Evil Dead II

Evil Dead II is currently available on Amazon Prime.

Evil Dead 2 (1987) – Rated R

“Ash (Bruce Campbell), the sole survivor of THE EVIL DEAD, returns to the same cabin in the woods and again unleashes the forces of the dead. With his girlfriend possessed by the demons and his body parts running amok, Ash is forced to single- handedly battle the legions of the damned as the most lethal – and groovy – hero in horror movie history!”

“The first passage will allow the demon to manifest itself in the flesh.” – “Why the hell would we want to do that?”

If you cannot beat your weakness then find a way to turn it into a strength. That is exactly what Sam Raimi did with Evil Dead II. He did not have access to Evil Dead for flashbacks so he rewrote Evil Dead, compressed the events, and retold it in the first twenty minutes of Evil Dead II.

He wanted to film what would later become Army of Darkness but Dino De Laurentiis would only give him $3.5 million in funding so he essentially filmed the bridge between Evil Dead and Army of Darkness.

Raimi has a fun time with all the delirious camera shots. He loves pans and zooms but is especially enamored of long, fast dolly shots. He essentially pins Ash to the camera in an early scene that goes charging into the woods.

Of course the Evil Dead series would not have been nearly as good without the cheese-tastic performance of Bruce Campbell as Ash. While not as famous as the villains, Ash is one of the most iconic heroes in horror movies. They have even put his character in comics with Freddy and Jason.

The rest of the cast is adequate. Sarah Berry, who plays female lead Annie Knowby, would be an extra on one other film but then retire. Kassie Wesley DePaiva, Bobby Joe in the movie, is now a country western singer. Dan Hicks debuts here as Jake. The ever-amusing Ted Raimi pops up (literally) as Possessed Henrietta.

The violence and gore in Evil Dead II are incredibly over-the-top. People are thrown about like rag dolls, abducted by trees, possessed, stabbed, shot, chainsawed, dismembered and decapitated. Raimi makes the demon blood in various colors to enable the film to get an ‘R’ rating. Apparently it is okay to bleed black or green but only occasionally in red.

People Watch: Director Sam Raimi has a cameo as a medieval knight (the first one to raise his sword).

Sequel-itis: Evil Dead II would be followed in 1992 by Army of Darkness.

Remake-itis: Evil Dead is coming out in 2013. Obviously Sam Raimi is too big to direct such things so they have tapped a brand new director, Fede Alvarez.

Candyman- Shocktober is here!

Candyman is currently available on instant Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Candyman (1992) – Rated R

“While researching urban myths, grad student Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) learns about the Candyman (Tony Todd), a hook-handed creature who’s said to haunt a Chicago housing project. In this creepy film based on a Clive Barker story, the Candyman is made flesh by other people’s belief in him. Not surprisingly, Lyle manages to summon him. Soon, the Candyman has committed a series of murders, and the cops are holding Lyle responsible.”

“They will say that I have shed innocent blood…what’s blood for if not for shedding.”

Candyman covers the topic of urban myths far better than the later Urban Legend series of movies ever did – it even throws in a shot of razor blade candy. Clive Barker’s short story, The Forbidden forms the basis for this movie adapted and directed by Bernard Rose. Rose takes Barker’s fanciful tale and grounds it in reality. The opening credits play out over scenes of urban highways and a haunting theme from Philip Glass.

The notorious Cabrini-Green housing project is actually filmed for the movie (exterior shots) as are gang members from the area. The graffiti and the projects are characters in and of themselves. Bernard Rose does well showing how the Lyles live versus life in the projects while still keeping the horror story as the focus.

Virginia Madsen, so good (and nominated for as Oscar) in Sideways, is very engaging as urban legend researcher Helen Lyle. Xander (24) Berkeley is solid as her long suffering husband Trevor Lyle. They both handle a good range of emotions from complacence to fear, anger, and jealousy. Vanessa Williams is also good as the angry but vulnerable Anne-Marie McCoy.

Tony Todd is marvelous as the eponymous Candyman even though it is very much a supporting role. He is very scary, has a nice presence and a wonderful deep voice but is also a wee bit sympathetic. By the way he really did have bees in his mouth – that is true dedication to one’s craft. Candyman’s backstory and motivation could have been better expressed – they are expounded upon more in the sequels.

Unfortunately some of Helen’s early decisions, such as venturing unprotected into Cabrini-Green dressed in upscale clothing, seem brain-dead even for someone with a sheltered life. Her climbing through a hole into a an abandoned and heavily graffitied room is a wonderful visual though.

Bernard Rose made so many good design decisions in Candyman. The narrative appropriately plays out over a fairly lengthy period of time. Other than a single brief reflection, we do not see the titular Candyman until forty minutes in. Wonderful shots by cinematographer Anthony B. Richmond really help lift this horror movie up to the level of art.

People Watch: Look for the ever-delightful Ted Raimi in a small role at the start of the film. Writer/director Bernard Rose has a cameo as Archie Walsh.

Sequel-itis: Candyman spawned two lesser sequels: The not bad Candyman 2: Farewell to the Flesh (1995) and the direct-to-DVD Candyman 3: Day of the Dead (1999). Both star Tony Todd as Daniel Robetaille/The Candyman. Tony Todd and Clive Barker are interested in doing a fourth film but I suspect a reboot is likely to happen.

My Name is Bruce – Bruce Campbell week

This is Bruce Campbell week. My Name is Bruce is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: My Name is Bruce (2006) – Rated R.

“Mistaken for the character he plays in the Evil Dead films, B-movie icon Bruce Campbell (playing himself) is kidnapped by the citizens of a small mining town who want him to save them from a vengeful demon. At first, Campbell thinks it is all part of an elaborate prank. But when he realizes the demon is in fact real, he comes face to face with a second terrifying enemy — his own fear. Ted Raimi co-stars in this tongue-in-cheek comedy.”

Bruce Campbell tackles the rough assignment of directing Bruce Campbell playing Bruce Campbell in this meta-comedy. I will say that no one plays Bruce Campbell better than Bruce Campbell.

Ted Raimi goes back into Evil Dead mode here and plays several characters. He is Mills Toddner, Wing, and the sign painter. He is delightful here in each of the roles.

Grace Thorsen is our female lead, Kelly Graham. She is a down-to-earth mom of the biggest Bruce Campbell fan on the planet (excepting of course Bruce himself). Taylor Sharpe is the aforementioned fan, Jeff and boy is his room loaded with memorabilia.

There is so much Campbell trivia packed into this movie.

Ellen Sandweiss plays Cheryl here and played Cheryl in the Evil Dead.

Dan Hicks plays dirt farmer here and was Jake in Evil Dead II.

Timothy Patrick Quill, who plays Frank, was the blacksmith in Army of Darkness (aka Evil Dead III).

Mark Verheiden, nerd extraordinaire, packs his script with plenty of Campbell references as well. Between name-dropping (Sam Raimi) and phrase borrowing (groovy, boomstick, gimme some sugar baby), there are plenty of in-jokes for die hard Campbell fans.

DVDs of Maniac Cop, Man with the Screaming Brain, Alien Apocalypse, Bubba Ho-Tep as well as some fake Bruce Campbell movies are featured. There of course is a chainsaw featured in a very humorous scene.

My Name is Bruce is in-joke after in-joke and operating on that level, it works fabulously. Unfortunately it delves a lot into some really bad toilet humor. There are unfunny jokes about urine, drinking from a dog bowl, etc. Even though Verheiden is the only one credited with the script, it seems as if two people wrote it.

The other thing wrong with this film is that it is essentially a horror remake of Galaxy Quest and Galaxy Quest was near perfect in script, cast and execution.

Still there are a lot of very funny moments in the film, many of which are not in-jokes. I give this a watch recommendation but if you are a Bruce Campbell fan, this is definitely a must-watch.

People Watch: Associate producer and graphic artist Craig Sanborn cameos as Bowling Shemp.

Man with the Screaming Brain – Bruce Campbell week

This is Bruce Campbell week. Man with the Screaming Brain is currently available on instant Netflix.

PASS: Man with the Screaming Brain (2005) – NR – Not rated.

“B-movie king Bruce Campbell stars in this bizarre tale of murder and mad scientists. Wealthy industrialist William Cole (Campbell) heads to Eastern Europe for a tax shelter. After a maid murders Cole and ex-KGB operative Yegor, a mad scientist merges part of Yegors brain into Coles. Complete opposites, Cole and Yegor fight for control of the body they now share. The odd couple cannot agree on anything except hunting down the murderous maid.”

You must forget to remember, before you remember to forget.”

I will say that I did like that right off the bat the film begins “Somewhere in Bulgaria…”. This is such a nice change from all the Syfy movies that are filmed in and around there yet claim to double for the Amazon, the Appalachians, etc.

Bruce Campbell not only stars, directs and co-produces but also wrote the story and script. His story is a real hodge-podge updating of The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant (1971) and The Thing with Two Heads (1972). The problem is that this had already been done by Carl Reiner in 1984 with All of Me (among others).

Since William Cole (Bruce Campbell)  is eventually going to become the Man with the Screaming Brain, Campbell plays the role quite straight. He is really wonderful as the Ugly American. Later he gets to show off his slapstick chops when he only controls half of his body.

Stacy Keach guest stars here as our Dr. Frankenstein, Dr. Ivan Ivanovich Ivanov. He has such wonderful lines of dialogue as “her heart is kaputski” and just gruffs it through, putting up with the antics of his assistant. He does seem to have a fun time with some of his scenes.

Ted Raimi has a much larger role here than normal as Pavel, the assistant to Dr. Ivanov. He uses it to be so goofy that I doubt that he is using the script. While I normally get a big kick out of any role I see Ted Raimi in, he could have used a bit of direction here. He has a few cute moments where he acts like Ygor but he could have used a bit of reigning in here.

Tamara Gorski and Antoinette Byron play our femme fatales here. Gorski is Tatoya, a murderous gypsy maid. Byron is Jackie Cole, the shrewish wife of our titular character.

This is a very silly movie to watch if you are in the right frame of mind. It is certainly better than most of the CGI drek on Syfy. Unfortunately that is not quite enough to recommend it. I found this amusing but I did not do much actual laughing.

So again another film to watch if you are a big fan of Bruce Campbell. Otherwise give it a pass.

I will note that the picture quality for this seemed quite fuzzy at times. As this is not normal for Netflix, I was unsure if it was them or my cable provider.

Also Ted Raimi raps over the end credits for those who are interested.

People Watch: Neda Sokolovska, who played Aida in Alien Apocalypse, plays a waitress here. Vladimir Kolev, who played Fisherman Bob in Alien Apocalypse, is Yegor the taxi driver here.

Candyman

Whoops somehow missed posting yesterday so I’ll need to post 2 today. Clive Barker came out with the most marvelous horror short stories when I was growing up. They were quite outrageous for their time and were collected in the Books of Blood. Later he branched out into novels but I’ve always enjoyed his earlier edgier work more. He has several movie adaptations of his work of which Hellraiser is the best. Candyman is the only current film of his on instant Netflix.

Candyman

WATCH: Candyman (1992) – “While researching urban myths, grad student Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) learns about the Candyman (Tony Todd), a hook-handed creature who’s said to haunt a Chicago housing project. In this creepy film based on a Clive Barker story, the Candyman is made flesh by other people’s belief in him. Not surprisingly, Lyle manages to summon him. Soon, the Candyman has committed a series of murders, and the cops are holding Lyle responsible.”

Candyman covers the topic of urban myths far better than the later Urban Legend series of movies ever did. Clive Barker’s short story forms the basis for this movie adapted and directed by Bernard Rose. Rose takes Barker’s fanciful tale and grounds it in reality. The notorious Cabrini-Green housing project is actually filmed for the movie (exterior shots) as are gang members from the area. Tony Todd is marvelous as the eponymous Candyman even though it is very much a supporting role. By the way he really did have bees in his mouth. Bernard Rose does well showing how the Lyles live versus life in the projects while still keeping the horror story as the focus. The movie isn’t perfect – Candyman’s backstory and motivation could have been better expressed and some of Helen’s early decisions, such as venturing unprotected into Cabrini-Green dressed in upscale clothing, seem brain-dead even for someone with a sheltered life. Overall though this is a nice effective chiller.

People watchers: look for the ever-delightful Ted Raimi in a small role at the start of the film.

The Evil Dead

Ah Sam Raimi how do I love thee? He has made 4 of my favorite horror movies (Evil Dead, Evil Dead II, Army of Darkness, and Drag Me to Hell), one of my favorite westerns (The Quick and the Dead), and three of my favorite superhero movies (Darkman, Spider-Man, and Spider-Man 2). All of these films are deliriously over the top and you would think from them that Sam Raimi is incapable of restraint yet his adaptation of A Simple Plan is a complex and heartfelt drama with fabulous performances and very little of his trademark camera trickery and no special effects. I always look forward to any movie he directs. Currently The Quick and the Dead and The Evil Dead are available on instant play.

The Evil Dead

WATCH: The Evil Dead (1981) – “After all his teen pals have become possessed, flesh-eating zombies while vacationing at a cabin in the Tennessee woodlands, Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) tries to overpower the spirits of the evil dead and save his own life. Sam Raimi (Spider-Man, The Grudge) writes and directs this special effects-laden low-budget thriller that co-stars Theresa Tilly, Betsy Baker, Ellen Sandweiss and Richard DeManincor”

Sam Raimi’s first feature film as director is a low-budget masterpiece. When you hear “…the only way to stop those possessed by the spirit of the book is by the act of bodily dismemberment.”, you know you are going to be in for a gorefest and Raimi does not disappoint. While using non-blood blood (here milk) to try and get the film past the censors is an old trick, it was new when this was filmed. Raimi himself used it again most recently in Drag Me to Hell presumably to help him get the teen-friendly PG-13 rating. The Evil Dead couldn’t get less than an R especially with the genre’s first rape-by-tree scene. Raimi’s wonderful camerawork and skewed angles add a lot of atmosphere to the film while his sense of humor and whimsy help keep it fun.

People watchers: note that Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert play the two strangers passed on the road and Ted Raimi has a role as one of the fake shemps.