Evil Dead Remake (Blu Ray Review)

Evil Dead Remake (Blu Ray Review)

Murder Party (2007): Bargain Basement Fun

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I’ve been passing over this film choice on Netflix for months. I don’t know why, but something about the film’s poster put me off. To be brutally honest, the poster that starts this blog post actually looks better than the one on Netflix and it’s the same one!

Last night I finally bit the bullet and decided to give it a go. I girded my loins (whatever that means) and forced myself to watch it. I expected to wince constantly and turn the dammed thing off at the mid-way point.

Well…

I didn’t do that. Why? Because if there was ever another film in the world that could be the ethereal twin of Sam Raimi and co’s first film Evil Dead, it is Murder Party.

It is like the comedy/horror version of Judy and the kids saying, “Come on gang lets put on a show in the barn!” But in the film makers case it was in the warehouse of a cheap set.

Because despite the low-budget of Evil Dead (remember now, I’m talking about Raimi’s film, not the re-make), E D at least had a budget. Murder Party started rolling with a budget of 0 dollars and cents.These guys made a film so cheap, it made Raimi’s first film out of the gate look extravagant by comparison.

I am digressing, but, dammit; I have to. I looked this achingly funny film up on Wikipedia after I’d wiped the tears of mirth from my eyes while the end credits rolled.

“Who are these guys?” Looped through my head like a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid mantra. I had to know!

It turns out that the guys who made, starred in, and financed this “zero budget film” were all childhood friends who grew up and went to various film and media schools. They kept in touch and made a short film or two. It was while they were waiting for another film that they really wanted to make, but was caught-up in turn-around limbo, that they decided to make Murder Party.

Chris Sharp as Christopher Hawley aka Mister Average.
Chris Sharp as Christopher Hawley aka Mister Average.

The film is about an average guy who is a bit of a lonely loser. A sad sack (and points for those of you who remember this comic book character – answers, as always, on a post card please) who has no friends and his cat bullies him.

It is Halloween and on his way home from work, he finds an invitation to a “Murder Party” floating around on the sidewalk (path). He decides to go and in a burst of creativity makes his own costume with cardboard and duct tape. *It actually looks pretty good in a childish sad sort of way.*

He finds the party’s location and goes in. He finds to his consternation that it is a real murder party and he’s the victim.

All the members of this “party” are a consortium of artists who are trying to get funded by a rich pretentious pain in the ass rich boy. Each of the artists are flakey as hell and quite funny. Each of them are dressed up as iconic horror and science fiction characters. As “flakey” as each of these “artists” are, the rich boy prat Andrew is worse.

This film is great, gory fun and has a load of horror film references scattered throughout. I sat through this film giggling, laughing, and chuckling. *At one point, I believe I even snorted, but don’t hold me to that.*

It just goes to show that entertaining movies can be made for very, very little money and still look fantastic.

Murder Party was written, directed and produced by Jeremy Saulnier. It stars Chris Sharp as “everyman” Christopher S Hawley, meter cop non-extraordinaire and he does a brilliant job as the feckless hero/victim of the film. Every one of the actors does a splendid  job with their characters and at no point did I feel like any of them (apart from the foreign drug dealing chap who was a bit two-dimensional) were anything other than what they portrayed.

This is a real horrific comedy of errors that will have you cackling with laughter though out. If you haven’t seen it yet, hop on Netflix right now and watch it.

If you don’t love this film, I’ll eat my  metaphorical cardboard hat/helmet.

5 out of 5 stars for hilarious effort.

Murder Party Cast and Crew.
Murder Party Cast and Crew.

The Taking (2013): Overpowering Imagery

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Written and Directed by the team of Cezil Reed and Lydelle Jackson aka BAPartists, The Taking is a dark frantic journey into the depths of evil and fear. This is the team’s first foray into the feature film world and it is a great start. Shot in 2012 it will have it’s world premiere officially announced at next weeks A Night of Horror Intl Film Festival in Sydney, Australia.

Main Cast:

Alana Jackler …Jade

Frank Bliss…Marilyn’s Killer

John Halas…Carl Young

Lynnette Gaza…The Grandmother

Olivia Szego…Marilyn

The Plot:

A man and a woman motivated by revenge want to murder the people who have hurt them. In their separate searches for deadly revenge they wind up in a forest inhabited by a strange family who want to sacrifice them to their God.

The Message:

In a somewhat “biblical” tone, the very act of thinking about murdering someone instantly puts you (and your soul) in jeopardy.

The Twist:

Looking into the light is not a good thing.

The Verdict:

This film looks stunning. Shot on the digital Canon EOS 5D MarkII, the film has the look and feel of a big budget feature. The imagery is spectacular and the combination of sound and light keep you off-balance.

The style of the film felt like a cross between Shin’ya Tsukamoto films (Bullet Ballet, Haze, Tetsuo) and Sam Raimi‘s Evil Dead. While the film does’t have the roughness of Raimi’s first feature it does have the frenetic pacing and almost overblown torture of the lead male character.

Carl (John Halas) in a spot of bother.
Carl (John Halas) Photo courtesy of the film’s website.

Actor John Halas made me think of a young Bruce Campbell minus the schlock. He really threw himself into the role of Carl and he made me believe that he really was going through all those difficulties. Alma Jackler as Jade also turned in a sturdy performance as the grief-stricken mother of  murdered daughter Marilyn.

The special effects looked great. I have never seen more convincing looking blood in a feature film. Very realistic and the wound prosthetics and make-up looked brilliant as well.

As first features go, Reed and Jackson have pulled out all the stops to bring us a feature that will immerse you in a visual cacophony that can leave you reeling. This incredible imagery combined with the overpowering sound of “the God” and it’s minion will leave you feeling like you’ve been through the world’s worst LSD trip. Very powerful stuff.

Jade (Alana Jackler) Photo courtesy of the films website.
Jade (Alana Jackler) Photo courtesy of the film’s website.

It’s a very watchable film, although a bit hard to follow at times due to sensory overload, but I could not stop watching it until the end credits rolled.

I’d give this film a full 4 stars out of 5 just for the brilliant originality of the plot and the stunning imagery and sound. I am looking forward to this daring duo’s next feature.

The Official Website:

For more information on the film check out the website at thetakingmovie.com

Cezil Reed
Cezil Reed
Lydelle Jackson
Lydelle Jackson

The Horror Genre: Ya Gotta Love It…

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I’ve been a fan of the horror genre ever since I got permission to stay up and watch The Birds on television at the ripe old age of ten. After getting scared so badly that after the film had finished I locked myself into the bathroom and refused to come out, I knew that anything that could affect me that much had to be a winner.

My father was completely puzzled at my bizarre behaviour, obviously forgetting all the nightmares I’d had when I was younger that had him and my mother galloping into my bedroom after my screams had disturbed their slumber. He and my mother were good parents who always explained that things in movies were not real but my Boeing 767 imagination knew otherwise and all the scary things I’d watched would visit me on a nightly basis.

I started sneaking down around midnight on the weekends to watch the local TV stations Hammer Horror Fest that they aired each weekend. *Local station? Huh! The closest station was one state away in Oklahoma. The home of  The Uncanny Film Festival and Camp Meeting with Gailard Sartain as Mazeppa Pomazoidi who did skits between commercial breaks and featured, among other guests, a young Gary Busey. Although I did not discover Mazeepa’s “madhouse” till much later, his show made me laugh and cringe at the same time.*

**If you’ve never heard of The Uncanny Film Festival and Camp Meeting click on the link preceding and read John Wooley‘s visit down memory lane as he talks about the show.**

Films were not the only medium that I adored in the horror mode. I found great collections of short stories and anthologies of stories that scared the living crap out of me. One such story was H. Russell Wakefield‘s 1928 short story The Red Lodge. It’s the story of a city fellow and his wife who move to the country and rent this riverside home and it scared me silly. This book gave me an aversion to looking out windows by means of opening the shut curtains. Combined with my Twilight Zone experience with Bill Shatner and the occupants of Red Lodge, it’s a wonder that I can look out windows at all.

Gailard Sartain as Mazeppa. Ah childhood memories...
Gailard Sartain as Mazeppa. Ah childhood memories…

I have fond memories (and sometimes still have nightmares) about those Saturday night “creature features” and the books that helped me develop an insatiable taste for all things abnormal, scary and freakish; in other words horror.

I also remember rolling about the floor in hysterical laughter at a mates house while watching a Roger Corman-ish type film where these radioactive giant frog/men things that came out of a contaminated lake and killed local bikini clad beauties. *At one point in the film, one of these frog things shoves his hand through a plate-glass window trying to grab a mannikin, it’s arm gets cut off and what are supposed to be maggots fall out of his stump. The fact that is was obviously rice, made the scene funnier. Come to think of it, this might have been a Corman flick, I just cannot remember the title of it to verify if it is or not.*

I guess I am a lot more forgiving about horror films that other people feel derisory about. I’ve had a life long love affair with these creative geniuses and “not-so-creative” geniuses who make the films that make you want to scream; either in fear or frustration. Because, damn it, they’ve tried.

I know that horror films are the burgeoning directors first port of call when he or she is just starting out. I also know that a lot of “unknown” actors will be in the thing and that a lot of ex-stars might make the odd cameo, but…

I can still remember laughing and screaming in equal measure at Evil Dead at the drive-in. Evil Dead 2 was even better! The eye scene had us laughing, screaming and gagging all at the same time. I’ve seen other films that can equal that reaction, but not too many.

Still, I am most forgiving when it comes to films “copying” other more successful films, which in all likelihood are homages. Too many folks will poop all over a new horror film because it “borrows” from other films. But honestly? When was the last time you saw something so blazingly original that you couldn’t find a comparable film anywhere?

Ah-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h...
Ah-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h…

For me, it was The Grudge. That was the first film that I had seen in years that was: a) Great, b)original, and c) scared the crap out of me. Of course, I am talking about the American re-make with Sarah Michelle Gellar directed by Takeshi Shimzu. I only found out later that this was his fourth version of a film that he’d made over and over. So in essence the film was not “original” at all. It borrowed from the earlier versions of the film and Shimzu just kept “tweaking” the scenes until they were scary as hell.

I’ve written a few reviews recently that some people have not necessarily agreed with and that is great. Variety is the spice of life and we all have opinions (a childhood friend once told me, “Opinions are like arseholes, everybody has one.” Another friend quickly added on, “And some are bigger than others.)

Back to the reviews, I never go into a horror film (or any film for that matter) with a “preconceived” idea of what I am going to watch. I concentrate on suspending my disbelief and try to get carried away with the film’s story. Often, unless it is so glaringly obvious that a 5-year-old could spot it, I don’t even notice a lot of “copying” from other films. I just sit down popcorn on hand and coke to the side and watch.

Sometimes I am so disappointed that I will pan a film I have just seen, but not often. It has to be really  bad for me to do that and some are that bad, no argument, but I will not judge a film too harshly if the overall story is good, the acting passable and the plot twist (if any) is memorable. Ghostquake is one such dreadful film and I hated it.

Other times, I will find a film that is so blazingly original that it blows my mind. After I watch it repeatedly, I’ll then write about it and ponder why the creativity gods are so fickle and only allow this kind of brilliance to shine once in a great while. The best recent example I can think of was the plot twist in Orphan (thanks GaryLee828 for reminding me of the great film) and of course The Orphanage.

So there you have it, the reason that I am so much more accepting of films that other folks obviously do not like because they “copy” other films. In a nutshell, I love the damned genre so much, that I love even the bad films and I will go out of my way to watch them all. Books, on the other hand, are different. I am not so forgiving there. If they are so badly written that even my overactive imagination cannot connect then they are dismissed immediately and panned.

So as I prepare to trawl through Netflix to find a horror film that I’ve not yet seen, preferably low-budget and gory, I’ll leave you with this thought. Even Sam Raimi copied himself on the first Evil Dead film; it just happens, learn to live with it.

*Oh and if that Corman-ish film sounds familiar, can you give me a title? It would be much appreciated.*

Orphan: 2009 evil child fright fest.
Orphan: 2009 evil child fright fest.

If Chins Could Kill! By Bruce Campbell

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First published in 2001 and later in 2009 in the United Kingdom, If Chin’s Could Kill is Bruce’s story of his early life and his involvement with wunderkind Sam Raimi and co.

Written an awful lot like his acting style (not sure if that is actually a good thing or not) the book is entertaining and features a lot of memories from Bruce about: Growing up in Michigan, going to school in Michigan, discovering girls in Michigan, et al.

Yet amazingly the book is not about Michigan. Who’d have thunk it? The book is very entertaining as he relates his relationship with the Raimi family, which includes mom and pop Raimi plus Ted and Owen as well as Sam.

He also talks about filming all those Super 8 films in high school and their timorous expedition into “real” film making; or filming in 16mm and getting it blown up to the requisite 35mm.

Mr Campbell takes us on a ride on the ‘B’ side of the street and explains as humorously as possible about what it takes to be a ‘B’ movie actor and find your self a star as a result. This is a man who has made more independent movies than Carter’s got little pills and he’s only just able to make a living at it.

*At least, that’s his story and I don’t know, call me a sucker; but damn it, I believe him.*

 

The book has been “shot-gunned” with pictures throughout (not stuck in the middle like all those “other” phoney-baloney “star” books) and there are a lot of the young folks who started out on the entertainment road with Bruce.

Who knew?
Who knew?

I enjoyed reading the book that took me literally years to finally purchase. It was only after watching the pilot episode of Burn Notice that I remembered that he had “written” a couple of books on his career.

Since I’ve been a fan ever since watching Evil Dead in an Arkansas drive-in on dollar night, I could not wait to read it. I couldn’t find it anywhere to buy and my local library kept refusing my suggestion that they buy the book just so I could read it.

*A quick note to the author Bruce Campbell.*

Sorry Bruce, but the whole world’s a critic and my arguing that this was an obviously important story that needed to be read by all Bruce Campbell fans everywhere, seemed to fall on deaf ears. To my chagrin they still do not stock your first or even second book, Make Love! The Bruce Campbell Way. So I had to stumble upon it completely by accident in my local Waterstones bookstore. I am still hoping to stumble upon your second book the same way.

Right, groveling done, I can go onto the rest of my review, Bruce takes us through his marriages and the birth of his children. He also takes us behind the scenes with Kevin Sorbo (aka Hercules) and what it was like working in New Zealand on the show (and on Xena Warrior Princess).

If you are a Bruce Campbell fan, you’ll love this book. I’ll give it a 5 out of 5 stars because if I concentrate I can hear Bruce reading the book in my head. That’s pretty damned entertaining, I can tell you.

Even Ash thinks it's funny...
Even Ash thinks it’s funny…