The word ‘reboot’ has been thrown around a lot lately – there’s no question about it. It’s not rocket science to notice the inherent drive within the studios to de-risk their investments (you have no idea how much I hate this corporate mumbo-jumbo), which has resulted in the last decade being unusually rich in sequels to successful franchises, remakes of the classics, and – the cherry on top of this cake – the establishment of ‘the reboot’ as a device in the film-making business. Continue reading
Having considered many possible angles and discarded quite a few drafts, I have finally come to the conclusion that it would take me more than one article to vent my thoughts about José Padilha’s “Robocop”. Therefore, I decided to try to give the man a chance and for the time being pretend that Paul Verhoeven’s “Robocop” never happened. I believe this would be the only way for me to stay relatively calm and collected throughout my review, as I can’t say – despite my best wishes – I didn’t enjoy this film at all. And because I don’t see myself addressing every little thing I disliked about it without rambling like an idiot, I’ll try to stay clear from referencing the original this film is supposedly based on and see how it fares as a modern action science-fiction movie on its own two feet. Continue reading
Apart from the obvious, what exactly is the point of a remake? I completely understand it at the basic level of taking the easy way out to, by circumventing the creative step, come up with a brand new revenue-generating title. Now, I have always been a strong supporter (or a zealous opposition to lack thereof) of creativity in cinema, but I do believe that remaking already existing films has its place, so long as it brings something new to the table. But the world isn’t perfect and whenever there’s money involved, chances are the emphasis is not going to be put on refreshing a given title and adding to its artistic value, but rather on making sure all the boxes are ticked to attract the desired demographic.
Don’t get me wrong, especially when it comes to the horror genre, remakes and sequels don’t necessarily have to be all that bad and this year’s reimagining of Sam Raimi’s cult classic “Evil Dead” can be a perfect example of it. With the right people and a solid (and creative) idea, any classic can be raised from the dead (sic!) to the cheer of the collective fan-base of the original.
And with those exact expectations I walked in to see the remake of Brian De Palma’s “Carrie” (1976)… Now, the choice of words I used to describe “Carrie” (2013) is by no means accidental here, because even though both of those films are adaptations of the Stephen King’s debut novel, the remake has clearly drawn from its film predecessor, rather than the source material.
Coming back to the issue of bringing something new to the table, in case of “Carrie” could have meant any number of things. Having recently watched the original (in preparation for the remake; I read the book years ago when I was a young lad), I can honestly say that any semi-skilled director with a half decent cast of actors could be able to make an improvement on the original – it’s that bad. In fact, it’s so bad I am willing to devote a separate occasion just to rant about how shitty De Palma’s film is, and how I can’t possibly understand how oh-so-many people cream their pants over it, as if it was a cult classic… Give me a break…
Now, with this year’s “Carrie”, the draw was supposed to be the fact that the original film was very sparse with the violence in the climax and due to budgetary and technological limitations, certain aspects of the story had to be cut, or reworked to fit the bill. Now, I was sold on this idea alone and I would have loved to see “Carrie” come to a climax on a proper scale. In fact, since the story was being shoehorned into the modern day, I would find it intriguing to see a ‘found footage’ take on it; maybe not in its entirety, but at least in the third act. Interestingly, such treatment would bring the film a bit closer to the book in character, because the original story is neatly interwoven with excerpts from newspapers, journals and what-not that referred to the events from the book, as if it was a real disaster of massive proportions. And the director Kimberly Peirce (known for “Boys don’t cry” and pretty much nothing else) promised me just that… “Carrie” was supposed to go beyond the original and depict the mayhem that ensued following the events from the prom night, and if it had done just (and only) that, it would have been much better off…
In spite of all the waffle that preceded its release, “Carrie” is not much more than a word-for-word retelling of De Palma’s adaptation, but in modern setting and with different (and way better) actors. It’s a story of Carrie White (Chloë Grace Moretz), a teenage outcast raised by a religious nut mother (Julianne Moore) who finds herself to possess telekinetic powers. Bullied at school by a bunch of bitchy cheerleader types, Carrie is slowly being brought to the brink of self-control, so in combination with cruel treatment she receives at home, it doesn’t take long for her powers to be used in destructive way.
At this point in time, when the visual cues known from both the overwhelmingly popular book and De Palma’s film have a somewhat iconic status ingrained in the popular culture, it’s pretty difficult to present this story in a novel way. In reality, in doing so one would seriously risk damaging the original, so the fact “Carrie” plays out exactly as its predecessor is not its biggest flaw. In truth, I think this year’s retelling of “Carrie” is far superior to the original in terms of acting performances, exposition and the overall flow of the story. However, it still feels alien to hear the line “It’s not over! Not by a long shot”, because regardless of how it’s delivered, it sounds bad. I mean, who talks like that? But then again, most of the dialogue is taken ‘as-is’ from the source material, so I can only blame Stephen King for how clunky and disjointed it reads on screen. Bear in mind, it was his first book…
Acting-wise, “Carrie” is pretty solid with a convincing performance by Chloë Grace Moretz as Carrie and Julianne Moore as her mother. In fact, I would have loved to see the mother’s character pushed a bit more towards the creepy kind of religious nut, but she played her cards quite well, even though she was at times ‘at eleven’. Sadly, almost every other character in the film was pretty forgettable and as a result, the main play between the bullies and Carrie doesn’t feel relevant at all. So in the end, when everything unravels, it almost seems to stem from Carrie’s traumatic home life, rather than the relentless torment at school, but once more the finger points at King.
All of that aside, the reason “Carrie” came to be remade this year was to go nuts in the third act. Therefore, I wasn’t too concerned with how we would get there, as long as the story would come to a satisfying climax. Sure, I can get on board with the story; swallow the awkward lines, and dodgy motives for the characters… I am more than willing to do the dance, provided there’s a reward at the end of it all. And here’s where everything falls apart.
I would have been so much happier, if the makers of “Carrie” had the balls to actually take some creative liberties with the source material. Not even that, because the book is not to blame here, but this film would have seriously benefitted from a good injection of gore and violence. Whenever the shit hits the fan and Carrie is ‘born in blood’, there’s so much potential for a satisfying and gruesome climax that would bring the story to a whole new level. We could have had some fun with telekinesis that hasn’t been shown before and “Carrie” played it as safe as it could. Give or take one or two scenes, it’s the same wet noodle of a climax, as shown by De Palma. Think about it: telekinesis could be a potential bag of gore just waiting to be opened. Skip the traditional moving objects around and throwing them at people – it’s all too emotionless! It’s 2013 and a “Carrie” film should definitely end in gory scenes of dismemberment, guts, blood and mindless violence. The story itself calls for appropriate ending and it should feel grand, scary, and revolting, so it pains me to say that the people behind the remake of “Carrie” failed to take a leap of faith.
However you’d want to retell it, the story of “Carrie” will always ride on its ending. None of the character development is really relevant, as long as we get to see the massacre at the prom. I know it might be hard for the ‘money people’ to swallow, but risking an R-rating is not exactly bad for the movie. In this day and age, being completely desensitized towards violence, we need to be properly shocked to get a kick out of a horror film. And if you go soft on a film like “Carrie”, the end result looks more like a mediocre teenage drama, and not like a ballsy all-out gore extravaganza. Maybe Fedé Alvarez should have had a go at directing it instead…
How often do we end up disappointed, because the content of what we purchased ended up vastly different from what we were expecting? Fortunately, this time it was only a rental, so no harm was done in the long run. I don’t think I would be able to live with myself knowing I have to share my house with a piece of crap like “Maniac” on my DVD shelf.
Directed by Frank Khalfoun and written by Alexandre Aja – the Hollywood’s go-to B-horror remake guy, “Maniac” apparently is supposed to be a re-imagining of a noir slasher from 1980 (side note: according to my calculations, it is a near perfect instance of hitting the sweet spot for a ripe remake – 32 years difference between the two). I initially thought about leaving it for my Saturday horror rant, but thanks to how disappointed I was with what “Maniac” had to offer, I thought I’d better left it out… because it’s not quite a horror film at all.
“Maniac” is a story, told exclusively from the point of view of the main character, about a guy with a problem. Frank (Elijah Wood) is a guy who stalks girls at nights, murders them and collects their scalps… not necessarily in that order. Once he has satiated temporarily his blood thirst, Frank goes back to his place – a mannequin restoration shop, where he puts the scalps on his life-sized dolls and pretends they are real people. Obviously, he is a seriously demented gentleman suffering from a whole variety of conditions, starting with maternal abandonment, all the way up to bipolar tendencies and psychotic episodes that prompt him to kill and mutilate women. And that just about wraps the story up…
I have not seen the original and now I don’t even think I still want to; maybe after some time has passed I’ll give it a shot, but as it stands I don’t want to have anything to do with it. Simply put, “Maniac” is just an excruciating experience that makes 90 minutes stretch to almost double the length. Maybe I could let it slide if I took it exclusively as an exercise in film-making style, because the idea of telling that kind of story through the psycho’s eyes seems to be interesting in theory. In fact, I believe it’s the reason why “Maniac” has been banned in a handful of countries, including New Zealand. Well, the reasoning behind censorship that harsh (I believe we should be able to watch any film we want, however we want it, so long as nobody is really hurt on screen) might sound ridiculous, because I don’t think the take-away message of this film is to go and scalp chicks on your way home, but there you go. The silver lining to it all is that at least some people will never get the chance to make the mistake of renting, or – God forbid – buying that pile of excrement.
I seriously failed to understand, how anybody would think “Maniac” is a horror. There’s literally nothing in that film that would make me think this was a horror story. There’s no sense of dread or threat at any time, the violence is scarce and trimmed with only little gore to show for, so there’s never enough time to actually be disgusted. Additionally, the suspense characteristic for slasher-movies is effectively neutered from the get-go, because of the POV premise of the film. We can’t get to know the victims, so we can’t really develop any emotional attachment to them, and we know where the killer is at all times. As a result, I just sat there watching a guy scalping random women and I couldn’t care less. Well, I couldn’t really care for the psycho for various reasons, mainly because I’m mentally incapable of cheering for a knife-wielding lunatic who collects human scalps and talks to inanimate objects thinking they can talk back to him.
As I always say, a genre film has to be reviewed in a proper context. Therefore, I don’t really think there’s much merit in profuse bashing of the obvious banality of the story, or the wooden acting of most of the victims (apart from Frank and the poor girls who met his knife, there aren’t many side line characters in the film), but I have to admit that Elijah Wood bravely held his own as a titular homicidal maniac. It wasn’t an Oscar-worthy performance of the Anthony Hopkins’ calibre, but he did make a substantial effort in making the first-person psycho experience as real as it gets. The trouble is that this particular artistic decision takes all the fun out of a horror film and makes it absolutely bland and tasteless and none of the nifty tricks this film sports can really save it.
Nonetheless, there are exactly two (maybe three, including the interesting take on a serial killer, but it both adds and subtracts a lot from the film, if that makes any sense) things about “Maniac” that I genuinely liked. Even though the film fails in setting up the vital emotional strings with the viewer, the ambiance, music and the general tone of the film is held quite nicely, so that “Maniac” feels very ominous and noir. But what I liked the most about it, was a very subtle reference to “The Silence of the Lambs”, where Frank was asked to dance with his soon-to-be next victim to “Goodbye horses” by Q Lazzarus.
Overall, I regret to say that “Maniac” didn’t live up to the premise and stepped over its own toes by having its most characteristic trait become its major liability. Who knew that shooting “Maniac” through the eyes of a loony would actually make it less scary and less disturbing? It looked like an interesting prospect, but like with many things in life, the end result came nowhere near the initial expectations…
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, never left your house in the last two weeks, or you have been disconnected from the World Wide Web, you should know about the highly anticipated “Pacific Rim” hitting the screens this past weekend. Well, Internet, I have to say I am a bit disappointed in you… again, because it looks to me that “Pacific Rim” is going to go down in history as that awesome film that nobody went to see; a bit like “Dredd 3D” last year, but on a bigger budget.
This morning (and it’s a bank holiday here where I live) when I looked at the Box Office news, I couldn’t really believe my own eyes. Well, I have already heard that the opening night was a tad underwhelming, but coming in third behind “Grown Ups 2” (!!!) and “Despicable Me 2”, which by the way has been put for two weeks already, just did not add up. How that could happen, I ask… Does the general public fear anything that’s not a sequel and/or a remake? Is that it?
I shouldn’t really be surprised given how this summer has been unfolding so far. From the current top ten highest grossing films of this summer, five are direct sequels, one is a reboot (and that’s “Man of Steel”), and there are two high-profile book adaptations (“World War Z” and “The Great Gatsby”; nothing against it, but I just had to put it out there). That leaves us with only two examples of “original thought” that has made a considerable profit. Note the ironic use of quotation marks, because the original films in question involve the horrid “Now you see me” and “The Heat” that I haven’t seen yet (and I doubt I will, at least in the cinema). This leads me to conclude that the rampaging sequelitis that’s been at large for the best part of the last decade or so, has finally done it: now your average Joe will never trust a given title (and let’s confine ourselves only to high-profile blockbusters) unless it’s something he has seen before one way or another. Unless it’s another comic book movie with well-established mythos, a sequel, prequel, or a reboot, there’s no chance Average Joe is going to buy the ticket. After all, the times are tough, money is scarce and it’s far better to spend your money on something that you know is going to be good, right?
Even if you compare “Pacific Rim” to, say, “Transformers” trio (I refuse to call it a trilogy) in terms of content versus box office revenue, I’d say that an Average Joe should be able to draw a parallel between the two and think it might be just like “Transformers”, but with giant monsters… And I have to say that Michael Bay on his best day wouldn’t be able to create a spectacle like “Pacific Rim”, full stop. And I don’t even want to venture into how shite “Transformers” really are; not in the widely acceptable film quality, but in the geek-type quality. I might put together a short rant later on about just that, but suffice to say now that “Pacific Rim” in my eyes is the closest to being the modern standard for any type of movie about giant anything.
But there’s a silver lining to it all, I think… I like to believe that because the average stream of teenagers failed to recognize how awesome “Pacific Rim” was, makes it even more special to us, nerds. You heard me, now I get to feel like a Brooklyn hipster and no outlander shall taint this mountain of epicness with their comparisons to any other sci-fi that might, or might not have had Robert Downey Jr. in it.
Apart from the nerdy bragging rights, I now feel safe about one thing: due to terrible box office revenue, “Pacific Rim” will most likely never get to breed a sequel. Can you imagine, how cool that is? It’s never going to be bastardized with the ‘bigger and louder’ clone of itself and I sincerely hope “Pacific Rim” will remain the stand-alone bad-ass fountain of awesome that stands proud in every nerd’s apartment. Who knows, maybe it will develop a genuine cult following… Maybe it will spin off a slew of fan fiction and then after a decade or two, someone in Hollywood will recognize the potential that might lie within “Pacific Rim”, and then someone will shoot a sequel or whatever. So, here’s to hoping for “Pacific Rim” to be left alone. After all, it didn’t make any money, so leave it be for me and my kind…
I think it has become a personal obsession of mine to follow and consecutively get worked up about the news of what film, that I might have treasured in the past, is going to be remade. And so, every now and again a handful of articles would emerge that would make me feel homicidal. Take today, for example. Everybody is getting excited about a brand spankin’ new poster for the remake of Park Chan-Wook’s “Oldboy” and I can only assume it is only the beginning, as the trailer is supposed to drop sometime this week as well. So, there’s one film (if not a masterpiece) that I believe should have been left alone.
Really, what could possibly be the reason for remaking such a beautifully crafted piece of cinema? I’ll have you know that it most certainly will not deliver the impact the original did. Why? Because at this point in time, I think most of us know what “Oldboy” is all about, and I can guarantee that any given trailer to the remake posted on Youtube will boast a wide spoiler section within the comments – because that’s what people do.
So if you are one of the 10 people in the world that hasn’t seen the original, you’d better go watch it before the Internet spoils it for you. After all, apart from everything that made “Oldboy” so uniquely and brutally revolting, it’s the plot twist that carries a lot of the bang. So, how in the world am I supposed to go and watch the remake now? Should I forget about what I know? Should I get hammered prior to the screening? Or is Spike Lee going to bastardize the original so badly that it simply won’t matter?
Why don’t we, for once, learn from the past and realize that reviving classics (that may or may not have had some sort of cult following) is neither financially viable, nor does it bring anything desirable to the table. If anything, it taints the picture painted by the original. Additionally, speaking strictly from the point of view of probability, what are the odds that any given remake will do well at the box office? Slim to none, at best. Of course, there are examples to the contrary, but that doesn’t really change the trend of remakes being disappointing in every which way.
Consider these three examples from the recent memory:
1. “Total Recall” – a walking proof of what I just said. A sloppy remake of a cult classic adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s prose. Clearly someone thought it would be a good idea to ‘refresh’ the old uber-brutal sci-fi actioner that I have watched on multiple occasions. What’s-his-face Len Wiseman surely is no Paul Verhoeven, Colin Farrell is no Arnie and no amount of glass and sanitized CGI is going to make up for the old-school make-up and props that made Mars looks so damn scary once.
2. “Red Dawn” – another pointless remake born and raised in 2012. Why doesn’t someone explain to me in terms I can understand, how this sad bummer of a film had made it through the planning stage? Again, Chris Hemsworth is no Patrick Swayze – end of story. On top of that, the reason the original “Red Dawn” was so good had to do mostly with the fact the Soviets in that time were an actual threat to the US, or the entire world for that matter. Translating the idea into modern times and making the North Koreans be the villains was hardly effective. Plus, they were supposed to be Chinese in the first place, but someone didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes, I presume. End result – annoying, to say the least.
3. “Conan The Barbarian” – this one was actually made in 2011, so it doesn’t fit perfectly into the ‘recent memory’ slot. However, it was so disturbingly bad that I stopped watching the DVD halfway through. And I know it might sound bad, but no amount of exposed breasts (however pretty they might be) is going to make me turn the blind eye at the fact that not only the literature classic has been gang-raped by this abomination of a film, but also the cult classic fantasy film I treasured so much as a young boy has now been fudged up beyond all repairs for me. And also, Jason Momoa is no Arnie… But then again, no-one is…
This is what happens, when classics are ‘revived’ into remakes… Something needs to be dead first, for it to be eligible for resurrection in the first place. Guess what happens when you defibrillate a conscious person? It flippin’ hurts and you can do actual damage to them. So, when it comes to film remakes, you can see clearly that the only thing you’d be doing as a viewer is constantly compare it to the original and more often than not, you’d be pissed at what you’re forced to sit through. Therefore, God help us all, because neither “Oldboy”, nor “The Crow” is going to go down well, and having the original comic book creator on board for “The Crow” remake is not going to help.
Right, so I thought I could use some venting. The years of indentured servitude one has to go through in order to become a scientist, all the while biting his tongue and pickling his emotions, have taught me that keeping things in can be at least referred to as unhealthy. So, as one might probably realize by now, I tend to rant. A lot. I like to think it’s therapeutic, but other than that I don’t really know.
Last week ended up being really interesting. I spent God knows how long waiting for the rest of the world to catch up with the greatest (so far) stink-bomb of the year – “Iron Man 3”, because I really wanted to see how it is received globally. It would seem that here in Europe we’re mostly good guys and instances of brutally spoiling this film for our fellow movie-goers across the pond were rather scarce; if you don’t count Youtube – that place is just full of butt-holes, but who am I to talk… I sincerely hoped “Iron Man 3” would bomb, but quite expectedly people loved it. The critics write sonnets about how fantastic it was and the box office revenue reflects the popular (sigh!) vote; and that scares me.
I mean, I can understand that people don’t want to step on anyone’s toes with this one, because the great Shane Black wrote the script for this piece of crap, but let’s face it: for the good of everyone around there should be no sanctity when it comes to art or entertainment. If Spielberg makes a s**t film – people should know, but it turns out that RDJ only needs flutter his eyelashes for everybody to fall hopelessly in love with Iron Man… Shame… And to think someone who brought us “Lethal Weapon” or “The Last Boy Scout” could contribute to this…
Fortunately, I’m not the only one who saw that (here’s a video rant from Peter Rallis), but still countless masses made Marvel and Disney think they’ve done it right, because the only thing that matters in here is money. They’ll make a lot of it with this one and I’ll bet you money right here and now that the PG-13 spirit of “Iron Man 3” will make its way to the next “Thor”, “Captain America” or the next “Avengers”. Who knows, maybe they all will feature little boys, Christmas themes and meaningless non-violent substitute for action. It’s not OK. If you want to see a good comic book movie – go and watch “The Crow” (I re-watched it last Sunday to wash the Iron Man off my brain). Actually, do it before they remake it in PG-13, because they are remaking it. Since R-rated movies are frowned upon, the teenagers moan and groan and people lose money, I’m afraid the remake might not be exactly dark.
Now, I could even try and come to terms with the superhero genre replacing the good old-fashioned action cinema, but if this is the way we’re headed – count me out. Now I’m literally dreading the release of “Thor 2”, “Star Trek Into Darkness” and “Man of Steel”, because what if they suck as badly as “Iron Man 3” did? And I need my action films to feel normal. I was raised with them and can’t imagine the world without them…
And in that spirit, and following the raging disappointment Iron Man had caused, I caught up with two films that had slipped through my fingers: “Jack Reacher” and “End of Watch”. Now, I really appreciate the effort, because lately it is rather difficult to see something relatively original leave Hollywood. Well, maybe not exactly, because “Jack Reacher” was based on a novel if I remember correctly, but then again adapting literature is nowhere near as bad as plastering numbers on films or re-heating old noodles are. I desperately tried to like it and as a result I ended up even more frustrated with it than I originally was. Somebody needs to tell Tom Cruise it is time to go. I appreciate “Rain Man, “Jerry Maguire” or “Vanilla Sky”, but enough is enough. Tom just can’t create a believable character for crime/action film any more. It’s all Ethan Hunt over and over again and the attempted noir atmosphere just doesn’t sit very well with him. Between this, the last “Mission Impossible” and “Oblivion”, I think I’ve had enough of Tom Cruise in action films.
“End of Watch” on the other hand… Now that was something else. It was brutal, violent, gripping, maybe a bit heavy-handed with all the flag-waving and police self-apotheosis, but at least it stayed true to the values of action/crime cinema. Maybe the found-footage thing was a bit sketchy, but hey… Everybody vlogs now, so why not the Mexican gangs… So, just because I can swallow a fair bit of pathos before I get sick, I wasn’t bothered by the ‘serve-and-protect’ nonsense. The dialogues were nice, Jake Gyllenhaal was awesome, and most of all when bullets flew, people got hurt. So that’s a plus, because I hate when movies show battles or gunfights and everyone’s OK (which is exactly what I saw in “Iron Man 3”, and no – I do not intend to stop bashing it, it deserves it). Plus, the entirety of the film takes place in a car or in its direct surroundings, so clearly no-one needs to blow up oil rigs or destroy CG-made cities to keep the adrenaline up.
In fact, even “Crimson Tide” (that I happened to re-watch this week as well) proves that you can put your characters in a can and use no effects whatsoever in a film, for it to be gripping. Flag-wavy, but still gripping… But then, Denzel Washington sort of drives the movie on its own, which is yet another piece of evidence that we need character-driven action films and not this plastic colorful flashy bulls**t.
Speaking of plastic colorful flashy crap, Lovefilm sent me “Skyline” this week and I don’t really want to talk about it. I had it on my rental list for ages, because why the hell not and now I got it. What a pile of crap that was… It should be shown to people in film schools as a reminder that special effects are not enough and special effects guys rarely make good directors. Notable exceptions of the like of James Cameron can only prove the theory as a whole, because no theory is complete without exceptions. I shouldn’t even speak about “Skyline” any longer, because it might be mistaken for a review, but I’ll say only this: even though it tried to look like good modern sci-fi with all the bling what-not, but the appalling story and wooden acting can make any good film look mediocre… And a mediocre film look terrible… And a terrible film unwatchable… Therefore, just to make sure I still like Sci-fi I quickly re-watched “Sunshine” and “War of the Worlds” (with the latter additionally easing my Tom Cruise pain, but Spielberg can actually direct actors so that they look convincing, so I don’t know) and everyone was happy again.
Still, when was the last time I watched some genuinely good Sci-fi? As much as I’d like to say “Prometheus”, I couldn’t live with myself for doing that. All the nonsense that went on in that movie has most probably stretched the whole thing into a trilogy, which Ridley Scott will never finish (because he won’t have a clue, how to make it look kosher again) and hence “Prometheus” should be promptly disqualified. But anyway… Good Sci-fi… Maybe “Battle LA” could qualify even with the tonne of pathos it carried, but I think the last time I was literally blown away by a Sci-Fi film was the time I saw “District 9” – four years ago!
But there is a silver lining to that, because Neill Blomkamp’s “Elysium” hits theaters this summer, so at least I’ll have something to look forward to. And I can try to feel better about seeing “Star Trek” next weekend – hopefully it won’t suck.
Meanwhile, the Sunday rant slowly crept onto Monday territory and I think I can stop now. Maybe next week I’ll do something similar and I’ll see where it gets me.
Finally, the demons are out… This mind is clear… for a minute. I can’t believe I actually got round to writing this after a couple of rants I had to go on in order to keep my brain working properly. It was a busy week film-wise and in order to make the most of it I ended up spending my entire Tuesday evening in the cinema watching movies back to back.
Ok, that would be enough waffle, thank you very much. I’m not very big on remakes and if you had the pleasure to read what I think about Hollywood at the minute, you’d know that going to see the remake of “Evil Dead” didn’t come all that easy. Especially when it comes to remaking the horror genre in particular, the effects are most often piss poor, but that’s not why I’m here now, is it?
What I think helped ease me into how Fede Alvarez envisioned bringing Sam Raimi’s debut feature back from the dead, was a simple fact that up until last week I hadn’t seen the original. I quickly corrected that little detail and thus went to the cinema prepared rather well (well, I failed to re-watch the sequels, but I’ll get on with them soon enough, just to keep the atmosphere alive for a little while longer).
Well, I should really emphasize that the final moments leading up the projection made my heart go a bit faster, as I clearly had fallen prey to “Evil Dead’s” viral campaign of ‘how this film is supposed to mess you up for life’. So, there I was sitting in silence surrounded a bunch of strangers. Some a-hole screamed, as if to reassure everyone that he wasn’t anxious. The lights went dim… I blinked… for one last time… And it was all over. All of a sudden, 90 minutes of my life just raced in front of my eyes and I woke up after the post-credit teaser (Yes, there is one. Stay there and look at it).
What I felt while leaving my seat can’t be easily put into words. The closest analogue of that would be the feeling you have having just left a rollercoaster ride, and not just a rollercoaster ride; it’s the rollercoaster ride you’d remember till the end of your days. The amount of adrenaline streaming down my veins could easily wake up a couple of corpses. “Evil Dead” made me feel happy to be alive, so to speak, as if I just had dodged death by an inch or something to that effect.
Emotions aside, “Evil dead” in the eyes of Fede Alvarez took Raimi’s debut made on a nonexistent budget and elevated it to the modern standards – in a good way. If anything, this is how remakes should be done, in my opinion. 30 years ago, the original “Evil Dead” scared the living poop out of countless thousands of people. Now, you can look at it only in two ways: either with reverential respect to a timeless classic, or with a weird grin on your face pondering, how something like that could have scared anyone in the first place. This is what time does to films like that – horrors especially. Films that draw on emotional responses (threat, fear, disgust) wear off after a while, and decades after, they’re simply dead. It takes a passionate individual who understands the matter he is sculpting to carve it out into a film that would revive said emotions and hopefully amplify them in a way, so that the remake can stand on its own two feet.
This time it worked in a phenomenal way.
2013’s “Evil Dead” starts off with the very same concept as the original. A group of friends travels to a secluded cabin in the middle of nowhere. Contrary to the original, however, instead of trying to kick back in the wilderness, these individuals are on a mission. They are trying to help one of them – Mia (Jane Levy) – tackle her drug problem. Some people say that the film spends far too much time establishing the characters, but I don’t really have a problem with that. Fair enough, maybe we could theorize that the film doesn’t need David (Shiloh Fernandez) to spell it out for everyone, how messed up his relationship with Mia really was. But then again, a horror needs to do that; otherwise the butchering that comes next would be irrelevant. If I don’t care about the characters, then it doesn’t matter how many appendages they will have chopped off. I believe Alvarez was fully aware of that, so he spent nearly half the film making me care. Good.
Where was I? Right, a handful of friends arrive at the cabin, where they discover a variety of tools (their existence is well explained, no plot holes there), which makes the whole cabin look like a gigantic Chekhov’s gun, as you know these tools will be used sooner than you think to torture our characters. They also stumble upon some nasty witchcraft-related things in the basement, among which they find a book. A book written in blood, with some really nasty imagery, with a cover made of skin (human skin), wrapped in plastic and barbed wire – clearly someone went to ridiculous lengths to make sure no-one would read it. And of course, among our protagonists there’s Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) – a self-proclaimed scientist who sees challenges where everyone else would see a warning. Therefore he un-wraps the book and takes his time to decipher some incantations found within. When he reads them aloud (as I would too, fellow scientists would understand) – the horror begins… A demon wakes up in the woods and he will not stop until he has feasted on their souls… starting off with Mia. Initially nobody wants to believe her, when she spouts nonsense about things she saw in the forest or the dark presence she felt in the cabin, dismissing them as detox-related hallucinations. Shortly thereafter, people start dying and the blood starts spilling. And it doesn’t stop until the very last second of the film.
Hands down, “Evil Dead” is by far the bloodiest, most violent film I have seen. However, contrary to what I had expected, my stomach handled everything splendidly. Maybe the fact I knew I was watching a work of fiction had something to do with it, but I had worse reactions to “127 hours” and “The Impossible” in recent memory. Anyway, when the gore machine started rolling, it didn’t leave any room for breathing. In all actuality, the pacing of the film felt a bit like a rollercoaster ride, wherein you spent 90 seconds going up very slowly in waiting only to spend another 90 seconds screaming like a little girl. It was exactly like that. I would never think a horror movie could be that exhilarating. And by the end it was just bananas. Blood everywhere, severed limbs, nails, chainsaws, box-cutters – the whole shebang.
In summary, I had a blast. The special effects were very (!!!) convincing, the blood and gore were properly disgusting and the sense of threat was unrelenting. Each minute of the film – once the slaughter had started – kept cranking up the gain on the horror. As a result the big finale was simply unforgettable. Due homage was paid to Sam Raimi (a couple of his signature close-up wide-angle shots and a handful of props pointing to the original), but as a whole Alvarez managed to keep a good amount of individuality. His take on “Evil dead” is seriously scary and violent, but it manages to be funny at times of the greatest carnage. In fact, the whole idea of Pucci’s scientist character borders on hilarious, especially when you consider how big of a beating this guy takes in the film.
If there are remakes that stand above the shameful crowd of knock-offs, “Evil Dead” is surely one of them. It’s a nearly perfect horror movie that doesn’t have the desire to join the club of any mainstream sub-genres. If anything, I would expect others to jump on the “Evil Dead” band wagon soon enough and start the wave of ‘torture porn meets The Exorcist’.