Back in 2011, Ghost House Pictures’ announcement that they would be releasing a remake of their 80’s cult horror hit The Evil Dead brought on a rain of criticism, mostly from the movies’ loyal cult following. Audience fears were generally allayed by the announcement that Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Rob Tappert, all three co-producers of the original, would be co-producing and “deeply” involved with the remake. After that, a series of red-band trailers went viral and caused many a late-night TV viewer to have nightmares
I think we all carry that little nagging voice in the back of our minds that tells us that we aren’t good enough, we’re only fooling ourselves, everyone is out to get us or some such variety of self-doubt to various degrees of potency. Familiar takes that nagging voice and manifests it as a physical entity, in the fine Canadian tradition of Cronenberg’ian body horror. If only the pain and existential turmoil that plague us through our lives could be manifested physically so that we could purge it for good. It might be a hell of a lot easier than listening to it nagging at the back of our minds, second-guessing our every decision and acting as an introspective foe as it pushes us to act in ways that are seemingly contrary to our nature, but are likely our most honest primal instincts at work.
It can’t be easy living in the shadow of David Cronenberg. It’s a tall shadow, and a dark one; from it hang distorted limbs and grotesque growths, its blackness as representative of psychosexuality as the brooding depth of the human soul. It’s a shadow cast by a career made of macabre masterpieces, the very mention of that surname summoning to mind the multitude of iconic images therefrom bequeathed upon cinema. Antiviral, the feature debut of David’s son Brandon, is not the work of one man living in another’s shadow: the younger Cronenberg may draw on his father’s legacy in his own first film, but the end result is far more than simply a retreading of familial themes.
There is an obsessive, cultish hysteria surrounding the original Evil Dead trilogy. Very few film franchises have bred such a feverish fan base as that of the Deadites; it is as though the film its self was given license to possess the living. However, was the fanaticism born from the ferocious ingenuity of the splatter filled original, or was it congealed by the bonkers sequel with its unique take on slapstick horror? The answer seems clear when you realize no one quotes the original. All the classic lines: “Groovy”, “I’ll swallow your soul”, “Give me some sugar baby”, “This is my boom stick!” are from the later two films. Very rarely do you hear: “For god sake, what happened to her eyes!” or “Kill her if you can, loverboy”. This could be attributed to the fact the original film is less concerned with having fun and more interested in punishing the audience as sadistically as their little budget would allow. This overt mean-spiritedness makes for a film that’s less of a rip-roaring party and more of an intense attack on the senses that both rips and roars. What the remake of Evil Dead latched onto is this sense of unrelenting horror. All it wants is to make you squirm, scream and vomit, and it achieves all of these things admirably.
It’s almost mandatory that every landmark horror film be remade and modernized for a new generation; A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Thing, The Omen, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and countless others have been given the remake treatment. It was only a matter of time before they got to The Evil Dead. For remakes to stand on their own, they have to breathe a new life into the material, doing so in a way that makes it seem like they are unaware that what they’re doing has been done before. In Fede Alvarez’s feature debut Evil Dead, the movie is completely aware that what it’s doing has been done before.
The name of the game is experimentation, and the horror genre plays the game with oh so much glee. Seriously, you’ve got to give them props for not being afraid to try something new every once in a while. Last year brought us the release of V/H/S, the first anthology told through previously taped horror. The overall reception to it was mixed but the buzz about its attempt was strong enough to unite horror fans in its take (the sequel comes out later this year). So what other kind of concept could possibly bring together today’s current wave of new, eager-to-prove-themselves horror talents? Leave it to sickos—God bless them—to be inspired by children’s letter blocks.
The simple ghost story structure has been transformed into a compelling drama with jump scares. Sadly, the resulting film fails in fully satisfying either genre demands. You’ll either get a mediocre horror film or a mediocre dysfunctional family adventure depending on your inclination. It’s the risk one takes in birthing a hybrid. However, regardless of the outcome, the courageous breaking of form can stand alone as something to be commended… or at least a pat on the back is in order.
For as long as there have been films, there have been films mistrustful of the city. Cinema, after all, has since its birth been tied to modernity: the probing dissection of modern civilisation’s cornerstones is inherent in the medium’s every aspect. With the evolution of the city and the society it contains has come the evolution of its cinematic representation, from the dystopian sci-fi of Metropolis to the smoke-shrouded bleakness of film noir and beyond. Citadel, the feature debut of Irish writer/director Ciarán Foy, places the city in the frightening context of post economic crash. His protagonist is Tommy, a new father left agoraphobic in the wake of his wife’s death at the hands of demented inner-city youths, staunchly determined to escape the terror of his urban hell.
A constant niggling issue, albeit a relatively minor one, tied to the found footage film is the question of the finding: how has this footage reached our eyes; why are we seeing these often intimate, always horrific images? It’s not a question that need necessarily be answered by the film—the impetus of its horror, for instance, is of far greater concern—yet not doing so can detract from the faux-realism on which the aesthetic so desperately depends. After all, isn’t it the intent of found footage to break through the wall of assurance we find in thinking “it’s only a movie”?
Vampirism must be hell for a socialite. That’s the basic springboard from which Vamps, the latest film from writer/director Amy Heckerling, launches, proceeding swiftly to dress a Sex and the City style story of fun-loving gals in the familiar dress of vampiric tropes. Alicia Silverstone and Krysten Ritter are Goody and Stacy, young women “turned” in the 1840s and 1990s respectively, together learning to embrace this new life despite the latter’s ignorance of the former’s true age. Sworn off human feeding together with the others of their “Sanguines Anonymous” support group, the pair survive on the blood of rodents, until one of them strikes up a relationship with a young man by the name of Van Helsing.