Tag Archives: Bruce Campbell

Starz’s Ash Vs. Evil Dead

I feel like Starz’s Ash Vs. Evil Dead doesn’t get enough love or praise. It was always going to be a tough task to update and fluidly continue a scrappy, deranged, hyperactive, genre pioneering classic from the early 80’s into contemporary long form storytelling, but damn they kind of nailed it. Raimi himself directs the first episode to kick the party into gear, and sets the stage for two knockout seasons of nostalgic bloody mayhem, new ideas and demons worked into the existing lore and more deftly written comedic dialogue than you can shake a boomstick at. This picks up decades after the original cabin massacre, which Ash has now himself been blamed for. That pesky necronomicon isn’t quite done with him though, and pretty soon he’s on an epic, gore laced quest to defeat evil with two awesome sidekicks, the sexy, fearless and spirited Kelly (Dana Delorenzo) and courageous, scrappy Pablo (Ray Santiago). Their adventures take them on countless endeavours, side-quests and tussles with every demon under the sun, and it’s the characters who ultimately make it worthwhile. Middle aged Ash is different from the jittery youngster of Evil Dead and even the reluctant avenger he became in Army Of Darkness. He’s kind of a goof, but a goof who gets shit done in the end and lives to swill a beer and tell a grossly exaggerated tale about it. There are some truly inventive monsters, demons and deadites on display here too, from your garden variety howling, decayed possesses corpse to full on legendary denizens right out of the bible, a haunted car in a cool shout out to John Carpenter’s Christine, a possessed cadaver that literally shits and pisses all over a very uncomfortable Ash as the deadite inside takes liberties with it’s bodily functions, and all kinds of other stuff including an an evil Ash hand puppet that has to be seen to be believed. Other great supporting turns come from Lucy ‘Xena’ Lawless as an immortal badass demon hunter, Ted Raimi as Ash’s ketamine guzzling high school chum, Lee Majors as his ladies man of a father and more. I’ve only seen the first two seasons so far, but I’ve got nothing but great things to say about this show. It’s consistent with the tone and feel of Raimi’s original classic horror trilogy while building upon everything he did to blast new pathways into the Ash legacy. Punishingly, rewardingly gory, spectacularly hilarious at every turn, filled with loving references, deadites galore, this one is a keeper.

-Nate Hill

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Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead

As far as horror remakes go, you can do a lot, lot worse than Fede Alvarez’s 2013 version of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead. If this version and Raimi’s are to be viewed as different sides of the Evil Dead aesthetic, this would be the sober version, and Raimi’s the wasted one. The original trilogy of films were most decidedly horror, but they were raucous, silly, playful as all hell and had the kind of cheerfully sloppy, Schlock in the Box vibe of a horror comedy. Alvarez’s version sobers right up and has almost no instances of humour, save for a few quick moments. What it doesn’t lose an iota of, however, is the gut churning bodily harm inflicted on humans and deadites, this is one film that takes its violence seriously and thinks up some really interesting ways to fuck people up using hardware tools, kitchen appliances and that good ol’ rip snortin chainsaw. As long as you’re cool with that fact that the comedy elements have been ditched and the proceedings here, although no less grisly, are pretty stone-faced and grim. The troupe of ill fated folks who end up at the now iconic cabin in the woods are played by Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci and Jessica Lucas. Once the Necronomicon is read from, all manner of nastiness descends on them from the surrounding woods and evil starts to possess them and.. you know the drill. Although some unwelcome CGI is used when Levy’s Mia finds herself alone in the woods and molested by a tree, once we get back to the interior of the cabin the special effects have an intimate, visceral and realistic impact. Scenes involving a SawsAll and an exacto knife are memorable for their ability to make you squirm and hide your eyes, which is when you know your scenes are effective. Atmosphere is also key, and although we don’t get the tactile, grainy VHS vision of the forest and hidden army of smoke machines to create the setting, the cabin/forest here are still eerily realized, especially when they head to the basement where the intense prologue of the film happened, which further sets up the mood. It’s not in the vein of Raimi or even close to as good as his original classics, but they’ve put on a super creepy, spectacularly gory (that chainsaw massacre in the blood rain is an impressive showpiece) show that should please casual fans and franchise die-hards alike. Watch for a VIP cameo after the credits too.

-Nate

One of the Nicest Dudes: An Interview with Daniel Roebuck by Kent Hill

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Daniel Roebuck made me cry. That’s tough to do. There are certain films that have achieved this but they are few and far between. With Getting Grace, Roebuck has constructed a tale that is about that good thing, maybe the best of things. He has made a film about hope.

The story is that of a girl dying. Some might argue that such a plot easily accommodates the tear-jerking factor, but I don’t think that’s true. Field of Dreams is a movie that gets me every time, but I wouldn’t say that it sets itself up as a tear-jerker. In that movie’s case, the plot is more about listening to the voices inside us all and not allowing the inherent cynical nature of humanity to sidetrack us. It is also a story of redemption in the respect that a ghost, a former baseball player, helps the protagonist make peace with his father via love a of the game they both once shared.

In the case of Getting Grace, much like Disney’s Polyanna prior, it falls to a quirky yet luminous spirit of a young girl, staring at the end of her mortality and the optimism she evokes to cope with her fate to inspire, and in many ways redeem the broken characters that encircle her throughout the story. Both films deal with death, but reinforce that death is far from the end.

It’s a heart-warming tale that leaves you thinking about the preciousness and the fragility of our existence for a man of great faith. After all, to have endured in show business for the length of time Daniel Roebuck has – you need faith and hope in bundles.

It was an illuminating and thought-provoking discussion that I had with Daniel. He is a stalwart of the industry having worked in everything from big movies to indies, action films to animated efforts, and even mentoring other young actors as they struggle to make their ascent. Through it all he has retained a charming, positive presence that reflects in the enthusiasm with which he attacks his roles and now as he steps behind the camera to tell stories that enrich and enlighten.

It was as much a pleasure to talk with him as it is for me to present one of the nicest dudes . . . Daniel Roebuck.

 

The Day of Reckoning: An Interview with Andrew David Barker by Kent Hill

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Andrew David Barker was born in Derby, England in 1975. He grew up with a love of films and writing. I suppose this is a common thread among those of us who seek to express ourselves through these mediums. Hoping against hope that it will be either one or the other that strikes first – one or the other that shall propel us out of obscurity and into the stratosphere in which we are allowed to create for a living.

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It was horror films (the Video Nasties), but also the bombastic, high concept and blockbuster works of the 80’s that further fueled the young Barker to carry on his quest. Spielberg, Lucas and Scorsese, but also Romero and Raimi fed him with images and blasted on the big screen the seemingly endless possibilities which lay in wait, destined to be unearthed by the daring dreamer.

Like all those that had come before, young Barker cut his teeth making short films and writing books and short stories – at times with friends. Then the time came – the time which calls to the fledgling auteurs and beckons them into the fray – time to put all accumulated knowledge to the test, and make that first film.

Thus A Reckoning was born. But through no fault of his own, young Barker was forced to sit by and see his film languish in obscurity. So, he took up the pen, and began to tell his stories on the printed page. Soon, he produced two fine works (see pictured above) and interest from the film industry power brokers soon came knocking.

Andrew is an eclectic storyteller whose visions are at once personal and profound. To talk to him about his journey, his influences and aspirations was a thrill. He is definitely a talent to watch, and, I for one, will be watching with great anticipation as to where his journey will take him next.

The Puppet Master: An Interview with Kevin McTurk by Kent Hill

They say in the film business, never work with children or animals. Of course you may find yourself working with dinosaurs, aliens, lions, beast-people, scrunts, kothogas, ghosts, morlocks, Batman, Spiderman, Hellboy, kaijus, wolfmen, clones, cliffhangers, vampires, giant crocodiles, homicidal maniacs, killer sheep, Predators, cowboys and mysterious brides out to Kill Bill.

Sounds ominous, doesn’t it? But that’s just some of the astounding creations and magnificent beasts that Kevin McTurk has encountered in his eclectic career in the realms of special effects.

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Working under the banners of legends like Stan Winston, Jim Henson and the new titans like Weta Workshop, Kevin has had his hand in erecting and simulating everything from the real world as he has from empires extraordinary. And, while I could have spent the entirety of our chat talking about his adventures working on the countless films, which are favourites of mine, he has in his CV, his impressive effects background is only part of the story.

For Kevin McTurk is a bold and visionary filmmaker in his own right. His puppet films, The Narrative of Victor Karloch, The Mill at Calder’s End and now The (forthcoming) Haunted Swordsman are exercises in capturing a style from a bygone era with modern filmmaking techniques. The results are beautiful, not only in their aesthetic quality, but in the level of excellence from the many different disciplines on display.

There is still time for you to join Kevin in his latest cinematic offering (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/935772123/the-haunted-swordsman-a-ghost-story-puppet-film), and to listen in now to the man himself talk about his movies, influences and career.

I give you the talented Mr. McTurk.

Visit Kevin’s website for more: http://www.thespiritcabinet.com/

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Sam Raimi’s Army Of Darkness: A Review by Nate Hill 

Sam Raimi’s Army Of Darkness completes his demented Evil Dead trilogy in high style, and with way more off the wall humour than the first two, which made you laugh while simultaneously going straight for the jugular with gore. Slapstick seems to be the theme here, as Ash and his trusty accessories of destruction find themselves catapulted straight into the heart of the Middle Ages, where the denizens of the Necronomicon have somehow once again found him. Joining forces with a medieval King, and hopping into bed with a shapely princess (Embeth Davidz), Ash uses his modern day know-how and sassy disposition to battle hordes of skeletal beasties and flying deadites, with occasional breaks for absurd humour and near surreal set pieces. My personal favorite is when he finds himself under attack from numerous pint sized versions of himself after setting off an ancient spell in the nearby dark forests. “Ramming speed” they chirp as they jab him in the ass with a metal fork and giggle like demonic Borrowers. Only in these movies, man. The change of setting from a cabin in the woods to a castle allows for a much larger scale of action, involving entire armies and much more moving parts. The deadite horde has a satisfyingly creaky, Harryhausen-esque way of moving, and look great when blown to bits by the ol’ boomstick as well. They also inherit the silliness and near constant mischief of the demons from the first two films too. Whether it’s trees, deer heads, zombies or skeletons, anything that materializes as a result of that book just seems to have a flair for bizarre and childish shenanigans, kind of like their trademark mode of behaviour.  That too is what makes these films so distinct; they’re horror comedies, yes, but not in the sense that Scary Movie or Young Frankenstein is. They’re like a clown with ADHD prancing about the place and destroying things in their own special and unhinged way. Different from the other films in the series, no doubt, but a welcome and very successful departure. 

Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead 2: A Review by Nate Hill 

Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead 2 is similar to Robert Rodriguez’s Desperado in the sense that it takes what was already there, in this case Evil Dead, and tells the same story once again, simply smoothing out edges, ramping up certain areas, using more money than it had before and generally giving the story a tune up. It also gets quite a bit funnier than Evil Dead, which although schlocky was pretty much outright horror. The sequel emphasizes comedy far more, and is the more definitive of the two in terms of the franchise’s legacy. The story is more or less the same: Ash (the eternal Bruce Campbell) and a group of friends venture to that creepy, archetypal cabin in the woods and foolishly set loose a rambunctious horde of unholy demons, zombies, cackling fiends, rapey trees and a mountable deer head with a disconcerting case of the giggles. This marks the first time Ash donned his now iconic chainsaw hand and picked up that ol’ boom stick to give the nasties a good whupping. And whup he does, like the smooth talking badass that he is. I love the aesthetic in these films; the monsters all have a devilishly mischievous attitude that provides endless laughs, always trolling, taunting and teasing the poor victims. Nothing beats the sight of Ash’s severed hand flipping him off before it scuttles off into the corner like an angry facehugger. That’s one key element which the 2013 remake ditched: I liked what they did in terms of special effects, but the pissy humour wasn’t there, the decayed, sarcastic ADHD madness that I came to love so much was replaced by something far too grim and somber. Bad move. No, kids, this is the ultimate Evil Dead flick, the most complete and entertaining entry into a franchise that has influenced every facet of the horror genre for decades. Ash is now a household name, a beloved halloween costume, a celebrated pillar of pop culture and still one of the most enjoyable protagonist’s to spend time with, as we now get to see with Starz’s terrific Ash Vs. Evil Dead. The original Evil Dead spawned it all, but this baby turned the dial up past eleven, tossed on the buckets of gore and has more than earned it’s place both in our hearts, and horror infamy.