EVIL DEAD II: DEAD BY DAWN

EVIL DEAD II: DEAD BY DAWN-United States-84 Mins. 1987

Bruce Campbell as Ashely ‘Ash’ J. Williams

 Directed by Sam RaimiWritten by Sam Raimi and Scott SpiegelFor all intents and purposes Evil Dead II is a direct remake of the original The Evil Dead. The story is the same, the setting is the same and it even features Bruce Campbell as Ash in a repeat performance. In fact, I even considered posting the same review from the first film. So what’s the big idea about this film? Why does it stand out against the original which is a great film in the first place? Well, that is what I am here to tell you.

Do you remember I said that the first Evil Dead was like a forest fire and that if you get in its way you’ll be left trampled underfoot and burned to a crisp? Well, it’s not like that at all with Evil Dead II. It’s more like there are two forest fires, one on your left and one on your right and they are coming at you with all the speed and flame that they can muster. You run straight ahead but there’s a train coming. You turn around to run the other way and BEEP! HONK! you get SPLATTERED by a semi! Yeah, that’s why Evil Dead II is even better than the first.

Oh, yeah, one more thing. It’s got Bruce Campbell in it and he’s got a chainsaw for a hand. Groovy, hail to the king, baby. Hail to the King.

TRIVIA

One of the books on the can that traps Ash’s possessed hand is Ernest Hemingway’sA Farewell to Arms“.

The recap of The Evil Deadincludes a shot where the “evil force” runs through the cabin and rams into Ash. When this shot was filmed, Bruce Campbell suffered a broken jaw when Sam Raimi (who was operating the camera) crashed into him with a bicycle. Or so people were led to believe. This was a story concocted by Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell as a gag to see how many people would believe it actually happened.

During the scene where the severed head of Ash’s girlfriend bites his hand, and before embarking for the tool shed, Bruce Campbell says the single line “work shed”. This line was later re-dubbed in post-production do to the quality of the audio, giving it a strange, slightly “disproportionate” sound to the audio. Nine years later, while filming his cameo in Escape from L.A., the first thing Kurt Russell said to Bruce Campbell on the set was, jokingly, “say ‘work shed'”.
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THE HAUNTING

THE HAUNTINGUnited States and United Kingdom-112 Mins. 1963

Julie Harris as Eleanor ‘Nell’ Lance

Claire Bloom (l) as Theodora ‘Theo’

Richard Johnson as Dr. John Markway

Russ Tamblyn as Luke Sanderson

Directed by Robert Wise

Screenplay by Nelson Gidding

Based on the novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Can a house be evil? Or can a person slip so deeply into insanity as to think that they are wanted by an unseen supernatural force? That is the true question that is behind ‘The Haunting’. Four people spend a weekend at Hill House to determine whether it is, indeed, haunted. There’s the professor, the one determined to find out that there are such things as ghosts. Then there’s the skeptic, the heir to Hill House who only sees an opportunity to make money. What about Theodora, the clairvoyant? Why is she at Hill House? Better yet, why is sweet, sheltered Eleanor there? As the saying goes; Hill House has stood for 90 years and might stand for 90 more…and we who walk here…walk alone.

Watching this film I found it very easy to see the influence it might have on films like Paranormal Activity or The Blair Witch Project. The Haunting is a film that proves that what you can’t see is much more terrifying than what you can. Strange and frightening things happen at Hill House ‘in the night, in the dark.’ The walls are pounded upon by unseen hands; there are disembodied voices and walls that move as if an unseen force is pushing against them. There is also the haunting by physical contact, such as with dear, sweet Eleanor (“My God, whose hand was I holding!?!”)

Today, in this age of ‘found footage’ films like PA and TBWP, a film like The Haunting may not seem all that scary. But these are different times we live in. The world is more violent and people have become jaded to the old frights such as ghosts and haunted houses. It takes more to scare us and that task is getting harder and harder. One could easily say that The Haunting was the Paranormal Activity of its time.

TRIVIA

Claire Bloom was intrigued to the play the role of a woman who was attracted to another woman. She said she got along with everyone on the set, except for Julie Harris, who tried everything to avoid her and not talk to her. At the end of the shoot, Harris went over to Bloom’s house with a present and explained that the reason she had kept to herself was to stay in character, because Harris’ role in the film was that of an outsider that none of the others understand or will listen to. Bloom was happy to hear the real reason behind Harris’ behavior, since Bloom stated that she really liked Harris and could not understand what she herself had done wrong to be treated like that by her co-star.

Director Martin Scorsese named this his favorite horror film.

Director Robert Wise read a review of Shirley Jackson‘s novel “The Haunting of Hill House” in Time Magazine and decided to get the rights to the novel. He later met the writer herself to talk about ideas for the film. He asked her if she had thought of other titles for the novel, because the title would not work for the film. She told him that the only other title she had considered was simply “The Haunting”, so Wise decided to use it for the film.

THE EVIL DEAD

THE EVIL DEAD-United States-85 Mins. 1981

European Poster for The Evil Dead

Bruce Campbell as Ashley J. Williams aka ‘Ash’

Betsy Baker as Linda

Richard DeManincor as Scott (as Hal Delrich)

Ellen Sandweiss as Cheryl

Theresa Tilly as Shelly (as Sarah York)

Written and Directed by Sam Raimi

The very first word that comes to my mind regarding Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead is masterpiece.  Stephen King described it as ‘the most ferociously original horror film of the year’ at the time of its release and nothing could be closer to the truth about this movie. There is ferocity to this film that a hundred other horror films could only have wet dreams about. It starts off slow and picks up speed like a forest fire. Get in its way and you will be burned to a crisp and trampled underfoot and left in a pool of your own boiling blood and gore.

The Evil Dead possesses one of the most threadbare plots that I have ever seen in a film. Five friends venture to a remote cabin where they find The Book of the Dead and a tape recording of demonic incantations. They read the book and play the tapes and all hell breaks loose. One by one they are all taken over by flesh possessing demons. All but Ash, that is; he’s the final girl of the film. He’s the one who has all the fun chopping off limbs, decapitating, poking his thumbs into eyeballs and listening as his now demonic girlfriend chants ‘We’re gonna get you’ over and over and over again. It seems the only way you can beat these evil dead baddies is through total bodily dismemberment. Oh, what a joy!

I watch The Evil Dead at least twice a year. It helps to remind me just what a horror film should be made up. Three parts fun, three parts fear and three parts blood and gore with a simple uncluttered plot. If you haven’t seen it, what the hell are you waiting for, a written invitation? Geez!

Trivia

After completing principal photography in the winter of 1979-1980, most of the actors left the production. However, there was still much of the film to be completed. Most of the second half of the film features Bruce Campbell and various stand-ins (or “Fake Shemps”) to replace the actors who left.
Director Sam Raimi and star Bruce Campbell were friends from high school, where they made many super-8 films together. They would often collaborate with Sam’s brother Ted Raimi. Campbell became the “actor” of the group, as “he was the one that girls wanted to look at.”
Bruce Campbell twisted his ankle on a root while running down a steep hill, and Sam Raimi and Robert G. Tapert decided to tease him by poking his injury with sticks, thus causing Campbell to have an obvious limp in some scenes.

SHARK NIGHT 3-D (or 2-D for those of us too cheap to pay extra for 3-D glasses)

SHARK NIGHT 3-D-United States-90 Mins. 2011

Sara Paxton as Sara

Directed by David R. Ellis

Written by Will Hayes and Jesse Studenberg

So tell me; what’s not to like about Shark Night? Look at all the things it has going for it. It has sharks, lots and lots of them, in all shapes and sizes. It has pretty girls in teeny-weeny bikinis. It has the beautiful Katharine McPhee tapping in to her inner bad girl and making my crush on her all the more inflamed. It’s got flying sharks and gore. Did I mention that it has Katharine McPhee?

Okay, all kidding aside; except for the fact that Shark Night has Katharine McPhee in it there is absolutely nothing I can really recommend about this film. The storyline, if you can call it that, is ludicrous. A group of randy college students retreat to a lake house in the Louisiana Gulf and are then picked off one by one by a variety of man-eating sharks. There’s a little more to it than that, but I will refrain from saying anything more just in case you want to  waste your hard earned money to go see it.

Aside from the storyline, the acting is on the level of a SyFy original movie. In other words, a sixth grade play is an Oscar contender compared to this. Even the beauty of Miss Mcphee cannot save this film. But it was certainly a joy to watch her give it her best. Alas, though, the best thing about Shark Night was the popcorn.

By the way, no sharks were harmed in the making of this film. However, they will be talking to their agents regarding a defamation of character lawsuit.

Trivia

Director David R. Ellis wanted to release the film under the title, “Untitled 3D Shark Thriller”.

Not screened in advance for critics.
½

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Thank You and Oh, Yeah! What Scares You?

This is a two part post. First of all I want to say thank you to everyone who has ever taken the time to visit Written in Blood. When I started this blog a little under a year ago I had no idea that anyone would even like it, much less want to look at it. But today I have just reached 300 page views for the first time. So, to every one of you that has looked at my blog, even if it just for a fraction of a second, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

For the second part; do you remember the post I wrote entitled “What’s Scary??” I want to hear from you about what scares you. What gets your heart racing and causes the hairs to stand up on the back of your neck. Don’t be afraid to write in and tell me, not unless that’s what you’re afraid of. But if you are, maybe it’s time you conquered that fear. I’ll start off by telling you what scares me: wasps. I don’t know what it is about them, but I just cringe when I see one buzzing around my head. I always thought of them as the delinquents of the insect world; buzzing around all bad-ass with their leather jackets and their switchblade stingers. They just give me the creeps.

Now, I want to hear from you. What scares you?

THE HITCHER

THE HITCHER-United States-97 Mins. 1986

Rutger Hauer as John Ryder

C. Thomas Howell as Jim Halsey

Jennifer Jason Leigh as Nash

Directed by Robert Harmon

Written by Eric Red

Was there ever an actor more bad-ass than Rutger Hauer in the 1980’s? I for one believe that the man had merely to gaze in your direction and you’d be pissing in your pants. That’s why I can’t think of any other actor for the role of John Ryder, the murderous hitchhiker who plays cat to Thomas Howell’s mouse in The Hitcher. Hauer has more intensity in his little finger than a dozen other stars have in their entire bodies.

For me, this has to be the tenth time that I’ve watched this film. First I watched it on VHS, and then I’d watch bits and pieces of it on late night TV. The Hitcher, like Hellraiser, is one of those movies that, when you’re flipping channels late at night and suddenly it flashes onto your screen, you stop. It may be just beginning, it may be halfway through but you just stop and watch the rest of it.

The film never explains why Hauer is obsessed with Howell, or why he wants Howell to stop him. There is never a moment in the film where Hauer shows any sign of remorse. This man makes Schwarzenegger’s soulless Terminator seem like Mister Rogers in comparison. So why does he want Howell to stop him? Maybe it’s for the better that we don’t know.

In the last few years The Hitcher could come to be known as a ‘what goes around comes around’ film. In the 2009 season of TV’s Criminal Minds, C. Thomas Howell played George Foyet, a killer as cold and remorseless as Hauer’s John Ryder. What goes around, indeed?

TRIVIA

Eric Red, (writer), said that the film was inspired by the Doors song, “Riders on the Storm”.

C. Thomas Howell admitted that he was actually afraid of Rutger Hauer on and off the set because of the actor’s general intensity.

Sam Elliott and Terence Stamp were offered the role of John Ryder.

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PARANORMAL 3 ACTIVITY

PARANORMAL 3 ACTIVITYUnited States-83 Mins. 2011

Chloe Csengery and Jessica Tyler Brown as Katie and Kristi

Also starring Christopher Nicholas Smith, Lauren Bittner and Katie Featherston

Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman

Written by Christopher Landon and Oren Peli (characters)

Remember how I said that although people still get scared at horror movies, but they just don’t get scared as a collective whole? Yeah, well, you can throw that sh*t right out the window. That is, at least in the case of Paranormal Activity 3. The theatre was packed tonight when I went to see it and I could swear that there were several moments that people were going to end up in each other’s laps. Is the film good? I believe it is. I enjoyed the first two films and was a little weary that there would be a third. Without giving anything away I can safely tell you that Paranormal Activity 3 not only answers a lot of questions; it also opens up the door for a possible fourth film in the series. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing depends entirely on your point of view. The film once again uses the ‘found footage’ technique of telling the story and this time takes us back to when Katie was a child and when it all began and that is all I am going to say about it.

If you measure how good a horror film is by audience reaction then I would have to say that Paranormal Activity 3 is a masterpiece. It’s probably not; I’ll eventually buy the film and watch it alone, and the scenes that made everyone jump out of their skins will not seem that scary anymore. Then again, it could turn out to be like the first film and be even more frightening within the confines of home (not so) sweet home.

TRIVIA

Towards the beginning of the film, Julie takes a picture of young Kristi standing in the driveway shortly before a group picture is taken. The photo being taken appears in bothParanormal Activity and Paranormal Activity 2 as an indication that the demon has started haunting them.

Mark Fredrichs previous played the Psychic in the first Paranormal Activity, which took place nearly two decades after the events in this film.

As with Paranormal Activity and Paranormal Activity 2, Paramount Studios once again utilized paranormal investigator/researcher, Christopher Chacon, who is recognized as one of the world’s foremost authorities on paranormal phenomena, to internationally promote and publicize this third installment. Chacon also works in the entertainment industry as a writer, director and producer.