Sunday, November 17, 2013

#DoubleFeature - EVIL DEAD remake/DRAG ME TO HELL

For this DoubleFeature, I would like to have a look at two recent films where the stupidity and selfish attitude of young persons get them cursed to face demons before their eventual demise...

That's right! Slasher films!

One a reimagining of a Sam Raimi cult classic reinvented for a new generation. Grittier, deadlier and scarier than ever.

The other, the actual return of Raimi in a genre that launched his carrier.

One an R-Rated "realistic" horror flick. The other a PG-13 that as much as it pushes boundaries on the violence and gore on screen, is very much a campy over-the-top fest.

Let's have a look at both of those films!

Movie: Evil Dead aka Evil Dead (2013)
Directed by Fede Alvarez
Release date 2013
Genre Horror film
Country USA/New Zealand

Co-written and directed by Fede Alvarez, a young new director found thanks to the amazing internet-hit short movie Panic Attack!, the Evil Dead reboot was produced by the three minds behind the original - Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Robert G. Tapert.

This remake isn't actually just a reimagining as talks have been made to continue the original series with an Army of Darkness 2 to possibly connect to a second Alvarez' Evil Dead.

Nevertheless this update offers a new cast of characters to get killed by Deadites in the middle of the woods. Produced on a much bigger budget than what Raimi ever dreamed at the time, bringing in a new modern aesthetic, cruder and more violent special effects and a modern cinematography.

The original Evil Dead was a great unique film at the time of its release. In the middle of countless horror flicks, Raimi tried to have his low-budget stand out apart from the masses thanks to his great directing, its over-the-top nature and shock value. The film was not only well crafted with lots of bloody gore but also thanks to some light notes of dark humor here and there.

Now, this new iteration falls for the gratuitous gore and self-mutilation. There are still gallons of blood spilled here and there and even the chainsaw makes a return. The problem perhaps lies in its kind of artificial tone...

The movie opens with an unsettling scene with its own share of twists and shock.

After that we are introduced to the new group. We meet Mia, her brother David and their friends. The gang goes up to a remote cabin in the woods to help Mia with her heroin addiction. Hopefully this change of setting will help stay clean for good this time. They find an ancient mysterious creepy Sumerian book made from human flesh. The Naturom Demonto.

Long story short, they summon Kandarian demons by accident, those take over Mia and the rest of her group one by one.

David doesn't understand it at first... He tries to fight back and save his possessed sister.

Blood all over the place. The cabin on fire. And finally an Abomination rises from the ground with the soul of their deceased friends...

It's an impressive film. With some outstanding practical effects. The gore effects are particularly well done.

Evil Dead 2013 also has a great creepy score, composed by Roque Baños. It perfectly channels the original and even brings back some familiar cues.

The film was produced by Rob Tapert's Ghost House Pictures. It had one very important rule to follow, to use very little CGi. CGi is usually used in these kind of films since it's a much cheaper and faster route.

This reboot is mostly a retelling of the original first film with some minor nods from the sequels. The tone is definitively closer to the first one. Even the "tree rape" scene made it!

There's also Evil Dead 2's bridge scene, cutting the arm(s), the chainsaw and several bits. As well as some minor details from Army of Darkness (some quotes..). I personally found the whole vomit-bits seem to be taken from Drag Me To Hell (below) as well.

Bruce Campbell reprized his role as Ash Williams in the very random almost-out of place cameo at the end, after the credits. Purely for the fans, it will probably mean very little for newcomers. I understand a much bigger end sequence was planned with Mia finding Ash in a S-Mart truck on the road... before finally turning into a deadite for good while Ash would shout a classic one liner. Due to his filming on the Burn Notice set miles away, they couldn't get him on this film properly. Thankfully. (I think that would have been a bit odd for an ending, after everything the character of Mia went through)

Raimi's classic Delta Royal ’88 is also seen in this film, as usual. Overall, I liked the several nods to the franchise.

Now. For the bad.

Perhaps this film was maybe a little too serious for its own good. While the Deadites shouted insults back, the characters were enduring it without coming back with anything, really.

The circumstances were done in classic horror fashion, it's like a screenplay crossing squares off in a to do list. After a movie like Cabin In The Woods, the plot seems kind of cliché and a bit too convenient. The whole drug addict-withdrawal condition helping our characters mistake Mia turning into a Deadite for her heroin addiction coming back.

Like everything was planned from outside force manipulating their fates into recreating the original Evil Dead. Their names spelling out Demon with their initials, etc.

It does start a bit slow and goes for a more realistic tone than any Evil Dead film prior to it, but it gets better. And the brilliant final act certainly returns some of the fun back.

It's a well made film, but it mostly feels like Evil Dead minus Raimi's directing. The spirit was gone.

My favorite aspect of this entire venture was having a return of grunge-style horror like in the 1980s. (Braindead, anyone?)

So what is left is a remake that mostly tries to update the classic film.

In the end, I find myself asking... what are remakes for? (besides cashing-in well established proprieties...)

I give it:
2 / 3 Necronomicons!

Movie: Drag Me to Hell
Directed by Sam Raimi
Release date 2009
Genre Horror comedy film
Country USA

Also produced by Rob Tapert's Ghost House Pictures, Drag Me to Hell is a return to the Evil Dead-type of horror/comedy Sam Raimi was so well known for. A genre which in my eyes is well apart from both either horror or pure comedies.

It was released in 2009 and was supposedly written on a script Sam and Ivan Raimi worked on a decade ago, but which had been put on hold due to Sam Raimi's work on the Spider-man series.

The film follows Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) who works as a loan officer in a local bank.

She denies an extension of a loan for an old gypsy woman who ends up giving her a curse because of her rudeness. Christine only wanted to impress her boss for the possibility of a better job.

At first you might ask is that her conscience playing tricks on her? But she made the old woman lose her home. Soon a chain of bad events start happening to her, Sam Raimi loving to torture and have his main characters go through lots of humiliations in his films. She gets a nosebleed of epic proportions at work, several hallucinations, a visit at her would be in-laws that turns out for the worst.

Finally a visit at a psychic confirms her fears. She has a demon set onto her.

She will be dragged to hell come three days past...

Right off the bat, the best part of Drag Me to Hell is having Sam Raimi back on a genre that made him famous.

The Evil Dead trilogy was a cult classic for Raimi's unique signature camera work. And he is able to make a lowbrow concept such a fun idea on the screen.

Drag Me to Hell is definitively a bit self-aware. It's not a very serious movie. Most of the gross and "violence" on screen comes from lots of vomit, flies and insects coming in and out of mouths.

The film has definitively an over-the-top nature. Three blockbusters (and one additional Oz since then) later, and it feels great to have Raimi back with more cheesy humor and classic horror aesthetics in this semi-satirical tale.

There's a sense of old school twisted sense of humor, the film almost goes into self-parody past the mid-point (the "Deadite" scene at the psychic, possessed goat and all that).

I really liked the little Lovecraftian references. It reminded me of the old horror movie fashion when you could find innovative stories back in the horror comedy genre from 1980s, in the likes of Return of the Living Dead, Re-Animator, Braindead etc.

The movie opens with a little prologue and a title card announcing the fate of our protagonist.

Our heroines tries to find a substitute to go to Hell instead of her. A sweater button deciding the outcome of her fate. Hilarious!

It's a very fun and entertaining film.

She goes through all kinds of assault on the demon's part as she tries to tell her skeptical boyfriend Clay (Justin Long) what is exactly going on.

The movie does a great job of blending both horror and comedy, with oddball situations and some gross out scenes (as well as a kickass cemetery sequence!).

Lots of mucus, blood and vomit flying everywhere!

I wonder if this had at one point simply been an Evil Dead feature? The film is not very serious.. then again, Sam Raimi never did any true "horror film" since his very first directing debut.

The film was successfully toured at several festivals prior to its release.

It's sort of a Evil Dead successor that doesn't try much since it doesn't bear that title. The final scene lacked some confrontation with the Lamia monster perphaps. Too little a budget maybe.

In the end it feels like an old E.C.Comics short story or one of the features from a Creepshow anthology.

There's a strange moral to be found in this film. It goes to show that professional ambitions should be put aside or they might get you punished. Ironic, coming from the $300 million-Sam Raimi post-Spider-man!

I give it:
2.5 / 3 Necronomicons!

Overall, in the end, both are pretty fun and good films. Neither truly worthy of the Evil Dead franchise in my eyes. But for different reasons.

For all the fun gore and shock value, Evil Dead 2013 does a great job as a remake to reinvigorate the franchise. But it feels like a movie that should have ended ten minutes earlier near the end.

It also seems like a soulless copy-paste, that's my main concern with remakes in general. Are they worth watching if they won't add anything new to the classics?

Drag Me to Hell on the other hand recaptures the silly campy aspect I miss from the real Evil Dead. But it doesn't try much since it all rests on a Sam Raimi that has proven himself countless times.

Yet despite its PG rating, Drag Me to Hell was perhaps in my eyes the much better film.

With news regarding Sam Raimi's Oz the Great and Powerful failure, Raimi has shown interest in going back to the Evil Dead franchise finally.

It took a Spider-man 3 to have him go back to the genre. A second strike along the success of the Evil Dead remake was all he needed to come back to Ash.

As I write these lines, plans have been made for both an Evil Dead Part 2 by Fede Alvarez for 2015 and Sam Raimi's return to the series in the actual 4th entry titled Army of Darkness 2 for now.

The idea is to have both these side-franchises tie-in into an Avengers-style crossover later on, but Bruce Campbell himself doesn't sound that enthusiastic about this entire idea at the moment...

That's all for this time's DoubleFeature!

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