Evil Dead

Disclaimer: my cousin Lou Taylor plays Eric in this film. Some of my enjoyment was derived from watching him suffer demonic abuse from a Home Depot aisle of deadly implements, but I genuinely loved this “redo” of the classic and think it is one of the best modern horror films to be released of late, and certainly the best remake since Dawn of the Dead.

my cousin being a wuss
my cousin being a wuss

If you don’t know the original The Evil Dead, it is an extremely low budget brutal horror film made by fans of the Three Stooges. There is a bit of extremely dark humor. The original is pretty bare bones. Guy shows up at deserted cabin with his girlfriend. Demons of the forest possess their friend in the most repugnant way imaginable, and Ash, played by Bruce Campbell, cuts up the baddies and his demonic love with a chainsaw.

The “sequel/remake”Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn is superior in every way, and EVIL DEAD (2013) takes from both and makes the bloodiest, goriest horror film I’ve seen in a long time. Is it scary? It’s gut wrenching. There is plenty of tension. I do not jump or get scared at horror films anymore. But during EVIL DEAD, I gasped and cheered and laughed and groaned.

Jane Levy from Suburgatory in purgatory

The basics are all there. The Necronomicon (never so named) bound in human skin, full of medieval woodcuts and guttural prayers for the summoning of demons. A small group of hapless young innocents about to succumb to ancient evil. And a cabin built to resemble the iconic one from The Evil Dead (down to a rusty Oldsmobile, “the Classic,” that appears in most of Raimi’s films).

Eric, played by Lou, is the dumb-ass who reads the evil book. I recently toured Bourbon Street with my cousin and know his tics and behavior. His Eric is so damn good I didn’t recognize my own blood up there. The rest of the cast is equally impressive, and the director Fede Alvarez approaches the material with just enough respect. There is no obvious gushing wankery. No one does anything completely and unutterably stupid to advance the plot, other than read from a strange book. And let’s face it, I’d read the book. I’m that kind of dummy. I read books full of naked witches that I found in houses my father was demolishing. I could have summoned a Candarian demon.

The gore is unrelenting. There are just enough laughs- one poor bastard loses a lot of limbs, and a nailgun is used to great effect. But you never know who will survive and who will get a chainsaw up the ying-yang. And that is the movie’s power. Unlike the goofiness of FEAST, which shot its “anyone can die!!” wad in the first five minutes, EVIL DEAD plays with our expectations but always by its own rules. If you like horror, forget the first film. Accept that Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell gave their ideas to a fresh new director, who eschewed CGI and jump-cut scares to make the same kind of movie they did thirty-plus years ago.

And pray that they make a sequel that merges Ash from the end of Army of Darkness as a bitter old one-armed crank with the survivor of this film to battle Candarian hellbeasts in Evil Dead 2: Hell on Earth. or something. I’ll write the script, Fede. Just tell Lou to call me.

With that smile I might be possessed by a Candarian demon...
With that smile I might be possessed by a Candarian demon…

 

 

wackiness runs in the family…

Goofing with Lou

My cousin Lou Taylor Pucci is in the new Evil Dead movie produced by Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi. He gets to read the Necronomicon and unleash the ageless evil that will SWALLOW YOUR SOUL.

As you can see, goofiness runs in the family. Lou Taylor’s Dad- my cousin Lou- has an insane sense of humor, and always makes me laugh. He’s a musician and a magician, and his jokes demented my young brain as a child. I did my best to assist in dementing his kids, too. In my family, you either laugh or go crazy. Some of us did both.

Lou-Taylor-Pucci-in-Evil-Dead-2013-Movie-Image
Lou being a li’l bitch in the face of the undead

EVIL DEAD opens tonight. I’m gonna go see it this weekend, probably the first matinee on Sunday.  I’ll be seeing Lou Taylor & family Saturday for the premiere of The Story of Luke, where he plays a young man with Asperger’s syndrome, dealing with challenges we take for granted- a job and a relationship. Seth Green co-stars in that one, and parents of autistic children are championing his realistic portrayal.

Lou Taylor is a very funny, talented fellow with a big heart. I hope you’ll all go watch him be torn to pieces by demons this weekend! I sure will. And the lucky skunk got to hang out with Bruce Campbell!

About the same face I would make
About the same face I would make

Modern horror sucks?

Good new horror isn’t any more rare; let’s face it, there’s always been a lot of crap in the genre. The crap is just much more visible, because it makes money. But I watched two goodies from this year recently. Sadly, only one was released in theaters- Sam Raimi’s take on the gypsy curse, Drag Me to Hell– while the excellent horror anthology Trick ‘r Treat languished for a year until it finally went straight to DVD in time for this Halloween.
Now, I love Sam Raimi’s work. Ever since we rented a scrungy copy of The Evil Dead, after seeing the claymation commercial and hearing tell of the infamous tree rape, his morbid sense of humor and Three Stooges comic timing have always tickled my funny bone. My favorite is still Evil Dead 2, mostly because it’s still scary, unlike Army of Darkness, which has its own charms. Drag Me to Hell is a lot like ED2. The story? Christine Brown is a loan officer at a bank, hoping for a big promotion; the boss tells her she needs to make tough decisions. So when an old woman wants a third extension on her mortgage, she tells her no. Even when she begs, and throws herself at her feet. Bad move. Poor Christine- a farm girl who’s moved to the big city, and wants to cast away her roots- gets ambushed by the old woman in the parking lot, assaulted by her grimy dentures and finally, made the recipient of what turns out to be the nastiest of gypsy curses. That of the lamia, the black goat of the underworld. She doesn’t know at first, but when she goes to an Indian psychic, he sees the mark on her soul, Her boyfriend- Mac Guy Justin Long- is ready to pop the big question, but his rich parents look down their snooty noses at the “farm girl,” and now her sudden superstitiousness makes everything go awry.
The evil spirit, the psychic tells her, will torment her for three days, then drag her soul to hell. It may be appeased by sacrifice, however… The demon’s torments are imaginative, spooky and sometimes downright gross in the Raimi tradition. The story unfolds like a “Tales from the Crypt” episode, and we know Christine is going to pay for her lack of empathy. And who doesn’t want to see a banker who’s foreclosing on an old lady wake up next to a maggot-ridden corpse? Can she redeem herself? I loved this movie. It’s not the scariest, or the funniest, but it’s Raimi returning to what he loves, and it’s great fun. Alison Lohman, of the underrated Matchstick Men, plays Christine and does a fine job. It’s a big difference from her other roles, and she builds a believable, yet archetypal character that suits the story perfectly.
Raimi keeps us guessing to the end if Christine can fend off the lamia, shift its vengeance elsewhere, or appease the gypsy curse, and I loved every minute of it. A few minutes in the second act were tough to love, but who doesn’t like falling anvils? The CG effects weren’t the best, but they weren’t laughable either. This one’s a great rental for a spooky night of fun.

Trick ‘r Treat is probably the best Creepshow-alike we’ll see for a long time. I heard they were gonna remake that, and cringed. This is the way to go; interwoven stories set in a creepy suburban town on Halloween night, made by a storyteller not afraid to send slavering ghouls after children, show us who really wears all those sexy costumes, and have little monsters, both human and non- take bites out of our ankles.
At only 82 minutes, the anthology is trim and lean, yet manages to interweave its tales in a Pulp Fiction fashion without feeling derivative or letting its slip show. We begin with a couple cleaning up their decorations a little early, while a little Jack O’Lantern-headed urchin watches, with mischief in mind. Later, we get to see what a serial killer does on Halloween. And some girls try on costumes, like the favorite Sexy Red Riding Hood, and so on. And get hassled by a creepy vampire fan. Drunken swinger parents answer the door for trick or treaters, kids play pranks on each other, including visiting the local quarry where a bus full of deranged kids plunged into the water 30 years ago… and their spirits are not at rest. All the while, the local monsters are having a party of their own…
There are a lot of surprises in store, and the stories are all linked, so I’m being very tight-lipped about what happens. Just trust me, if you want a good horror anthology, this one’s worth a rental. So why was it relegated to direct to DVD hell? The writer-director worked on Bryan Singer’s abysmal flop Superman Returns, and this was made by Singer’s production company. A damn shame; it’s quite good, and lots of fun. I may have liked it even more than Drag Me to Hell! Anna Paquin and Brian Cox, plus the pedo from Happiness whose name I always forget, play very memorable roles.