Category Archives: supernatural

Review: The Witch

Director(s)Robert Eggers
Principal CastAnya Taylor-Joy as Thomasin
Ralph Ineson as William
Kate Dickie as Katherine
Harvey Scrhimshaw as Caleb
Ellie Grainger as Mercy
Lucas Dawson as Jonas
Release Date2015
Language(s)English
Running Time 93 minutes

After I had first seen The Witch, I was convinced the movie I saw and the general audience saw were completely different, because there’s absolutely no way someone could see this masterpiece and walk away thinking it’s only at 58% (as per Rotten Tomatoes audience score). Eggers’s period piece set in Puritanical times is a well-crafted, deeply layered story, that examines the deterioration of an incredibly religious family that finds themselves dealing with crises of faith and the very real threat of witches in the forest around them.

There’s no time wasted establishing the stakes and rules of the world the lead family finds themselves in. After William, the patriarch, refuses to bend to his community’s religious views, decrying them as sacrilege, his family finds themselves exiled, forced to find a new home in the wilderness. Soon after disaster strikes, the family finds themselves assaulted by the presence of supernatural happenings, a sense of constant disarray, maddening paranoia, and severe blows to their faith in the Almighty.

Eggers really nails the look and feel of the New England world we find ourselves within. The costumes all feel and look accurate and the subsequent way they get dirtied or marred with impure elements makes the movie feel gritty and rugged. Dialogue is on point and you can tell that there was a lot of effort put into keeping things honest and precise. I have found the experience to be better after watching the movie with subtitles, just so I could see all the dialogue, but after reading it I can confirm it really is as good as I thought it was. All this attention to detail ensures that are no distracting anachronisms that would otherwise distract us from the drama at play. I found myself completely immersed in the world around our lead family and as a result was completely engrossed in every little moment and action. I never felt the effects of the slower pacing, because I was lost in the experience of watching the family struggle against their obstacles.

Every character is fleshed out and feels like an integral part of the world. Anya Taylor-Joy absolutely kills it as Thomasin and sells the conflict integral to her character’s core. There are tons of close-up shots of her face, each demonstrating her reaction to the events around her. She manages to balance teen angst with religious turmoil culminating in a well-developed spiritual and emotional journey. The exploration of her characters growth as a guilty “sinner” combined with the period’s treatment of women lends itself to an interesting feminist journey that offers some nuanced thoughts about community, agency, and the relationship between women and children. Ineson’s portrayal of a religious man, too fueled by his ego to compromise on what counts as scripture, but so genuinely caring for his family that he sheds tears for their sake, strikes a strange blow at expectations. You’d think someone so hotheaded that they’d let their family get kicked out of a community would be prone to bursts of rage and insolence, but William comes off as a man just trying to do what he personally thinks is best for the family, even if he’s incapable of slowing down long enough to figure out what that is. Dicke is great as the mother, Katherine, and emotes her weariness and fatigue to great effect. Her latter interactions with Joy and Ineson are some of the most dramatic moments in the movie and add to the discourse on the place of women. Scrhimshaw is great as Caleb, the middle child of the family, and absolutely steals the show in latter portions of the movie, channeling some transcendental acting in a scene you won’t soon forget. Grainger and Dawson have fairly convincing child performances and kept their own in the serious setting.

Speaking of setting , did I mention that the movie looks and sounds amazing? Mark Korven’s score is absolutely ethereal and makes moments pop when it comes into play. It never tries to take a scene over. It only exists to accompany the eerie feeling and tense atmosphere. You really notice it because the movie is silent for the most part, choosing to focus on long shots that drive home the emotions underlying the scene. The movie employs a series of closeup shots, which give you great mental pictures of what’s running through the characters’ heads. You can gaze into their eyes, notice the way their face darts and moves, and see what’s happening underneath.

Finally, the movie is rich with themes but works as a surface-level story as well. The narrative is tight and filled with believable characterization. The presence of the supernatural is confirmed early on, because the focus of the horror is the unwinding family dynamic. Each character’s relation to their faith is altered/exacerbated because of the family’s expulsion from the colony, so the whole unit experiences a discordant crisis of faith. The events in the story would be horrifying if you were a devout Christian living back in those times and living through them would be a real hell. That gives the movie a layer of historical nuance that grounds its fears into the world the characters live in. The reason I can still remember the shocking moments from The Witch is because they happen sparingly, are never done for pure shock value,and add to the theme or previous character threads. There’s a purpose to each scare which gives the movie tons of re-watch value. It’s a movie you can watch to watch, or watch to analyze, and if you’re someone who enjoys slower paced movies, there’s a lot to get out of this.

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TLDRThe Witch is a masterful period horror that examines the disintegration of an exiled Puritan family forced to find a new life for themselves in the abandoned woods. Historically accurate dialogue, immaculate costume design, an ethereal and well-placed score, and gorgeous symmetrical close ups await those of you who can deal with a slower movie that relies on atmosphere instead of jump scares. The movies treatment of religion, ideology, and feminist thought are interesting and anyone interesting in watching those ideas intersect need to give this a try.
Rating10/10
Grade A+

There’s no spoiler section- I’ll be posting a more full analysis at a later time.

Review: Stree

Director(s)Amar Kaushik
Principal CastShraddha Kapoor as the mysterious woman
Rajkummar Rao as Vicky
Aparshakti Kurana as Bittu
Abishek Banerjee as Jaana
Pankaj Tripathi as Rudra
Release Date 2018
Language(s)Hindi
Running Time128 minutes

This highly slept on horror comedy follows Vicky, a tailor with genius abilities who becomes smitten with an unknown woman who shows up during his town’s esoteric festival/ritual meant to ward off a man-snatching spirit aptly named Stree (which means woman in Hindi). As the supernatural situation gets more tense, suspicions run high, as everyone is desperate to find a way to stop the abductions. The movie expertly plays with audience expectations, subverting them in ways that are clever and well laid out by a directorial bread crumb trail. Watching the mystery unfold is a treat and the movie will keep you on edge up till the very end.

If you’re familiar with Indian politics,the country’s social setting, or grew up with family/close friends that filled your heads with stories about those things, the movie will stand out even more in how well it effectively utilizes both horror and comedy to critique gender roles, religious manipulation, and the discrepancy between the customs of different generations. By leading into these serious discussions with a comedic touch, the horrifying “lessons” ,so to say, both highlight the repercussions of actions that aren’t taken seriously today, while never coming off as too preachy. From urinating on the wall, to prostitution, to sex talks, the movie knows how to approach the broad variety of topics it wants to talk about with great care. Tonal balance is definitely here and the movie never loses focus on what it’s trying to do.

There’s more than one moment that reminded me of interactions I had in my youth, and I laughed at how genuine and real the dialogue sounded. This is obviously helped by the great performances from the leading cast members. Rao absolutely nails it as Vicky, a dopey, awkward, romantic with aspirations of moving out and ahead in life. He’s comical enough to laugh at, but not so comical to render the issues he goes through less serious. Kapoor captures the ambivalence of the mysterious woman to a T and constantly kept me guessing as to what really drove her. Every side character is interesting from Vicky’s father to the town’s resident bookkeeper. Even if you can’t keep track of all the names, they’re all written with a real humaneness so you care about them. I can still tell you exactly what each character was about, so that’s a credit to how fleshed out everyone comes off.

If you’re someone who likes Bollywood, you’ll be glad to know this movie manages to incorporate the flair and passion you normally get in an mainstream Indian movie, but ties it down into a wholly unique plot that demonstrates serious writing ingenuity. There’s even an item song that’s incorporated both as an injection of a fun vibrant energy and as a way to highlight the themes at play. Offering a unique story is hard enough but managing to do that while playing to convention is something else. Sound design is excellent and the music can be scary and exciting at the same time. By playing up the normal romcom ideas we expect to see and adding a supernatural twist to the background those affairs take place in, the movie manages to keep the audience constantly guessing what’s going to happen. There’s more than one moment that had me nervously laughing, both because of the comedic tension of the situation at play and the fear that something horrendous would happen.

Despite my glowing praise, there are some plot elements that stand out as being less developed than others. It makes sense given the breadth of what the movie is trying to do, but those little moments feel like they could’ve really cemented some of the themes. Thankfully, a sequel is due to come out , so I’m excited to see how this creative team will answer or develop these threads.

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TLDRStree is a one of a kind horror comedy that mixes traditional Bollywood elements with a one of a kind ghost story. If you’re familiar with India’s culture/social history, the movie really shines as a critique of some of the country’s most pressing issues. With the sequel coming out soon, there’s no better than than now to watch this masterpiece.
Rating9.7/10
Grade A+

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: It

Director(s)Andy Muschietti
Principal CastBill Skarsgard as It/Pennywise
Jaeden Lieberher as Bill
Sophia Lillis as Beverly
Jeremy Ray Taylor as Ben
Finn Wolfhard as Richie
Jack Dylan Grazer as Eddie
Wyatt Oleff as Stanley
Chosen Jacobs as Mike
Nicholas Hamilton as Henry
Release Date2017
Language(s)English
Running Time 135 minutes

A GOOD horror movie I could go see with my friends. That’s the sentiment I’d use to best describe my relation to It. After a few years without a solid mainstream hit like The Conjuring and Insidious , I was worried I’d never get to see a horror movie with my friends again. If you’ve read my reviews you know I have a taste for weird art-house movies. It’s a sentiment my friends usually don’t share, so most of my horror experiences are solo adventures. Whenever a horror movie is good and lends itself to being accepted by a wider audience, I take notice. It is exactly that kind of movie. This adaptation of King’s highly regarded novel blends genuine horror with an interesting one of a kind story to great effect. The movie simultaneously vivid for enough for fans who like more visual scares, but has enough subtext to keep the annoying self-proclaimed cinephile friend you have (like me) occupied.

The story follows the Losers club, a group of 7 kids living in Derry,Maine , who are forced to confront the shape-shifting entity, It. It, normally taking the form of Pennywise the clown, constantly morphs into the children’s worst fears, so as they find a way to deal with the supernatural presence they’re forced to confront their fears and doubts in the open. It’s a beautiful melding of coming-of-age and supernatural horror that takes relatable fears a lot of us have had and amplifies them to the nth degree. Having It’s manifestations be related to the characters at such an intimate level also keeps the subsequent scares memorable and more terrifying. Knowing there’s a malevolent entity that’s enjoying torturing you and your friends, waiting to eat you at the end of all of it would make any adult cry, let alone a middle school kid who’s just at the beginning of their introspective journey.

This is made all the better by how well (almost) each of the Losers is characterized and developed. Bill, the de-facto leader of the group is traumatized after losing his brother to It and feels a deep sense of personal guilty and responsibility to rectify the situation. Beverly, the ostracized and slut-shamed girl at school, finds a new home in the group as they give her a place to feel safe. Ben’s the nerd of the group and always has intel on what’s going on. Richie is the smart ass, constantly making light of the situation and providing the comic relief. Eddie, is a germaphobe with a serious case of smothering mother. Stanley is the scaredy cat of group and Mike is the home-schooled kid who also happens to be one of the only black people in Derry. Every performance is top notch and the characters genuinely feel like kids who are out and about trying to figure out what’s going on. They all feel like real kids with real problems going through a horrifying situation that they can’t control. Watching them grow and develop in the adversity is both exciting because of the nature of the dangers that await the group, and touching because of the way the situation reminded me of my childhood.

For the most part each character is given an appropriate time to develop. Seeing them as individuals and in a larger group for extended periods of time makes noticing the subtleties of their friendship more rewarding. The group doesn’t start off singing Hakuna Matata because it’s made up of multiple clusters of friends that intersect with common points of contact. Everyone has a different relationship with everyone else so they have to learn how to navigate their broader social environment. All that connects the group is their shared condition as outcasts. The combination of all the characteristics under one moniker, combined with the easily relatable themes, makes getting invested in the story easy. Hell, at some point in my life, I would have found myself in the Losers club and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

The most surprising aspect of the movie to me is just how scary Pennywise comes off as. It’s not just the special effects or the fact that the scares are intimately connected to the characters.It’s (no pun intended) the man under the makeup – Bill Skarsgaard. He absolutely sells Pennywise’s delight in torturing the children with how enthusiastically he throws himself in rushing at them or making fun of them with a litany of sarcastic jabs. He’s childlike in the way he laughs at his own jokes or the way he relishes in his “pranks”. It comes off as a perversion of innocence, which is exactly the point. Definitely one of the best horror villains and performances of the past decade.

Unfortunately, by making the movie more mainstream, especially in the use of cheap jump scare noises, the horror feel a lot less memorable or mesmerizing. It is scary and watching the creature torment the children as their worst possible fears is scary enough. I know jump scares are popular, and I’m not saying the movie needed to get rid of all of them, but I think it should’ve taken a more controlled approach to maximize the effect they have. Some of the It vs Loser sequences are genuinely unique and fun to watch. It’s a shame that they don’t get to shine on their own and get drowned out by a loud noise telling you to be scared. The third act also diminishes the tension of scare sequences by injecting random bits of humor that really ruined the tension that had been building up to then.

Certain characters get little to no love development wise and it makes them stick out like sore thumbs when compared to the excellent moments everyone else gets. I’m okay with the bully characters having less time to shine because the main cast is so large, but Mike got done dirty. I feel like he barely has time to grow and gel with the group and I think the interactions between him and the others could have been more interesting. The movie hints that there’s a racial dynamic at play, but it’s only ever mentioned by the bully and doesn’t feel like it’s as incorporated into the story. It’s a lot of missed potential that makes his inclusion feel odd.

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TLDRIt manages to be unique while being mainstream enough to watch with friends. The clever coming-of-age story is relatable to everyone who ever grew up afraid of something, and the characters and their respective tribulations will get you invested in the story, no matter how wonky some events play out. Some themes and characters aren’t properly developed which hold the movie back from being a true masterpiece, but it’s a hell of a fun time regardless.
Rating9.3/10
GradeA

Review: Let Me In

Director(s)Matt Reeves
Principal CastChloe Grace Moretz as Abby
Kodi Smit-McPhee as Owen
Richard Jenkins as Thomas
Release Date2010
Language(s)English
Running Time 116 minutes

This is a hard movie for me to rate and I’ve struggled with coming up with a number for a long time. I initially saw the movie in 2011 and thought it was amazing. I was completely enamored and couldn’t stop thinking about it. It got me reading the Wikipedia page to find more information ,and I saw that it was a remake of a Swedish movie called Let the Right One In, which itself is based on a novel of the same name. I thought it’d be fun to see the original movie and read the book to see how the Reeves version compared. The process left me in a strange position. While the Reeves version is stellar in composition, it comes off feeling like a replica of the original movie with an English dub. There are slight changes in setting, the starting point the movie leaps off from, and the way the theme of growing up is handled, but it’s not enough to make the movie feel like something wholly unique (like Evil Dead vs The Evil Dead) .

For those of you unacquainted with the book or 2008 movie, the story follows an ostracized young child, Owen, who’s struggling to find his place in life. He’s bullied at school and can’t really relate the adults around him. Eventually a young “girl”, Abby, moves in next door. Unbeknownst to Owen, Abby’s actually a vampire. As the two interact more often, a budding friendship is born, and their lives are radically changed. Given that information, the opening shot of the movie feels completely out of place with audience expectations. It starts in on a disfigured individual who jumps to his death from a hospital building, leaving behind a note that says “I’m sorry Abby.” This initial scene sets the tone for the rest of the movie and tinges the experience with a more sinister sense of mystery. Who’s the person , how did they end up there, and why were they apologizing? It gives the movie a lot of action before the slower paced story kicks in and is one of the unique things Reeves did to spice up his adaptation.

Traditionally, coming-of-age stories are about trying to find your path and footing in the world. The unpredictable chaos of everything combined with hyper-active hormones leads to a sense of confusion and wonder. Trying to determine how characters will progress becomes part of the fun. This movie subverts that expectation and is another original Reeves move. Adults are reduced to mere outlines of human interaction. Owen is rarely shown interacting with them and when he does those moments are often reduced to trite conversations with little weight. Hell, in a move I really like, Reeves never shows Owen’s mom’s face. The absence of any positive adult influence makes the progression of Owens story easy to predict, so if you like trying to guess or interpret those types of the things, you may feel like the movie tells you too much. However, if you accept the conclusion, the movie takes on this cool surreal feeling. It’s almost poetic watching the foregone conclusion slowly play out.

Smit-McPhee and Moretz knock it out of the park and give the movie a real heart and spirit. Their chemistry as friends is genuinely touching to watch and reminded me of a lot of moments in my childhood. You can see them warm up to each other, and because the movie takes its time, the subsequent places they go feel emotionally satisfying. Smit-McPhee really hits the nail on the head of bullied kid who desperately wants to feel like he has agency again. He manages to be creepy but sympathetic. You want him to find a path to happiness, even if he gives you the heebie jeebies with his weird masculine inducing rituals. Moretz absolutely nails child vampire. She’s innocent, but she’s also horrifying. She asks basic questions like “What’s a girlfriend?” but then has to consume other people’s blood to survive. None of these shifts feel out of character and it keeps Abby feeling complex.

Just because this is a romance with cute moments of friendship doesn’t mean it’s sunshine and daisies all the time. People are brutally murdered and their blood canvasses the white snow. The contrast is stunning and makes it clear that violence pervades our everyday existence. It can come from anywhere and doesn’t line up with what we think. The visual effects team does a great job at showing the horrors of vampire life by demonstrating the consequences of breaking vampire rules and by making the kill sequences feel deliberately violent. You can feel the pain respective character’s go through. Out of the two movies, I think this one is more visceral in its scares, so if that’s something you’re looking for you should check this out.

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TLDREven if Let Me In feels a little too derivative of its 2008 Swedish counterpart, its worth giving a watch if you’re looking for a coming-of-age romance with a horror twist. It’s equal parts heartwarming and horrifying and has some of the best child performances I’ve ever seen. I may rag on the movie for feeling like a clone of the original, but that’s not a bad thing. It means it has a great story, memorable characters, poignant and relevant themes, and great horror sequences. Reeves definitely refines and polishes some of these elements and I appreciate him making the movie more accessible to a widespread audience. I just wish that the movie felt more distinct .
Rating9.4/10
GradeA

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: Evil Dead

Director(s)Fede Alvarez
Principal CastJane Levy as Mia Allen
Shiloh Fernandez as David Allen
Lou Taylor Pucci as Eric
Release Date2013
Language(s)English
Running Time 92 minutes

Normally, when a horror fan hears the word “remake” they feel a deep sense of fear. Most horror remakes usually suck and are made as cash grabs that prey on nostalgia. They usually have a weak plot or one that’s functionally the same as the original with none of the soul or passion behind it. Certain iconic scenes will be redone as a moment of fan-service, but nothing of substance will be added to differentiate the movie outside of this fan-service. Outside of a few rare instances (like The Ring as an adaptation of Ringu) , horror remakes are doomed to fail because they refuse to innovate or add their own mark on the franchise. Thankfully for The Evil Dead fans, Fede Alvarez isn’t about that, and has managed to create a familiar but wholly unique Evil Dead origin story.

The film literally opens with misdirection, framing shots and moments to jog fan memories. You think you know what’s going to happen, but then it’s something completely different. Over the top violence, linguistic jabs, emotional turmoil. The first five minutes is like a small demonstration of what’s to come.The story picks up a while later, as a group of friends goes up to the iconic cabin the woods. Their purpose? To help their friend, Mia, get over her problematic drug addiction. The group is comprised of Mia, her estranged brother David, their eccentric friend Paul, David’s girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore), and the self-appointed leader of the healing expedition,Olivia (Jessica Lucas).

The set up adds a nice motivation for the trip. All the characters are going to help their friend deal with a life-threatening issue. When a user goes cold turkey they become more paranoid, frantic, desperate, and afraid. The set-up would make any sign of possession easy to disregard as just as an effect of rehabilitation. The stakes are set early on , so the groups decision to stick out terrifying situations makes sense. It’s a clever premise that’s utilized properly.

However, unlike the original movie, this soft reboot struggles at establishing memorable moments for its characters, outside of just really gory sequences. The only interesting characters are the siblings because they get the lion’s share of characteristics and backstory. Their estrangement gives the relationship a sense of mystery which keeps us invested in figuring out what really happened between them. The most memorable sequences in the movie involve them because they’re the emotional core of the movie. They both have reasons to care about and be cautious of each other and the movie demonstrates that nuance properly. Granted, it’s not like I hated the other characters. I did like Pucci’s performance as Eric, but the story only starts to make use of his ability to be manic in the third act. Outside of that, every character feels like they exist just to be abused and disposed of by the script/ the ghosts that get summoned by the Necronomicon.

Speaking of which, the Necronomicon looks amazing and I love how much fun the team had in making and styling it. From the protective sealing around it, to the scrawled messages in it begging users not to use it, the book evokes a different sense of dread. In the original , the text is indecipherable/in another language , but here there are very clear visual cues.

Evil Dead – Page from the Necronomicon warning users not to touch it.

It makes the danger more apparent, but it also makes the decision to read it seem more absurd. The original gets away with it because the circumstances leading up to it are just an unfortunate result of the supernatural and the worst of peoples’ habits coming together with catastrophic consequences. It’s not that its the worst set up ever. It just feels messy. The character that ends up reading it is repeatedly shown to be a bit eclectic in matters about the occult. It just feels like if that’s the case, and they’re thereto help their paranoid friend suffering from withdrawal, that they would not say horrifying incantations. I can forgive it though, because it’s an Evil Dead movie and no curse means no fun.

That’s good, because the movie is a TON of fun. There’s a lot of love for the source material on display and you can tell that Alvarez understood how to adapt those original moments and update them for mainstream audiences today. The gore is even more over the top here and there are sequences that will leave your stomach queasy after watching. What makes these bloodbaths stand out is that they’re all done with practical effects. The horrifying applications of sharp material to flesh will chill viewers to their bone, and it makes sense when you realize it’s created via actual practical illusions and tricks. I love that they went the extra mile in selling the hyper-realism because it gives the franchise something completely different.

Now that I’ve said that, if you like the Evil Dead movies because they’re really funny, this movie may not be what you’re looking for. The movie attempts to replicate a lot of humor ,and to be fair to it, I did chuckle at some of the fast verbal lashings delivered by the deadites. My issue is just that the humor is few and far between. Most of the time it’s too fast or just feels like something edgy that should be funny but has no real meaning or weight. Though the movie can’t balance the its serious and comedic tones at the same time like Evil Dead 2,the way it handles its themes of overcoming addiction gives it something unique that the others don’t have. It’s also not chock full of fan service. Personally, I think it has just enough references to have older fans smiling, without focusing on them so much as to alienate brand new viewers. Its the golden amount.

If you’re looking for an Evil Dead movie that’s more related to the first movie in the franchise and are okay with/enjoy a more serious story-line, you should definitely check this out. I think one huge advantage this movie has is how easy it is to show to people who want to be scared by a horror movie. Aaron Morton did a great job at getting great shots and Bryan Shaw’s editing keeps tension high at all times. There are no lazy sequences and the supernatural events always feel like a threat. Jump scares are expected but get the job done and don’t feel cheap. Gory moments are actually hard to stomach (if you don’t like gore), and demonstrate real creativity in figuring out just how far to push the audience. Alvarez is a master at pacing so the movie always feels like its progressing towards some goal. When I first saw this movie, I was on my feet during the ending. Couldn’t believe how cool and aesthetic it all was.

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TLDREvil Dead is a great soft reboot that manages to tell the original’s classic story with enough twists to feel like its own creature. The film’s packed to the brim with gore and scares alike, so check it out even if you’re a horror fan not familiar with the franchise.
Rating9.4/10
GradeA

I’m writing something more involved about this piece, so I’ll save the spoiler thoughts for that.

Review: Evil Dead 2

Director(s)Sam Raimi
Principal CastBruce Campbell as Ash Williams
Denise Bixler as Linda
Sarah Berry as Annie Knowby
Release Date1987
Language(s)English
Running Time 84 minutes

If I’d have known how funny Evil Dead 2 was, I’m pretty sure I would’ve watched The Evil Dead a lot earlier. Somehow, Sam Raimi took everything good from the fist movie, removed the unnecessary clutter, slapped in some intriguing retcons, and amped the comedy up by a factor of bonker. The result is a one of a kind sequel that gives fans of the original everything they want and more , while feeling like its own story The scares are more interesting, the turns are completely out of left field, and the movie has a lot more fun with itself.

I knew the movie was going to be weird the moment the first scene started. The movie picks up on a “recap” of the events of the first movie, except this time everyone except Linda is missing. Missing as in Ash doesn’t even mention their existence.In his recounting, Ash explains that he went to the cabin for a romantic get-away with Linda (not the fun group bonding we were told in the first movie). Once there, a similar series of events lead to Dr.Knowby’s tape being played and the evil of the Necronomicon being summoned. Right off the bat, the movie forces the audience to come to its own conclusions. Did Ash experience so much trauma during the first movie, that his mind warped the perception of events to the most painful event he went through? Did burning the Necronomicon at the end of the first movie cause an alternative timeline where everyone else didn’t exist? It’s up to you to decide. After the”recap” concludes, Ash finds himself forced to once again deal with the hijinks of the cabin.

With each passing supernatural phenomena, Ash finds himself slipping, unable to differentiate between real events, his delusions, and the supernatural happenings. His experience and interaction with the world feels surreal. Ash is very clearly is experiencing some kind of trauma . Within the span of a day he’s lost his friends ( who may or may not exist), had to kill his girlfriend, been tossed around by supernatural happenings, experience a litany of physical injuries (many self inflicted through sheer clumsiness), and been incessantly mocked by deadlites. It’s enough to turn anyone bonkers, and Bruce Campbell proficiently demonstrates as much with his absurd and hilarious facial expressions. He constantly moves/messes with his eyes, eyebrows, and forehead making him feel unpredictable and energetic, like a switch has flipped in him that’s caused him to become a loose cannon. He really channels this raw chaotic neutral/good vibe that never slows down.

Ash’s (Bruce Campbell) crazy facial expression.

His descent into madness is equal parts terrifying and hilarious. This is a man who’s clearly lost control in his life. He didn’t sign up for any of this and awful things keep happening at breakneck speed forcing him to constantly fight for his life. Losing your mind on top of dealing with all of these issues sounds like hell, like an infinite void that will never let go. Thankfully, the whole experience comes off as a joke. As Ash loses his mind, he becomes more unhinged and cartoon like, going from a clumsy and sweet goof to bloodthirsty and confident. It’s not that the situations are any less serious. It’s just that the story lets you experience them without falling into some weird nihilism.

Everything you loved about the first movie look and feel wise is here and polished up. Fast paced camera chasing subject through the forest? Check. Chainsaw slashing through deadlite splattering blood everywhere? Check. Bruce Campbell’s eyebrows threatening to fight the enemy by themselves? Also check. The best part is all the effects have gotten even better and more polished. The practical effect work feels even smoother and works seamlessly. Possessions look more crisp and grounded as opposed to just nightmarish. My only issue is that ome of the stop-motion feels a bit choppy in the third act, but that’s a small complaint in the grand scheme of things.

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TLDREvil Dead 2 is honestly just one of those rare sequels that takes an winning formula and fine tunes it to near perfection. The comedic turn the franchise takes gives it a unique flavor and allows its horrifying elements to really shine. If you enjoyed the first movie and want to see more, check this out. It’s one of a kind.
Rating10/10
GradeA+

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: The Evil Dead

Director(s)Sam Raimi
Principal CastBruce Campbell as Ash Williams
Ellen Sandweiss as Cheryl Williams
Hal Delrich as Scott
Betsy Baker as Linda
Theresa Tilly as Shelly
Release Date1981
Language(s)English
Running Time 85 minutes

This is one of the few western horror movies I grew up watching, so it’s near and dear to my heart. As a naive middle school student, I believed the reviews online that said it was cheesy and corny. The word funny was thrown around everywhere, so I went in thinking I’d be laughing a lot. After the movie, I was left horrified. Nightmares for days on end. Tons of high pitched cackling involved. I refused to go near it again. Then the soft reboot, Evil Dead, was announced. It looked scary and intriguing and I was immediately reminded of the terrors of my not so distant youth. I decided then and there, that I had to get over the movie eventually and immediately went and saw The Evil Dead. The movie still scared me, but because I knew what was going to happen, I could view the events with a certainty.I could sit back and just watch the madness unfold. Now that I’m done a few rewatches, I can confidently say Sam Raimi’s low budget horror movie is one of the best ever made. It manages to scare me, intrigue me, impress me, and make me chuckle a few times every time I put it on.

The plot is campy if you look at it from today’s standards but you should keep in mind the movie came out back in the 80’s and was considered one of the scariest back then. It was ahead of its time and dared to go to some awful, depraved places. The story follows a group of five teenage friends – Ash, his sister Cheryl, his girlfriend Linda, their friend Scott, and Scott’s girlfriend, ,Shelly – as they go off to a cabin in the woods to party and enjoy themselves. From the moment they step foot in the area, things are off. When Scott goes to open the door, a swing repeatedly knocks into the wall of the house, almost as if another entity is trying to enter. Once our group opens the door, the knocking stops creating a sense of impending doom. After a series of events leads to an incantation from the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis , things quickly go south as malevolent supernatural entities come to play.

The movie is very much a story of an unfortunate group of “kids” who are only partially to blame for their situation. They barely have time to do anything because the action st arts almost immediately, and the actions they do end up taking are heavily influenced by the supernatural. It’s almost like they’re doomed into a situation. This is made all the worse because the story takes time to develop the characters, so watching them get tortured is hard. It’s a few moments here and there, but character motivations are fleshed out and almost everyone feels like they have a purpose in the story. Yes, the story is mainly about Ash, but that doesn’t mean everyone else just exists as a prop. The story makes use of these relationships to create horrifying, gut-wrenching, and comedic moments.

It’s easy to tell there are production issues. Yes, Raimi didn’t have a ton of money to spend to make this look realistic. So he doubles down on the absurdity of the situation and makes the action and horror sequences bloody, over the top, and disturbing all at the same time. Makeup is on point. It gets bloody and really shows the damage the supernatural events are having on the group. As evidenced by below, it can get pretty real.

Makeup is on point. The Deadites look absolutely horrific.

Embracing the over the top gore makes the movie both horrifying and comedic. The production issues feel like intentional ways of showcasing the absurdity of whatever is going on. In the face of absolutely nightmarish situations it makes so much sense to laugh, because taking it seriously would make you go crazy (which is more Evil Dead 2). The humor doesn’t come from overt jokes. It comes from the juxtaposition of ineptitude with the horrific nature of what’s going on. Bruce Campbell goes full klutz as Ash. He finds a way to fall or crash in every scene, and puts his full energy into each and every tumble. You can feel the incompetence seep out of him. Add on some crazy facial expressions with his distinctive eyebrows, and suddenly every situation becomes a bit funnier. The spirits haunting the cabin also have a sick sense of humor. They love laughing in horrific sounding cackles and joking about everyone’s darkest fears. They actually relish just making people suffer. It’s funny in the moment, but every time I stop and think about the reality of what’s going on, I shudder. There’s a lot of messed up stuff here that I laughed at because taking it seriously was too off-putting. One scene involving Cheryl has stuck with me ever since I saw it. I have no idea how it got in there, but if sexual assault scenes that are visceral in nature are too much for you, you might want to watch it with a buddy.

To add on to all of the visual splatter and horror, the movie employs a lot of surreal/abstract imagery. There are recurring motifs that are fun to track throughout the movie that have you questioning their real purpose. These scenes are my favorite because I love that weird ambiguous artsy stuff that has you analyzing and re-contextualizing constantly. There are some more obvious symbols/icons that are also used to great effect, so the movie manages to balance the abstract with the “grounded” really well. It lends to a well crafted horror movie that has scares for multiple groups of people.

The camera movement is also exceptional and highly effective. Raimi knows exactly when to do close-ups and every time he does one it feels purposeful. No movement ever feels wasted. When the supernatural force is hunting down the members of the group, the camera moves frantically showing it choosing its next victim. It’s almost like the air and everything around the cabin is tinged with a negativity that seeks to envelop everything.

Report Card

TLDRThe Evil Dead is a movie that manages to be hilariously over-the-top and horrifying at the same time. The humor is dark and absurd in nature and is used to counterbalance the violence and splatter-fests the movie ventures off into. If you can get over the “dated” feel and/or watch the movie as if it’s 1981, you’ll get swept up in one of the scariest horror movies made. A surreal nightmare turned black comedy.
Rating9.8/10
GradeA+

I’m writing something more involved about this piece, so I’ll save the spoiler thoughts for that.