‘is that funny?’ and never really coming to any conclusions. The addition of family drama and the addiction thing add too much weight;

Jane Levy is pretty good at making a scared face.

Jane Levy is pretty good at making a scared face.

it’s just unnecessary backstory the film could do without. It certainly doesn’t help that all of these people are helpless, idiotic assholes that I don’t give a shit about. All of them.

The other trouble is, it is just too damn gory. It’s gleefully gory, but without any glee, really. In other contexts in other films I would have laughed, but here I just found myself wincing, and by the end I’m like… blood rain? Really? Oof. And just as it seems the filmmakers couldn’t decide when enough gore was enough, it also seems they couldn’t figure out when the fuck to end the god damn movie. I think there were about three times that I thought: okay, okay, this is finally gonna be the end, right? I was wrong each time. And on that note, the ending they decided to go with was stupid anyway!

My thoughts on Evil Dead sound harsher than I think they really are. Like I said, I didn’t hate the thing, but I don’t think I liked it all that much. In fact, we are debating on whether or not it is worth keeping our copy of the DVD. I can’t picture a time when I would want to sit down and watch this massacre again, that’s what I own the original for. Ultimately, what this movie really lacks is charm. The first Evil Dead is loaded with charm, and that’s what helps make it stand the test of time. This remake just proves my theory that money ruins everything. All this being said, if you are a crazy gore hound, this movie’s out to please you. If it doesn’t sate your thirst for nail guns and electric-knife amputations, you are a truly sick individual.

10
Nov
12

Evil Dead II (1987)

Let me first admit I feel really silly writing a blog post about Evil Dead II. I mean, it’s a classic; what could I say that you haven’t already heard or thought yourself? But since this is truly supposed to be a log of all movies I watch as I watch them (except maybe SyFy originals – because they’re just not worth it), I’d be remiss to exclude it.

I’m sure you know the story, but in case you live in a cave… Bruce Campbell plays Ash, a dude who brings his girlfriend to a cabin in the woods for a romantic weekend getaway. Not long after their arrival Ash finds a recording of someone reading aloud passages from the Necronomicon, which is bad news, ’cause the dead start to rise and wreak havoc, turning his girlfriend into a zombie-demon and threatening to do the same to him and a few other folks who have joined us along the way.

Not really a sequel, Evil Dead II is like a comedy remake of its predecessor. As I watched it this time around, I kept thinking about what a fine line there is between really good horror/comedy and the Troma trash that litters the horror genre. I’m sure most would agree Evil Dead II belongs in the former category – it’s perhaps even one of the best. Over the top? Absolutely. Out to piss off, offend or alienate? Certainly not.

This is a conversation I’m party to quite often: just because you get the joke, doesn’t mean you can’t screw it up. If you want to do camp right, all the elements have to be in exactly the right place and at the proper volume. It’s a delicate balance that goes horribly rotten all too often. Sometimes it’s hard to put my finger on just exactly what goes wrong in such a case, but a movie like the wretched Blood Diner comes to mind as a perfect example of what not to do – it touts a negative, nasty tone and turns it up to eleven. It is tasteless in the worst way. Clearly the idiots that made Blood Diner get the joke, on some level: they know bad exploitation movies and boy, they aren’t afraid to show it – in fact, it’s the only joke they’ve got to work with. But clearly they’re missing something, and thinking they get it but screwing it up royally makes the movie that much worse.  Evil Dead II on the other hand does it just right. No, you can’t call it tasteful – it is not the opposite of Blood Diner and other disasters of its kind, but maybe it’s like the difference between organic and genetically modified: on the outside both look the same, but the guts are different: one is real, and the other is artificial. One has heart and the other soulless. Ultimately, maybe the difference is simply that Evil Dead II is harmless. The jokes aren’t out to hurt anyone.

This is all related to, if not a perfect example of Q’s Quadrants. These movies undeniably go in different quadrants (though for our purposes I’d probably change ‘badass’ to ‘juvenile’ or ‘tasteless’ – and maybe ‘thoughtful’ isn’t the best word one could use to describe Evil Dead II, it works well enough), and so plotting them on the graph is a sort of visual representation of all I’ve said above. What does it mean? Fucked if I know, and even if I did I’d probably be unable to articulate it, but it sure is fun to think about, and it’s one reason why I enjoy watching movies – even the ones I hate.




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