Movie Review: “As Above So Below”

as-above-so-belowIf there’s any location on earth that deserves to be a horror movie setting, it’s the Catacombs of Paris. Miles of tunnels wind beneath the surface of the city, filled with six million corpses, dead ends, flooded areas, dead drops, and more. While a small section is open for public tours, the vast majority of these tunnels is available only to extreme risk-takers who are willing to break the law and venture deep into the dangerous underground. Battery dies on your flashlight? You’re dead. Run out of water? Dead. Lose your way after a cave in? Lost and, eventually, dead.

Seriously, tell me there’s a scarier place on earth.

Therein lies the appeal of low-budget found-footage horror film, As Above So Below. And while it uses the catacombs to creepy effect, it doesn’t quite manage to live up to its horrific promise.

The movie starts slowly after a prologue in a cave system in Iran. The main character, Scarlett, is a fearless woman who has multiple doctorates, speaks six languages, and has a black belt. Oh, and she’s also an alchemy expert seeking the legendary Philosopher’s Stone.

Some clues lead her to believe that the stone may be hidden in the catacombs, so she gets a crew together and they descend. There are some truly tense moments here that will make anyone with even mild claustrophobia squirm. Early into the tunnels, they find an entrance to a “bad place,” from which no one has ever returned. Of course, they end up having to go in. Otherwise we wouldn’t have a movie.

That’s when the creepy stuff starts happening. But… that’s sort of all it is. Generic creepy stuff. Exactly the kind of stuff you’d expect the be lurking in the background of dark tunnels. And then of course there’s a ringing phone, a dusty piano, a burning car… you know, horror movie stuff. We encounter some interesting mythology, including a cool riff on the “as above, so below” saying when the world seemingly turns upside-down. I think they could have done more with that, actually. I also don’t think I’m really spoiling anything when I say they find the entrance to Hell (really, who saw that coming?) and of course it bears the inscription, “Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here.”

This is where the movie loses all logic and descends into pure visual madness. There is little explanation for most of the things we encounter, and a lot of shaky-cam to obscure what’s actually going on. My guess is they used that because even the filmmakers weren’t quite sure.

So despite all the creepiness, which was, in fact, pretty well-done, I had a few beefs:

What’s the point of having this be a search for the Philosopher’s Stone? I realize they had to have some reason to go digging around at the bottom of the catacombs, but I’m not sure this narrative thread held up too well. Especially the wishy-washy direction it eventually goes in.

Why is there an inscription in Aramaic that, when translated, just so happens to rhyme perfectly in English? Seriously. That’s not how language works. Words that rhyme in one language won’t rhyme in another. Take “bug” and “rug,” for example. In Spanish, that’s “bicho” and “alfombra.” See? They don’t rhyme. I really couldn’t get past this, probably because they keep repeating bits of the stupid rhyme throughout the movie. For someone who speaks six languages, you’d think Scarlett might have questioned that.

Is it creepy, though? Yes. If you have any interest in the catacombs, I’d recommend it for the cool setting alone. But if you’re looking for a brilliant horror movie, this probably isn’t it. Oh well. We can always reserve our hopes for The Pyramid, which looks basically like As Above So Below 2, but in Egypt.

FINAL VERDICT

Plot / Originality: 4 out of 10 broken piano keys

Acting: 6 out of 10 broken piano keys

Visuals: 8 out of 10 broken piano keys

Music: 7 out of 10 broken piano keys

Script: 4 out of 10 broken piano keys

Scare Factor: 7 out of 10 broken piano keys

Overall: 6 out of 10 broken piano keys

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Book Review: “The Grand Hotel”

The Grand HotelScott Kenemore, king of zombie literature, has ventured into new territory with his latest novel, The Grand Hotel—and boy, does he do it in style. The author of The Zen of Zombie as well as a state-themed zombie series, which so far includes Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana, has proven his skills at creating unique, engaging tales of the undead. But he debuts a new kind of story with The Grand Hotel: one with a unique form, a clever narration, and complex ideas that will stick with you long after you “check out” of this mysterious hotel.

Rarely does a book manage to pull off that quirky space between “novel” and “short story collection,” but The Grand Hotel encompasses the best of both these formats. Our narrator, the front desk clerk at the eponymous hotel, introduces us to the setting through his guided tour. We feel part of the tour group as we are led from room to room, at which point the narrator introduces a new character with an intriguing story to tell.

The interconnected stories, though different in their content, create a narrative thread invoking curiosity, questions of morality, and the supernatural. Some of the highlights include a sci-fi tale about a mission to Mars, an encounter that brings to mind Lovecraft’s Deep Ones, a brilliant mash-up reality show that combines cooking with ghost hunting, and the story of a violist and the bizarre trees from which her instrument was crafted.

At no point does the narrative drag. Each story is just as engaging, surreal, and interesting as the last, and the journey of the tour group invites the reader to wonder what the connections are between each story—an idea that is cleverly injected into the overarching narrative by means of a curious library. This is truly a story about storytelling, a narrative that explores narratives, and a must-read for anyone interested in this most noble and ancient linguistic art.

As a horror novel, The Grand Hotel delivers plenty of creepiness. Along with the perfect setting of a moldering, ancient hotel, there are ghosts, demons, dead bodies, and all manner of unnamed and unnerving occurrences to keep you spooked but thirsting for more. And the final eerie tale brings everything together in a surprising and satisfying conclusion.

Several days after finishing it, I’m still thinking about this book—and discovering clues and layers I hadn’t noticed before. I’m also interested, now, in looking into a story cycle from ancient India that partially inspired the book. Already, The Grand Hotel has become a favorite of mine.

Scott Kenemore’s The Grand Hotel is available October 14, 2014. I suggest you run, don’t walk, to grab a copy. You can find The Grand Hotel right here on Amazon!

Find more at the author’s website, http://scottkenemore.com/.

Movie Review: “Oculus”

OculusWho would have thought a horror movie about a mirror would turn out to be a unique narrative with surprising twists and turns? Not someone who’s seen the 2008 flop, Mirrors, let me tell you. Color me pleasantly surprised by Oculus, the story of a demonic mirror with the ability to bend reality.

Though the movie starts off slowly, it does a great job introducing the characters, who feel authentic and understandable for all their quirks. Eleven years after a tragedy that left their mother mutilated and murdered, brother and sister Tim and Kaylie reunite in their old home. Tim has spent this time incarcerated, while Kaylie has become an obsessive-compulsive supernatural expert intent on destroying the old mirror that once resided in their father’s office.

The narratives of what happened to the siblings as children and what is happening to them now as adults run parallel… at first. Usually I’ve got this kind of narrative pinned down from the start: we’ll see the two stories play back and forth, both simultaneously reaching their climaxes (I’m talking about the stories, guys), and emphasizing the outcome of the adult scenario as a means of overcoming what they failed to accomplish the first time around.

What we get, instead, is an intricate, singular story in which the two narratives twist into one another. Time comes undone. The actions of the present somehow transform into and affect the actions of the past, and vice versa. Somehow, Tim and Kaylie seem to be simultaneously children and adults.

This works to great effect in a story wherein the characters go insane around a possessed mirror, experiencing delusions that make it impossible to tell what is real. This unique type of narrative takes the viewer along for the ride, creating the same unsettling loss of reality for the audience. It’s tricky to pull off because eventually that audience might stop caring about what’s happening, if they can’t tell what’s real.  Oculus, however, manages to retain a great deal of suspense; in fact, not knowing what’s real ends up being an important plot point that leads to a particularly horrific finale.

Katee Sackoff will spend a good chunk of the movie freaking you out.

Katee Sackoff will spend a good chunk of the movie freaking you out.

Aside from that, the movie is saturated with a creeping dread and some truly eerie visuals that will keep you as far away from mirrors as the last time you watched Candyman. If you want to see a unique, surreal psychological horror flick, Oculus should be at the top of your list.

FINAL VERDICT

Plot / Originality: 10 out of 10 haunted mirrors

Acting: 9 out of 10 haunted mirrors

Visuals: 8 out of 10 haunted mirrors

Music: 6 out of 10 haunted mirrors

Script: 8 out of 10 haunted mirrors

Scare Factor: 7 out of 10 haunted mirrors

Overall: 8 out of 10 haunted mirrors

Book Review: “A Winter Haunting”

A Winter HauntingAbout a year after I read Dan Simmons’ Summer of Night, I’ve finally gotten around to picking up the sequel, A Winter Haunting. “Sequel” is a sort of interesting term for it, since I’m not sure you even need to have read Summer of Night to appreciate this psychological ghost story.

A Winter Haunting is a completely different kind of book from its predecessor. While the first book was a lengthy, raucous tale of boyhood, monsters under the bed, creatures at the school, and disbelieving adults, the second book is the quiet, internal story of a haunted man passing middle age who is trying to understand the trajectory of his own life.

Dale Stewart, the protagonist from the first book, takes center stage again here—but it is the narrator who provides most of the insight into his thoughts, his attempted suicide, his possible psychosis, and his failed love life. The narrator in question is Duane, the boy genius who dies in the first book. Here he is played as an omniscient abstraction who is able to see Dale’s life better than Dale himself.

Having decided to spend his sabbatical back in Elm Haven, the town where he grew up, Dale heads to Illinois for the winter. What’s more, he has decided to stay in the old farmhouse where Duane lived and died, in order to grieve his old friend and to provide inspiration for the novel he is writing about that summer of 1960.

That’s when the ghosts start popping up. Simmons masterfully delivers the creepiness, and he does it in a way that leaves you wondering what’s real, what’s in Dale’s head, and what’s supernatural. This, along with his beautiful prose and brilliant use of a dead narrator, provides the story an eerie, unsettling atmosphere that is perfect for a chilly winter at an abandoned farmhouse.

A much simpler, straightforward narrative than the sometimes meandering and chaotic first novel, this one still carries many layers of complexity in its themes and characters, revealing painful truths about life, aging, potential, and human connection.

It’s also peppered with classic literary references like Henry James and Beowulf, Old English, Egyptian worship, philosophy, and proof that our young dead narrator knows more about writing than even seasoned writers and academics.

FINAL VERDICT

Storyline: 9 out of 10 ghosts from the past

Characters: 9 out of 10 ghosts from the past

Originality: 8 out of 10 ghosts from the past

Writing Style: 10 out of 10 ghosts from the past

Scare Factor: 7 out of 10 ghosts from the past

Overall: 8 out of 10 ghosts from the past

Feminist Horror in “You’re Next”

You're NextFebruary is Women in Horror month, so it was a good thing I decided to watch You’re Next by director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett. What starts out as yet another home invasion/slasher movie effortlessly switches directions, taking the Final Girl trope to a badass extreme. Part John Carpenter, part Wes Craven, part R-rated Home Alone, You’re Next is a pleasant surprise and a hell of a good time.

The movie begins with a family reunion* meant to celebrate the parents’ 35th wedding anniversary. All three sons and one daughter, as well as their significant others, arrive at a secluded mansion in the forest. Petty bickering ensues. Just as these opening scenes begin to drag, several men in animal masks show up to terrorize the family, their dinner now interrupted by chaos and silly amounts of screaming.

There is one character, however, on which we begin focusing more and more: Erin, the Australian girlfriend of one of the brothers. She is the only one who reacts to the situation with some kind of sense, rather than senseless wailing. While the others freak out, she starts locking down the house, gathering weapons from the kitchen drawers, and setting up traps.

As it turns out, Erin was raised on a survivalist compound. Now, what should be a simple, good old-fashioned family slaughter turns into a nightmare… for the killers. That’s right. Guess what, killers? YOU’RE NEXT!

you're next sharnie

I knew this was a winner when I started shouting at the killers, “Watch out! She’s gonna fuck you up!”

Sharni Vinson, who plays Erin, has some truly gruesome and fantastic scenes during which she unleashes her fighting and survival skills on the assailants. One cool, well-shot scene involves using a flashing camera in the dark. Another involves a blender.

While strong female characters can be found in horror movies, most often the Final Girl survives simply by virtue of being the female lead. Slasher movies subsist on the viewer’s titillation in watching this female suffer, survive mostly through luck rather than her own merits, and slash knives impotently through the air while blubbering uncontrollably into the attacker’s face. Erin delivers something fresh here: a Final Girl who doesn’t run around like a headless chicken but instead takes matters into her own hands and acts like a hero. She’s a little like Dana from The Cabin in the Woods blended with the badassery of the cave divers from The Descent.

More often, male leads are the heroes, while female leads in horror films are portrayed as the victims. This creates a serious power inequality, which is reinforced again and again in popular films. Erin may be physically injured and traumatized throughout the course of You’re Next, but it is clear that she is hero rather than victim, and she alone earns her survival.

While following in the horror tropes that it seeks simultaneously to satirize, You’re Next ends up being both unflinchingly brutal and darkly funny. I found myself thrilled watching this reversal of power dynamics and gender roles, and I’d love to see what the guys behind You’re Next come up with next.

*Caveat: before the family reunion gets going, the very first scene of the movie is a sex scene. Why? After seeing the movie, I assume it’s tongue-in-cheek. Don’t worry, though. It only lasts about 3 unsatisfying seconds.

Book Review: “This Book Is Full of Spiders (Seriously, Dude, Don’t Touch It)”

Book Review This Book is Full of SpidersIn 2009, the editor of popular humor/news/oddities website Cracked.com, David Wong, published a hodgepodge of zany supernatural misadventures in the form of John Dies at the End, which started as a serialized internet phenomenon and turned into a long, uneven, but ultimately hilarious and entertaining novel.

Enter the sequel: This Book Is Full of Spiders (Seriously, Dude, Don’t Touch It). And, unlike, the misleading title of the first book, I can assure you that, yes, this book is filled with spiders.

Dave and John, the supernatural-fighting, dimension-hopping, dick-joking duo, once again find themselves at the center of an otherworldly mystery when Dave experiences all of our own worst nightmares come to life: there is a nest of parasitic spiders that hatches from his bed, invisible to all but him and his buddy John. What do these spiders do? Well, I’m glad you asked. They inject you with a paralytic venom before climbing in your mouth, controlling your brain, and restructuring your DNA.

Since no one else can see the spiders, the people of John and Dave’s hometown, referred to as Undisclosed (for security reasons), decide it has been overrun by zombies. What follows, while still retaining the absurdist charm of the original, is a surprisingly realistic and even chilling look at how the government might deal with a zombie outbreak. A mysterious government agency shows up, blocks off the town, quarantines a bunch of non-infected people, and plans to wipe it off the face of the map.

Any potential realism ends there, as we get knee-deep in spider parasites, monsters that climb up your butthole (and push your intestines out your mouth, yummy!), guns that warp reality, drugs that stop time, and shadow people who exist in the space between moments.

The narrative here is far more coherent than John Dies at the End, and while it’s a sizable novel, it clips along at a fast pace, making it easy to breeze through in a couple of days. Whereas JDatE may leave you wanting less, Spiders actually left me wanting more. Because of the singular focus of the plot, I found myself missing the wild diversity of bizarre adventures from the first book. Still, Spiders does, in the end, work much better as a cohesive novel, and provides a more streamlined story while still being as gross, gory, and funny as you’d hope.

Plus, there’s a fantastic moment when a bunch of townspeople, in order to be seen from the air, shape themselves into a giant… well, I’ll just let you read the book to find out.

Book Review: “Hot Sinatra”

hot-sinatra-front cover6Axel Howerton is truly a master of tongue-in-cheek humor, and he delivers in spades with the hard-boiled noir comedy, Hot Sinatra. If you don’t know Howerton, you’ve clearly not spent enough time in the horror blogosphere: he is the leader of the annual Halloween extravaganza called Coffin Hop, as well as the author of the darkly comedic story, “Living Dead at Zigfreidt & Roy.”

Hot Sinatra follows old-school private investigator, Mossimo Cole, a sarcastic tough guy who’s really a bit of a teddy bear at heart. Things go south for Cole when an elderly client asks him to find his one-of-a-kind record featuring the only time Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald sang together. Turns out this record is highly sought-after, as mobsters come after Cole, delivering some serious beatings that he takes like a champ.

The love interest in this updated noir tale of revenge and jazz is a fiery redhead who also happens to be the daughter of Cole’s grumpy old client. She and her young daughter get caught up in the danger and intrigue as Cole struggles to uncover the mystery of the record, upping the stakes as he tries to save not only his own skin, but also the lives of his ladies.

A zany cast of characters comes to call, including an alcoholic Irish rockstar, a grandmother-slash-drug cartel queen, and a pair of gay henchmen who go by the names Manlove and Kickerdick. It’s through these characters that Axel’s talent really shines: he paints a canvas of believable, equally loveable and hateable characters whose lives tangle and unravel around one another. I laughed out loud at their shenanigans, and I suspect you will, too.

Axel’s prose zings with a sharp wit that seems to come effortlessly to him, and if you’ve read a couple of his works, you’ll find an amazing versatility in his writing. Axel Howerton truly makes the small press proud, delivering the kind of excellence you always hope to find when picking up a new book. Hot Sinatra is a snappy read that will keep you engaged until the last page, and then leave you wanting more. I hope we haven’t seen the last of Mossimo Cole, but even if his story is over, at least we know we haven’t seen the last of Axel Howerton. I, for one, can’t wait to see what he cooks up next.

Movie Review: The Conjuring (2013)

the-conjuring-posterOh, how I wanted to like The Conjuring. It’s got a traditional haunted house setting, ripe for ghostly creepiness. It’s got James Wan. Hell, it’s got Vera Farmiga, who’s had a number of enjoyable roles in horror films. It’s even got a pretty effective atmosphere going for much of it. But it has about zero originality.

The film opens with what I found to be the creepiest part of the whole thing: a video detailing the case of a freaky-looking doll who is terrorizing a couple of nurses at their apartment. The case, we learn, is a previous one of Ed and Lorraine Warren, two real life paranormal investigators who have made cameos in various books and movies, and who become the stars of The Conjuring.

From there, we meet a family of seven as they move into a rustic house in the country big enough to shelter all five of the couple’s daughters. As you might imagine, strange things begin happening: the clocks all stop at 3:07 am, they find a boarded-up spiderweb-covered cellar, and thumping noises wake them in the middle of the night. Yadda yadda. Nothing new here. At times creepy, but extremely par for the course in any haunted house offering doled out by Hollywood.

the-conjuring music box

Also, a creepy music box with a clown in it. I feel like this belongs in the cellar from The Cabin in the Woods.

Once the haunting sufficiently terrifies the family, it’s time to call in the paranormal investigators. Enter Ed and Lorraine: interesting characters who are well portrayed, but ultimately detrimental to the mood initiated by the family’s victimization by an unnamed force. As soon as they arrive at the house and set up their equipment, some of the mystery and intrigue disappears. We feel safer, somehow, because the experts are here to save the day.

The unhappy clan is joined by a skeptical police officer who is there to oversee the proceedings. This character provides the obligatory “convert the skeptic” subplot that all demon possession movies must include. For they immediately determine that this supposed haunting is, in fact, a demon possession—not even close to a surprise, when the revelation comes.

Which leads us to the quandary: how many religion-based possession movies do we really need in our lives?

Come quick! I just realized we're stuck in a rehash of old horror tropes!

Help! I just realized we’re stuck in a rehash of old horror tropes!

The problem with so many horror movies about possession is that they limit themselves to things that are only scary to people with particular religious beliefs. In an increasingly secular world, let’s face it: we just aren’t as scared as we used to be of demons and other religious horrors. The mantra of these movies inevitably becomes the idea that we can only fight evil via the power of God, which immediately alienates anyone who doesn’t share this belief. At this point, the mystery is gone, and with it, the fear: we know what it is, and we know how to stop it. Once you introduce God into the narrative, you’re operating on a Deus ex machina where logic need not apply, and the only way to solve your problem is with crosses and holy water.

I doubt I’m the only nonreligious person who feels left out of these kinds of movies, because not only do I feel no sense of fear from them, but I also find it hard to root for the good guys, who tell everyone that they will only be saved if they believe in God. They play with the viewer like they play with the token skeptic who must necessarily be converted by the end of the film. I’m not totally against religion in horror, but look, can’t we do something different for once? Aren’t there any other religions aside from Catholicism with the potential for creepy shit? Something aside from the traditional ideas of God and Satan?

Maybe I went into this one with my hopes too high.

I understand that this movie is “based on the true story” of one of Ed and Lorraine’s investigations—but that’s no excuse for its lack of creativity. This is a mundane film: all of its tropes have been done to death time and again. I think it’s time we exorcise from Hollywood its treasured notions of exorcism, because it’s getting old. Pretty much every exorcism movie after The Exorcist has been lame and extraneous. The Conjuring is, sadly, no exception.

FINAL VERDICT

Plot / Originality: 3 out of 10 mysterious music boxes

Acting: 7 out of 10 mysterious music boxes

Visuals: 7 out of 10 mysterious music boxes

Music: 6 out of 10 mysterious music boxes

Script: 5 out of 10 mysterious music boxes

Scare Factor: 6 out of 10 mysterious music boxes

Overall: 5.5 out of 10 mysterious music boxes

Book Review: “Summer of Night”

Summer of NightAs someone who adores Stephen King’s IT, I was immediately drawn into Dan Simmons’ world in Summer of Night, with its group of kids who realize they are the only ones who can stop an ancient evil from destroying their small Illinois town.

The first thing we’re introduced to is Old Central: a school with much history that is about to be torn down. When summer begins, so do strange occurrences centering around the school, including the disappearance of a student and a horrific sighting one of the boys makes through the window of the school, involving their dead teacher.

Simmons fully immerses us in this world before he sets loose the chaos, letting us know who the boys are and what life is like in Elm Haven without loosening any of the tension already in place—the mark of a great horror writer. It is perhaps because Simmons is drawing from his own childhood in the real-life Elm Haven, as well as from his childhood friends for the characters, that the novel fully comes to life; nevertheless, the imaginative and fantastical elements do just as much to drive the story.

When one of the boys uncovers the shrouded history of the Borgia Bell—an ancient relic connected with murder and said to be in the closed-off belfry of Old Central—the disturbances in town focus their attention on him. The others must figure out the truth, which certain adults are keeping from them, before the evil comes after them, too. Said “evil” includes the Rendering Truck, which Van Syke (school janitor and cemetery caretaker) uses to haul dead animals; a ghostly soldier in outdated attire; and mysterious underground tunnels created by many-toothed lamprey-like creatures.

This book is rich, layered, complex—but also just a little too long, in my opinion. For much of the novel, the pacing keeps you right along with all of the characters as they try to solve the mystery, but there were times in the middle where it dragged just a touch. There are a few times when the boys come up with some sort of plan, but the reader is not privy to it before it is set into motion. That made me feel deliberately left out of the loop, and wondering why I cared about the scene if I didn’t know what it was they were trying to accomplish. But these are minor issues that hardly take away from the whole.

And the whole is a truly entertaining and well-written horror novel. The characters are engaging and realistically-drawn; the setting of the small 1960s Midwestern town is pitch-perfect; and it all climbs its way towards a violent, action-filled, tense climax with plenty of horror to go around. I admit, I was just a little disappointed by the final revelation of the ancient evil—I think, after the buildup of mystery, I was hoping to know more about the nature of the evil—but there are bad guys aplenty to thwart the boys at every turn, and the ending is satisfying.

Despite my minor quibbles, I enjoyed this one a lot, and I’m planning on reading the sequel, A Winter Haunting at some point in the future.

FINAL VERDICT

Storyline: 8 out of 10 giant lampreys

Characters: 10 out of 10 giant lampreys

Originality: 8 out of 10 giant lampreys

Writing Style: 9 out of 10 giant lampreys

Scare Factor: 8 out of 10 giant lampreys

Overall: 8.5 out of 10 giant lampreys

Movie Review: “Evil Dead” 2013

evil_dead_2013-posterI’m just going to get this out of the way first: I’m not really a fan of the original Evil Dead (I know, blasphemy!). Evil Dead 2 is good fun, and Army of Darkness has the hilarity, but I always felt like Sam Raimi was actually trying to make a horror movie the first time around, rather than a parody, and that the franchise simply spiraled in that direction when people found the first one absurd (which it is). This is just my opinion.

So, fast-forward thirty-two years to the new remake. Eschewing the low-budget effects of the original, the remake looks like the high-quality 2013 movie that it is, complete with excruciatingly realistic effects and enough gore to suppress your appetite for a week. And though it relies primarily on shock value, the shocks are good—some scenes had even this horror veteran cringing in disgust. But does it hold up to the original, or, for that matter, to today’s standards?

Yes and no.

Despite some seriously over-the-top moments (raining blood?) and some obvious nods to the original (Lost hand? Check. Chainsaw? You better believe it), the 2013 remake was surprisingly humorless. More of a straight-up horror in the splatterpunk vein, the movie delivers every gruesome moment with sincerity and adrenaline. The type of horror that this movie inhabits is not one of creeping, insidious possibilities or subtle, haunting moments: it’s the kind that makes your skin crawl because of how horrifyingly gross and sometimes sadistic it can be. In this way, it is scary—though not, perhaps, the type of “scary” that usually draws me in. Still, that scene with the nail gun was pretty gross-tastic.

As was this chick, who decided it was about time to cut her face off.

As was this chick, who decided it was about time to cut her face off.

On the whole, it’s a good movie. It’s entertaining, will make you jump, and has some truly visceral imagery. It retains many plot elements from the original, right down to the cellar entrance, and it attempts to give its standard young adult characters some personality before it slices them to bits. We even have some semblance of a plotline outside of the simple horror device, as we arrive at the cabin for an intervention for a girl who has OD’d on drugs too many times. Her brother, who was never there for her, tries to resume a place in her life, while her friends try to get her clean. Drugs and horror go well together: there’s that terrible unknown in terms of supernatural events. Is it real, or is it just a drug-induced hallucination? They don’t play on this too much, though, because everyone already knows what’s going on. We’ve seen the original.

evil-dead5

The main problem with this movie is that, once it was over, I was left thinking… so what? What was the point to any of that? I was entertained, but was left shrugging and immediately moving on to something else. Obviously slasher movies do not exist to make you think, but I have a hard time resolving the fact that this movie came out after The Cabin in the Woods.

For me, The Cabin in the Woods was a game-changer in the horror/slasher genre—more specifically in the young-adults-go-to-a-creepy-cabin-in-the-woods-and-are-picked-off-by-the-undead. This is literally the exact premise of The Evil Dead, right down to the moment when you scream at the characters not to read the freaking Latin. This kind of movie coming out in 1981 makes sense. The ‘70s and ‘80s were, after all, the height of slasher horror. But in 2013, when we’ve had  a meta parody that turns this particular plot on its head, and does so in a thought-provoking and hilarious manner? After that, I sort of wonder if it’s even possible to do a simple teens-in-the-woods movie anymore. It’s done, it’s over, it’s dead. Move on. I’m not sure there’s a place for it here in this rapidly changing 21st century where we are constantly questioning old tropes and reinventing genres.

Is The Evil Dead remake a bad movie? No, I’ve seen far, far worse. Is it an entertaining, gory romp? Of course. Is it worth a watch for horror fans and, especially, Evil Dead aficionados? Duh. But, at the end of the day, does it offer anything new to the horror genre? No. But I’ll probably see the sequel anyway.

(On a side note, I’m curious about them remaking Evil Dead 2—which was itself a remake, of sorts, of the original. So will this be a remake of a remake of a remake?)

Unless you have a weak stomach, you probably won’t regret watching it. But you also probably won’t see a point in ever watching it again.

FINAL VERDICT

Plot: 4 out of 10 bloody Necronomicon pages

Acting: 5 out of 10 bloody Necronomicon pages

Visuals: 9 out of 10 bloody Necronomicon pages

Music: 8 out of 10 bloody Necronomicon pages

Script: 6 out of 10 bloody Necronomicon pages

Scare Factor: 9 out of 10 bloody Necronomicon pages

Overall: 6.5 out of 10 bloody Necronomicon pages