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The Damned – 5

January 14, 2015 Leave a comment

Director – Victor Garcia

Cast – Peter Facinelli, Sophia Myles, Nathalia Ramos, Carolina Guerra, Sebastian Martinez, Gustavo Angarita, Juan Pablo Gamboa

Release Year – 2014

Reviewed by John of the Dead

Don’t you just love stories where unsuspecting know-it-alls believe they are doing a good deed, only to find out that their deed proves to be the worst possible decision they could have made? I love those stories, and that is the case with The Damned. When a group of family and friends barely survive a flash flood, they beg for refuge in a secluded inn. They find a young girl locked in the basement, and without pause they let her free…unknowingly releasing an ancient spirit that will consume them all.

The screenplay comes written by Thirteen Ghosts writer Richard D’Ovidio, and shares a story credit with David Higgins (Burning Bright). The events come rolling in pretty quick, with the traveling band of naïve individuals ignoring the pleas of a local police officer and suffering a dangerous crash when their vehicle is swept away by the tremendous rainwater. They wind up at the hotel pretty early, and right from the get-go we are informed that there is something very “off” about the place. There have been no guests in 30 years, the phone lines have been cut, and it is obvious the caretaker, Felipe, is not keen to strangers and does not want them snooping around. Sure enough, they snoop around and let the girl out at the 28 minute mark, sealing their fate. From then on out the horror creeps and eventually develops into a possession film with nowhere to run but plenty of space to die. The writers include an interesting element for the possession, where the only way you can become possessed is if you kill the possessed person. Naturally, one would say “well don’t kill the person”, however the person is still trying to kill you, or someone you love, so in a sense there are situations where you have no choice but to make the kill and leave yourself as the possessed individual. I did not necessarily enjoy this method, as I prefer more typical methods of possession (they’re creepier), but I’ll give credit for being different.

So how is the horror? It’s OK. It’s a possession film, which is cool, but as I mentioned earlier the possession scenes aren’t as creepy as standard possession tactics. Those possessed talk in cheesy demonic voices and eventually develop a decayed look, but it appears that only happens when they get angry, which is silly. We are provided plenty of kills, but sadly some of them occur offscreen and are nowhere near as gory as one would expect for such a film in the possession / Spanish sub-genres – both known for good gore.

Mirrors 2 and Hellraiser: Revelations director Victor Garcia directs this piece, and he a fair job. The atmosphere is great and he sets the tone early with gloomy cinematography (exposure, desaturation) and solid sets for the home and underground prison. When the horror gets going I felt his execution should have been better. The voices were too cheesy (not the good kind) and the look of the possessed was not the least bit scary, or cool. His kill sequences were pretty tame as well, with little gore and seldom were they filmed in a frontal fashion. There was much potential for good horror here, but it failed to surface.

Overall, The Damned is another mediocre flick out there that you should pass over for better efforts.

Rating: 5/10

The Babadook – 8

December 2, 2014 Leave a comment

Director – Jennifer Kent

Cast – Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall, Tim Purcell, Barbara West

Release Year – 2014

Reviewed by John of the Dead

This low-budget Australian film has made waves across the genre since its Sundance debut in January of this year, and after much waiting it is finally available to the masses. Filmed on a very low budget that included crowd-funding via Kickstarter, Jennifer Kent’s (yes, a woman) debut horror film is this year’s greatest genre accomplishment. The Babadook excels in ways that 90% of other horror films do not – it legitimately scares the viewer. Refusing to rely on gore and cheap jump scares, this experience left me goosebump-riddled and in awe over what should be one of the genre’s spookiest antagonists.

Amelia, a single mother widowed after the violent death of her husband 6 years prior, has her hands full with her out of control son, Robbie. When he is not building makeshift weapons to fight monsters he is getting into serious trouble at school, but such antics become the least of Amelia’s worries when her son comes across a mysterious book titled “The Babadook”. As if things were not hectic enough, Robbie’s negative behavior grows in severity now that he believes The Babadook is lurking within their house. Robbie has pushed Amelia to her wit’s end, and little does she know…he’s telling the truth.

Jennifer Kent begins her story by setting us into the life that Amelia is forced to live. We learn right away that she lost her husband when he suffered an automobile accident while driving her to the hospital go give birth to their son Samuel. Since then, Amelia has remained a lonely soul with a dead-end job and a son who is an ever-growing problem in more ways than one. Soon enough the book turns up and Samuel’s insistence that The Babadook is real only increases the severity of the trouble he causes. With her life a wreck, Amelia is now susceptible to the demon’s (or whatever he is) influence, and 26 minutes into the film we get our first decent taste of horror. We continue to see the horror surface very 10 minutes or so, and it grows in intensity until you hear The Babadook speak and find yourself covered in goosebumps. After this the story took a turn that I was not expecting, focusing more on Amelia’s inner demons and not as much on the demon/Babadook itself, but that is not a complaint on my end. At the end of the film you will learn that the shift on focus was not really a shift in focus after all, as this is a story that deals with the consequences of living a life of grief and never recovering from it. I don’t want to go too into detail because it is possible that I could ruin some of the surprise and the payoff at the end of the film. If anything, just know that this story is so much more than the typical haunted house effort. It is a breath of fresh air.

Kent’s story is what makes this a unique watch, and it is her direction that makes it a scary one. She sucks us into her story early on by giving us a full-frontal take on what it is like to live in Amelia’s shoes. We are forced to deal with Samuel’s tantrums as well, and I guarantee that you will hate him as much as I did – which is exactly what Kent wanted. When the horror hits we are treated to simple spooks here and there, but at the 49 minute mark when we hear the Babadook’s voice I guarantee you I had goosebumps going up my legs – a rare occurrence reserved for the scariest of films. His voice was so simple yet highly effective and definitely my favorite moment of the film. There are other scares of equal quality, but given I watched this with my Sennheiser headphones his voice filled the perceived space around me as if he was actually there (hell…maybe he was). Kent’s atmosphere helped make these scares as great as they were, employing dark shadows and a spooky home that will prepare you for the scares that you won’t be able to beat.

Overall, The Babadook is an incredible accomplishment for Jennifer Kent and probably the best 2014 horror film I have seen so far.

Rating: 8/10

…Additional Stills…

The Possession of Michael King – 6

September 13, 2014 Leave a comment

Director – David Jung

Cast – Shane Johnson, Ella Anderson, Cara Pifko

Release Year – 2014

Reviewed by John of the Dead

I had been hearing a lot about The Possession of Michael King lately and had to give it a watch to see what the fuss is all about. Staying away from trailers and reviews, I went into the film “blind” with few expectations and was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. I really liked the interesting approach to the possession and it provides fresh air to the convoluted demon possession sub-genre. This effort won’t win any awards and is not a flick you must rush to see, but in the end The Possession of Michael King is an experience fans of demon possession may appreciate.

Following the sudden tragic death of his wife, atheist Michael King decides to make a documentary dispelling the supernatural by taking taking those who use it to task. By allowing necromancers, demonologists, and occult practitioners to use their rituals on him, he hopes to capture their failures on film and prove them to be the frauds he believes they are. Unfortunately for Michael, he was wrong about the dark arts he partook in and an evil force is now taking him over. With time running out and a demonic entity that won’t let him go, we watch Michael’s desperate plight to defeat the evils he foolishly welcomed.

I really like this story because it brings a different perspective to the demonic possession element. Usually a completely innocent and unsuspecting person is possessed, but in this story the lead willingly opens the door to it – something I had never seen before. First-timer David Jung and his co-writer Tedi Sarafian kick things off with a slightly vengeful Michael who displays animosity towards psychics and their cohorts because he feels such belief in superstition lead to his wife’s death. A number of circumstances lead to her passing, but seeing a psychic took its toll on her. Michael’s desire to prove them wrong leads to him engaging in what an angelic person like myself would refer to as very risky behavior. He sincerely tries to have a number of demons enter his body, and low and behold…much to his surprise…he gets his wish. We see this occur about 25 minutes into the film but it remains subtle at first. Michael tries to find logical explanations behind his ever-growing ailments, like the screaming voices in his ears. At the 40 minute mark the horror starts to really manifest and it appears that Michael is in way over his head.

Before this the horror had consisted of mostly cheap jump scares that were largely illogical, like a quick splice of a possessed Michael well before he was ever possessed. Once the horror began to manifest halfway through the piece it never relented. The writers focused much of the horror on Michael himself and did not involve many other characters. His daughter and sister were slightly effected but most of Michael’s suffering involves only himself. When he finally comes to terms with what he has done we see him try every self remedy in the book. Spells and incantations do nothing to save him and we see a very different man from the beginning of the film. Now we have a believer who is living in extreme regret for what he has done. Much to my surprise there is no exorcism in the film. I can’t think of many possession films, especially one with “possession” in the title, that does not include the always-expected exorcism sequence at the end of the film. While Michael’s personal horror consumes the film I never really found it scary. It would be scary to be in his situation, but unless you can really envelop yourself in his character you won’t find many worthy scares despite plenty of “horror”. Because the horror depends so much on Michael and hardly involves anyone/anything else it is one-dimensional. I believe this lack of additional elements lead to the horror not being as effective as it could have been. The demons within him could have served a much bigger role, where their personalities and attributes are brought to screen, but for whatever reason they stayed hidden within Michael and served as lost potential.

David Jung also directs and I will say that he did very well for his freshman effort. This is not a devout POV “found footage” film and the perspective shifts from first to third often. The interesting storyline had me hooked early on and the scenes where Michael tries to become possessed are very engaging. Once the possession takes place we see Michael go through both physical and psychological changes and actor Shane Johnson handles the dramatics very well. Despite a 16 year career this seems to be his first leading role, and it is one that focuses heavily on him and hardly anyone else. With Michael also serving as his own antagonist I applaud Shane for a performance bringing his character from one extreme to the other. Jung’s execution of the horror is mostly positive but it did not hit as hard as I expected it to. With the horror solely based on Michael it lacked the multi-dimensional elements that would have made for increased, or at least more effective, horror for the viewer to enjoy.

Overall, The Possession of Michael King offers a unique premise to the possession sub-genre, but is not the hard-hitting film it could have been. The story kept it a little too basic and never delivered on the scares. Jung’s direction is good, so this is not a complete waste, just don’t go in over-hyped.

Rating: 6/10

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Deliver Us From Evil – 5


Director – Scott Derrickson

Cast – Eric Bana, Édgar Ramírez, Olivia Munn, Chris Coy, Dorian Missick, Sean Harris, Joel McHale, Mike Houston, Lulu Wilson, Olivia Horton, Scott Johnsen

Release Year – 2014

Reviewed by John of the Dead

This is a film that had me excited for multiple reasons. It is the newest film from Scott Derrickson, who is a director with a resume I enjoy. He broke onto the scene with the mediocre Hellraiser: Inferno, but since then he has given us The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Sinister, both supernatural films that I highly enjoyed. I am also a fan of lead actor Eric Bana, and this marks the first horror film of his career. Throw in the semi-true supernatural storyline and you have my devout attention, so going into this film I really hoped to enjoy it. From the get-go I began to realize that the experience I expected was not going to happen, and when the story finally achieved greatness it was too little, too late.

Detective Sarchie has a knack for finding unusual cases, and the troubled detective’s “radar” brings him face to face with a series of disturbing crimes committed by a heinous killer. Teaming with an unconventional priest schooled in the rituals of exorcism, Sarchie battles the frightening demonic possessions terrorizing his city where no one, not even his family and partner, are safe.

Scott Derrickson and fellow Emily Rose co-writer Paul Harris Boardman produced this screenplay from Ralph Sarchie’s tell-all book, and while I have yet to read Sarchie’s take on the matter I hope it is more interesting than what these writers delivered. The first act is blander than it should be, starting off with a hint of the evil’s Middle Eastern origin and concluding with the first crime associated with those possessed by it. I could not believe how uneven these scenes felt, and I blame both writing and directing execution for failing to secure the viewer. The second act fares better but unfortunately produces more unanswered questions than I would like to deal with. I enjoy a film that leaves a few rocks unturned so that the viewer is allowed to debate amongst him/herself or friends, but that was not the case here. Instead, multiple horrific elements are thrown in here and there but never used to full potential. Because they must each share runtime they remain undeveloped and instead become more of an annoyance than an engaging development to the conflict. Finally, when the third act hits the horror manifests to supreme levels and I was left smiling for once. I was glad to see a strong finish to a film that started poor but gradually got better, but as I mentioned earlier, “too little, too late”. Character-wise I was disappointed in how Det. Sarchie was portrayed. We see him suffer the usual conflicts associated with a New York City officer, which basically means we see him suffer the usual CLICHES. He neglects his family, turns to alcohol as a solution (moderately, though), and of course keeps this major threat to the public pretty much to himself and a few confidants. I get that he needs conflict at home to help develop his character, but the method of doing so was as cliché as it gets and ultimately a waste of a good actor. The priest, Father Mendoza, was used with much better results. His unconventional mannerisms and internal demons were interesting and made you actually care for the guy, plus his actions during the final act stole the show. I am not sure if this was the case in “real life”, but the writers gave us a mediocre lead with a good supporting cast. The horrror they wrote into the film was pretty good though, and we were given plenty of it. Even though I did not particularly like the film I was glad to see lots of horror to keep me going until the end credits relieved me. We see plenty of kills, decent gore, and lots of spooks that were effective in a movie theater with surround sound. The supernatural element could have been furthered and is one of those undeveloped elements I mentioned earlier, leaving out untold potential that could have resulted in supreme levels of horror.

Derrickson’s direction was hit and miss, which was the biggest surprise for me. He delivered solid efforts with Sinister and The Exorcism of Emily Rose, so naturally I figured he would bring the goods once again for Deliver Us From Evil. From the get-go he sets good atmosphere – dark and gloomy, which is just the way I like it. The tension strikes early and his execution is engaging, giving us a full frontal point of view to the carnage. When the horror hit he would play heavily on the senses, especially sound. There are some spooky nighttime scenes that show nothing but still brought chills about the movie theater thanks to the spooking scratching noises we would hear. When the final act hits and the major exorcism begins we are shown just how great Derrickson can be. His execution was incredible and once again he brought amazing sound with him to seal the deal. I wish I could say that the rest of the film was this good, but his execution came with faults as well. The acting performances from our protagonists were pretty mediocre, with the best performances coming from the possessed antagonists. Sean Harris (Creep, Isolation, Prometheus) stole the show as Santino, the lead antagonist who is the root of the conflict in the film.  Harris seems to have a knack for portraying creepy characters, as he also portrayed the Creep in Michael Smith’s 2004 effort, Creep.  I enjoy a good antagonist, but it’s usually nice if the protagonist can hold his/her own as well but sadly they were not written in that manner. The worst is yet to come though. There were scenes in the film that I found completely unfathomable, and that is because they were so bad I could not believe my eyes. I don’t want to provide spoilers, so all I can say is that these scenes involve horrible sound effects added to some of the “scare” scenes. I would expect such antics from a crappy low budget piece from a novice director, but to see such nonsense on the big screen…unfathomable.

Overall, Deliver Us From Evil is a film I wanted to like, but poor writing and directing execution made that impossible. The story is downright stupid at times, as is the execution, and while the horror eventually manifested into something great…it was too little, too late. I promise I’m going to stop saying that too.

Rating: 5/10

Insidious: Chapter 2 – 6

September 14, 2013 Leave a comment

Director – James Wan

Cast – Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey, Lin Shaye, Ty Simpkins, Leigh Whannell, Steve Coulter, Angus Sampson, Andrew Astor, Hank Harris, Jocelin Donahue, Lindsay Seim, Danielle Bisutti, Tyler Griffin, Garrett Ryan

Release Year – 2013

Reviewed by John of the Dead

Director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell crashed the horror scene with one of the most notable horror films of all time, Saw. While they had forever left their mark by bringing what some refer to as “torture porn” to the American audience, they were far from through with showing off their talents and gave us one of the best horror films of this decade…Insidious. While I love Insidious just as much as the next guy, I was not very excited to learn about Insidious: Chapter 2. I loved the idea of Wan and Whannell teaming up to give us another horror film, but I felt that the story created for Insidious did not have the material to give us another full length experience…and to an extent I was right. The filmmakers once again managed to give us a creepy experience that delivers some good scares, but in the end Insidious: Chapter 2 is not only a film we did not need but also a big step down from its predecessor that sadly ends the series on a mediocre note.

The story takes off immediately after the events of Insidious, where the Lambert family desperately tries to move on with their lives after saving young Dalton from The Further. When the hauntings begin to occur again and grow in intensity, their friends seek to uncover Josh’s long-forgotten childhood secret that has left his family dangerously connected to a malignant force in the spirit world.

I was curious to how Wan and Whannel would conjure up enough story to fulfill another film, and they did so by taking us deeper into the further and Josh’s past. First I must applaud the writers for giving us an ambitious attempt to end the series they created, but this ambition also resulted in a muddy story that never seemed to find its rhythm. This happened as a result of the story’s constant time-traveling between the current and Josh’s past, where little time and development was spent with either before throwing us back into the other. Because of this the writers were unable to use Renai to her full potential and instead forced themselves to use her as mediocre conflict for the first two acts of the film, where she merely suspected Josh of being under an evil influence but did little to pursue her theory and save her family. Instead, she served as a rag doll chew toy for the spirit. The same loss of potential also applies to Specs and Tucker, who played a significant role in the first film but a very insignificant one in this sequel. Gone are the days when they actually helped the Lambert family and now they serve as two stooges who mostly provide comic relief at just the right moments. This comic relief was good and I did find it enjoyable, but sadly it was not accompanied by them executing their profession.

As mentioned earlier this ambitious story provides a heavy time travel element that takes us from the present, to the past, and back again, giving us some cool insight into why the malevolent force is attacking the Lambert family and slowly explaining Josh’s relation to the spirit world. I did enjoy the flashback scenes and found them to provide some good creepiness as well, my only balk is that the way the scenes were written into the film ruined its fluidity and pacing. There are plenty of scare scenes for the viewer to enjoy and most of them were pretty enjoyable. As mentioned earlier the spirit involved harbors a growing tenacity that we get to experience first-hand, so despite the story’s faults at least expect some good chills.

Speaking of good chills, James Wan’s direction is great as usual. He does a fantastic job of setting up positive atmosphere that also comes with incredible sets in every location he used. Never before have I really found myself enamored by the extreme detail of film sets used by a horror director, and James Wan really knows how to visually strike the viewer in a subtle way that does not take away from the horror. This was especially prevalent in the homes used during the flashback scenes, where every lamp, light fixture, and wall color was perfectly articulated to grab our attention and suck us in, which allows the scares to hit us even harder. His execution of the scares alone is great and he left me with goosebumps on numerous occasions. His villains are effectively creepy and he sticks to the plain Jane makeup effects used in Insidious, which brought back memories of classic horror from the 50s and 60s. The acting performances were good enough, with our protagonists doing well and the antagonists coming off a bit too cheesy for my liking, but all in all it was Wan’s direction that really saved this mediocre piece from potentially being a disastrous way for Wan to leave the genre after giving us almost 10 years of solid horror films.

Overall, Insidious: Chapter 2 is an unnecessary sequel that naturally suffered the consequences of being just that. The scares are good and so is the direction, but the story is so muddy that it never finds a rhythm and the snowball effect kicks into gear. This is not a bad film as it does come with some positives, but it is not a good film either and comes nowhere near the greatness of its predecessor.

Rating: 6/10

…Additional Stills…

The Conjuring – 8

July 20, 2013 5 comments

Director – James Wan

Cast – Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston, Shanley Caswell, Hayley McFarland, Joey King, Mackenzie Foy, Kyla Deaver, Shannon Kook, John Brotherton, Sterling Jerins, Marion Guyot

Release Year – 2013

Reviewed by John of the Dead

After the amazing success of his 2011 film, Insidious, I was very surprised to see director James Wan (Saw, Dead Silence, Insidious, Insidious: Chapter 2) dive right back into the genre with The Conjuring – a flick 20 years in the making and the first of his two horror films debuting this year. When the real life paranormal investigator Ed Warren played his taped recording with haunting victim Carolyn Perron for producer Tony DeRosa-Grund back in the 1980s, the two struggled to turn the story into a film until producer Peter Safran and twin writers Chad and Carey Hayes refined the script and brought James Wan on board to give us maybe the scariest film of 2013. Serving as one of the best homages to 70s horror since Ti West’s The House of the Devil, The Conjuring is full of classic spooks and genuine chills that will leave you on edge and questioning every bump in the night.

Before the horror that shocked Amityville and the rest of the world there was Harrisville, Connecticut. After moving into their newly-acquired police-auctioned lakeside home, the Perron family is soon terrorized by a dark presence whose actions are growing in severity. Desperate for help, they contact world-famous paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren who take on the case and confront a powerful demonic entity in what proves to be the most horrifying case of their lives.

The experience kicks off in very high gear thanks to one of the creepiest opening sequences I have ever seen – a simple idea involving a demon, a very creepy doll, and amazing direction. This scene was successful in not only grabbing the audience’s attention but giving us high hopes for the remainder of the film, and those high expectations were successfully achieved. The Hayes brothers continue the film by giving us some insight on the work the Warrens do, which not only proves the existence of ghosts but the non-existence of ghosts when logical explanations are the culprit of someone’s “haunting”. Their reputation is put to test when Carolyn Perron comes calling after we watch her and her family suffer terrible demonic terrors for the first act of the film, and their presence at the Perron home only ignites the demon’s fury. I really enjoyed the horror seen in the first half of the flick, which was very “classic” and consisted of creaking doors and inanimate objects moving when they shouldn’t. This horror continued to build though, and when it became physical (and obvious to Mr. and Mrs. Perron) it was time to call upon Ed and Lorraine. The Warrens do not show up alone, and watching them and their crew set up their equipment to attain visual and audio proof of the haunting only makes the experience even more interesting. For a film nearly two hours in length there was plenty of horror written into the story and it was surprisingly consistent during the film’s slower developmental phase. Once the Warrens get going though the horror definitely increases in its intensity and how frequently it hits the screen, giving us a very harrowing third act that gives us lots of intense demon action. I must mention that there was also a small sub-plot that would interrupt the main plot here and there, and much to my surprise it was well-written and did not detriment from the overall experience but actually improved upon it. Not only that, but I would assume it will be a definite candidate for the storyline in the upcoming sequel that we just know is going to happen.

You know you’d sh*t yourself in real life…

While this screenplay is a positive one from the minds behind House of Wax (remake), The Reaping, and Whiteout, it was James Wan’s direction that really made this a terrifying experience. Right from the get-go James Wan shows us just how damn good of a director he is by scaring the crap out of me with the film’s extremely effective opening sequence. I was given chills on several occasions during this short period of time and I am glad to say that Wan continued in harassing my nervous system for the remainder of the film. His execution of the “classic” horror was great and he relied on simplicity and positive camerawork to sell it to us. He made good use of shadows and dark corners, creeping doors, and inanimate objects coming to life at the most terrifying of moments. Once things really get going the ghosts begin to manifest and I was mostly pleased with the results. The look of the main ghost was very creepy and she brought much horror to the table. As far as the other ghosts go I found them a little bit cliché and did not care for them much, but they definitely did not negatively affect the film in any way. Practical effects are heavy in this piece and very little CGI is used, which aside from not being a found footage flick is another tactic separating this from other modern horror films. We do get a little bit of POV action when Ed Warren documents the haunting in the home, and it was used in creepy and effective fashion. The acting performances are also solid and we receive some very good ones from quite a few of the actors. Patrick Wilson (Insidious, Hard Candy, Passengers, Watchmen) and Vera Farmiga (Orphan) were great as Ed and Lorraine Warren and their chemistry was pretty amazing. I definitely applaud not only the actors but the writers for writing them as very compatible protagonists. Lili Taylor, who I first thought was Marcia Gay Harden, gave a very good Harden-esque performance that required her character to jump through all kinds of emotional hoops and she did so with good results. I really do not have any major qualms with the film although my partner for this experience, Double Barrel over at Forget To Breathe, mentioned how the atmosphere would have been EVEN BETTER if James Wan shot this on film instead of digital, which naturally kept it from achieving that grainy 70s look that would have only bettered the experience.

Overall, The Conjuring is one of the best horror films of this millennium and a great homage to classic 70s horror. From start to finish this is one truly creepy experience that builds off of a great screenplay that comes based on true events, and James Wan’s direction brings the terrifying events to screen in excellent fashion. The scares are good, the chills are everywhere, and The Conjuring is an experience you should not miss…unless you like to sleep.

Rating: 8/10

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Evil Dead – 8

April 6, 2013 4 comments

Director – Fede Alvarez

Cast – Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore, Phoenix Connolly

Release Year – 2013

Reviewed by John of the Dead

Well here we have it – one of the most hyped and anticipated horror films in decades, Evil Dead.  Originally marketed and perceived to be a remake of Sam Raimi’s Bruce Campbell-starring 1981 classic, The Evil Dead, this experience instead breaks new ground in the Evil Dead saga and leaves you not only gasping for air but marveling at how they got away with so much violence.  After suffering a near-fatal drug overdose, Mia, her brother David, and three of their closest friends head to Mia and David’s childhood cabin to stage one final intervention to rid Mia of her nasty drug habit.  While exploring the cabin they find an old book bound in human flesh, and after reciting the book’s demonic incantations they unwittingly unleash a demon that consumes them one by one in the most horrific experience to take place there since a bumbling Ashley J. Williams defeated the demon 30 years prior.

The Fede Alvarez / Diablo Cody-written story takes off quickly, delivering our protagonists to the cabin after a short demon-fueled introduction. A short developmental phase introduces the characters, with the only notable points being Mia and David’s strained relationship resulting from his previous abandonment of his sister after losing their parents, and his abandonment of their three friends as well. It is obvious that Mia has a serious problem with drugs when her withdrawals kick in, but nothing prepares the friends for what happens next. Dead set on deciphering the contents of the Book of the Dead they found in the creepy cellar, Eric reads a passage that unleashes the same demon Ash battled decades prior, this time possessing the weak Mia via a very uncomfortable method, one paying homage to an infamous scene in The Evil Dead. Her transformation begins immediately, but her uninformed friends believe the girl who claims something is “in” the cabin with them is simply suffering from her withdrawals, but when harrowing carnage begins to surface around them they come to the realization that their problems have no relation to Mia’s drug addiction. The rest of the film focuses on their quest for survival as the friends “turn” one by one and maniacally attack the remaining souls, dishing out brutal punishment that had me squinting my eyes on numerous occasions. The horror written into the film was fantastic and it came in a very gory fashion, focusing heavily on dismemberment and other ways to make the viewer squirm in their seat.

Director Fede Alvarez made a name for himself with this debut feature film, and I can see him achieving a lasting career in the genre if he can keep dishing out hard-hitting films like this one. From the get-go my movie bro and I were immediately marveling at Alvarez’s atmosphere and execution of the introductory scene – sucking us in from then on out. His execution of the characters was better than expected, with actress Jane Levy doing a fantastic job as Mia. Her role was brutal, with her starting off as a kind soul, then a violent soul when her withdrawals kicked in, then a POSSESED soul as well as a tortured one fighting to keep herself together despite the horrific events going on around her. We received positive performances from all involved, but Jane Levy made me proud. Earlier I mentioned the atmosphere during the opening sequence, and Alvarez ensured that atmosphere stuck around by making great use of shadows and every creepy little corner of the spooky cabin. Of course, this film experience would be nothing without his excellent execution of the horror. Alvarez does not hold anything back, beginning with the possession scene shown in a full-frontal fashion and slowly building in severity as the runtime grows. The kills were not overly creative, and thanks to his direction they did not need to be. We are exposed to severe amounts of live-action gore, and these effects come during scenes that are already hard to watch due to the severity of the horror – which adds even more insult to those who think CGI gore is enough these days. Also, I must say that I cannot really explain to you how severe the gore is in this piece, especially for an R-rated film. By the time the final sequence comes the ground outside the cabin is literally saturated with blood, possibly making this the Dead Alive of this decade. There are lots of chills and thrills for the viewer to enjoy thanks to Alvarez’s direction, and I applaud him for leaving me with a lasting smile and a respectable, worthy addition to the Evil Dead franchise.

Overall, Evil Dead is a tremendous effort from Fede Alvarez and producers Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and Rob Tapert, the initial trio behind The Evil Dead. The story will not win any awards, but it breaks new ground in the series and comes with additional elements not seen in any of the previous films. This effort has the potential to bring the series back to light and hopefully bring back Ash as well. The direction is solid and it makes for one of the most brutal and amazing horror experiences in recent years, making this the best horror film of the year (so far) and one I suggest you see as soon as possible.

Rating: 8/10

…Additional Stills…

“The Classic”, Ash’s Oldsmobile from the first three films, makes an appearance!

I really mean it when I say the film is heavy in gore.

The book has changed and isn’t as scary, but the results are the same – demon carnage.

You already know where this is going…

One of the homages to The Evil Dead.

“So THIS is how I’m going to get all of my friends killed…”

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