As of last Tuesday, the old man and I had been out to see one movie in the last year. It was that possession movie with Jeff Winger in it as a tough guy. We enjoyed it, but being forced to say that’s the best movie we’ve seen together in a year is pretty much a fucking travesty. Theatrically released horror movies are so few and far between now we hardly get out to see anything. When something does come along, Real Life™ comes along and kicks one of us in the balls.
So, when we saw previews for a movie with a possessed doll that looks creepy as fuck we honestly didn’t expect to be able to get out to it. However, the stars and planets aligned and Real Life™ chose to leave our balls alone for a week. Or so we thought.
It turns out that last week, Annabellewas our kick in the balls.
Oculus is a suspense/horror movie from writer/director Mike Flanagan. It jumps back and forth telling the horrific story of the Russell family, both in present day, and 12 years ago. Tim Russell (Brenton Thwaites) has finally been released from a mental hospital following past events. His sister Kaylie (Amy Pond Karen Gillan) is convinced a haunted antique mirror was the source of their family’s troubles, and is determined to prove it. Reluctantly, Tim helps her in her plan, expecting what she really needs is help letting go of the past.
I think my expectations were a tad too high for this one. I remember being moderately intrigued by the trailers, but never getting a chance to see it in theatres. Moderate levels of praise kept my expectations tempered in the interim. After learning Flanagan has been given a chance to write and direct Stephen King’s completely unfilmable Gerald’s Game, and that some people thought he was a good choice–largely because of this movie–it moved to the top of my To-See list.
Sometimes it’s okay to judge a book by it’s cover. Look at that image. Doesn’t really tell you much, does it?
What if I told you that the skeleton, broken doll and book title are all beveled and embossed?
If you’ve ever read a mass-market fiction book from the ’80s, you’ll recognize those details. Much like a soft white cover–with an oval cut out of it to reveal a hand painted portrait of a shirtless guy and a swooning woman–will let everyone know that a book is about fucking… that embossed skeleton on black background tells the ’80s reader exactly what they’re getting into.
What you’ve got here is a cheesey premise sketchily linking together a bunch of horror-ifying scenes. Seriously. Just look at that list of Tags down there. This thing hits all the bases. And it executes them all flawlesslyhilariously.
The newest addition to a cult classic franchise released tonight, and the old man and I were there to take it all in. Evil Dead revisits the 1981 feature length directorial debut of Sam Raimi. It is the story of five young adults out in a cabin in the middle of nowhere so that one of them can turn over a new leaf, and detox herself from her drug addiction. As often happens in movies where the word “Dead” is in the title, things don’t go well. After finding a bunch of dead cats and a book bound in flesh, inked in blood, an unspeakable evil begins to possess the quintet one by one, forcing them to do horrible things to themselves, and each other.
This time around, backed in a producing role by the creative team of the original films, another up and coming director who’s gained some notoriety from his short films, Fede Alvarez, takes the helm. His movie is original, gory, and fun, enough to stand on its own merit, but it’s also a love letter to the original trilogy, showing the influence of–and paying homage to–the originals throughout.
Would you like to know more? Continue reading… spoilers are minimal, but the images are more graphic than I normally post here.
Army of Darkness is the final instalment of the original Evil Dead Trilogy. After being tossed through a portal at the end of Evil Dead 2, Ash finds himself in England, in the year 1300. At first he’s mistaken for an enemy clansman by Lord Arthur, but Ash quickly and hilariously proves himself to be “The Chosen One”. He begins a quest to find the Necronomicon, “The Book of the Dead”, that started out all this mess in the first place two movies ago. It goes about as well as can be expected… terribly. Ash ends up waking an army of undead, an Army of Darkness, if you will… that leaves Medieval England up shit creek without a paddle…
Army of Darkness ends up completely abandoning whatever semblance of horror and seriousness that could still be found in Evil Dead 2, and instead chooses to go completely over the top with foolishness, camp and cheesey B-Movie greatness. If Evil Dead 2 is tongue-in-cheek, Army of Darkness’ tongue has pierced through.
Somehow, Raimi and company pull it off again, and create one of the most entertaining, funny, exciting, quotable adventure movies ever made.
Evil Dead 2 follows a grand tradition of horror movie sequels. It has more of almost everything. It has more blood. It has more gore. It has more characters. It has more Evil-Vision™. It has more laughs. About the only thing it doesn’t have more of, is fright. You see, since The Evil Dead found so much success by not being taken seriously, Raimi directs resident ham Bruce Campbell in a slapstick comedy that features tons of laughs, blood and gore. This new formula works very well. The movie is wall to wall cheese, but unlike most intentional cheese, Evil Dead 2 is actually funny.
The Evil Dead is the story of 5 University kids who visit a cabin in the woods, find a book bound in flesh and a reel-to-reel, and unleash an unspeakable evil on the world. There are two young couples, Ash (Bruce Campbell) and Linda (Betsy Baker). Scotty (Hal Delrich) and Shelly (Theresa Tilly), and Ash’s sister Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss) comes along as a fifth wheel, because that is required of all Horror Movies.
The characters are archtypical on one hand, but still break the mold a bit. Scotty is clearly a douche, and Ash is kind of a dork. None of the women seem to burst out of the gate as whores, virgins or bookworms… but since Cheryl is the fifth wheel, and draws pictures, she’s clearly the bookworm. She’s also the closest thing to a stick in the mud, so she can claim the Virgin card… until she’s raped by a tree, anyway.
Shortly after listening to the reel-to-reel, the ground starts smoking and possessions start happening, and the world basically turns to shit. One by one the young college students become possessed by the evil they’ve unleashed, until only Ash remains. He goes batshit fucking insane, and eventually defeats the demons with the power of Stop-Motion Animation.
Andy Warner lost everything after his car crashed about 5 months ago. He lost his wife, his daughter, his friends, his home, his life. That’s about when his body reanimated.
Breathers tells a story about a world where zombies are real, sentient, and seen as a gross nuisance to those they’ve left behind. They have no purpose, no civil rights, and no means of making any kind of a new life for themselves. If a zombie decides to venture out in the world, they’re mocked and shunned by day, and actively hunted by frat boys by night.
So, Andy spends his days drinking his parents expensive wine and watching terrible daytime TV. He spends most of his nights the same way. Twice a week he meets with his Undead Anonymous support group. Things stay pretty well the same, until Andy meets a new friend, and decides to start encouraging social change.
Texas Chainsaw 3D is the newest “official” sequel in a long line of sequels, prequels and reboots in one of the pre-eminent Slasher film series of all time, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. This particular movie picks up right where we left off in the first film, making it a sequel/soft-reboot combination, similar to Evil Dead 2, or The Incredible Hulk. But that’s pretty much where the similarities end, seeing as one of those is comedy-horror, and the other is Super-hero Action. Texas Chainsaw 3D falls pretty well into the slasher-horror genre, or as my father calls it, a “spooker“, where we see a bunch of stupid young people make a bunch of stupid decisions that get them very, very dead.
Since this is one of mine and my father’s favourite genres, we usually see this type of movie together, in theatres. It’s a tradition that goes back to the late 80s or early 90s. Over the years, a formula of sorts has been developed. Of course, when dealing with this kind of movie, you shouldn’t be expecting high-art. I’m not saying there aren’t artistic horror films. There are several. Having a critically acclaimed spooker is an anomaly, and should be regarded as such. In order to be successful as a spooker, a movie must really only pass Dad’s three question test:
Is it a jumper? Did it make you jump, if so, how many times? No-Jumper is a piss-poor waste of time. A One-Jumper showed up to the party. A Two-Jumper is a very enjoyable experience, and has done well. Three-Jumper is fantastic, and very rare. I don’t think there’s ever been a Four-Jumper, I certainly couldn’t name one.
How’s the gore? Is there a lot of it, and what kind? Describe it… Is it Tense? Gross? Funny? CGI? Fake-looking? Realisic? Cringe-worthy?
How stupid is it? How stupid are the character’s choices, and do they at least make a little bit of sense, most of the time? More importantly, how stupid are the film-makers? Do they show you a car driving off a cliff, only to see there’s no engine or drivetrain in the car?
If a film can pass most of these questions, then it has succeeded in landing itself a place in the pantheon of films known as “Pretty Good Spookers“.
Now let’s take a look, and see how Texas Chainsaw 3D fared, shall we?
The Walking Dead is everywhere these days. Over 100 issues of the comic have been released in the last 9+ years. AMC is in the middle of the third season of their TV adaptation. There’s social media games, pen and paper games, and board games. Now indie-dev-darlings Telltale Games attempt at submerging us into the world of Robert Kirkman’s zombie apocalypse comic book series.
You play out the story of Lee Everett. When the zombie apocalypse finds him, he’s in the midst of being transferred from jail to prison to serve his time for a murder with extenuating circumstances. However, when there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk in front of police transit vehicles.
The folks at Telltale have made a name for themselves among PC and Indie game enthusiasts in the last few years. They’ve managed to tap into a market long forgotten: The fan of the point-and-click adventure. They’ve made critically acclaimed (and financially successful) games out of surprising movie, video game, comic and TV licences, including Jurassic Park, Back to the Future, Sam & Max, and Monkey Island. These games are released episodically, over the course of a few months to a year. This was my first venture into one of their games. If the quality here is any indication, I’ll be trying at least 3 of those other games as soon as I take another run through The Walking Dead.