Sundance Film Review: I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore (dir by Macon Blair)


(With the Sundance Film Festival currently taking place in Colorado, I am currently reviewing films that originally made a splash at Sundance!)

This is a sad story.

I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore created quite a stir when it premiered at Sundance last year.  It may be hard to believe but, for a brief while, this film has just as much Sundance buzz as both Mudbound and Get Out.  It even won the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize, which has helped to launch many independent films into the public consciousness.

So, why isn’t I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore a better known film?

Unfortunately, the distribution rights for this film were purchased by Netflix.  With very little fanfare and, as far as I can tell, not even the briefest of theatrical releases, Netflix started streaming I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore on February 24th.  With Netflix putting most of its promotional muscle behind Mudbound, I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore has been somewhat overlooked.  You can watch it, of course.  You can go on Netflix and you’ll find it sitting there with Sandy Wexler and maybe a Uwe Boll dragon movie.  Obviously, some distribution is better than no distribution and I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore is probably too quirky of a movie to have ever set the box office on fire but still, it’s hard not to feel that this movie deserved better.

It tells the story of Ruth (Melanie Lynesky), a nursing assistant who is having a bad day.  One her patients dies.  She has to deal with an elderly racist.  She gets stuck in traffic and can only watch helplessly as a truck spews toxic exhaust into the environment.  When she stops off at a bar and tries to read book, a stranger casually tells her how the it ends.  As you can guess from the film’s title, this is not the world in which Ruth wants to live.  While she’s not the type to demand perfection, would it kill people to be just a little bit considerate?

Things get even worse when Ruth returns home and discovers that someone has broken into her house.  Whoever it was didn’t get away with much, just some medication, some silverware, and Ruth’s laptop.  The police are indifferent and basically blame Ruth, telling her that it’s her own fault for leaving her door unlocked.  Her neighbors are even less helpful, all claiming that they didn’t see anyone breaking into Ruth’s house.  No one seems to care.

No one but Tony.

Tony (who is played by Elijah Wood) is one of Ruth’s neighbors.  He likes to listen to heavy metal music.  He likes to work out.  He claims to be an expert in martial arts.  We’ve all known someone like Tony.  However, it turns out that Tony is the only person as upset about the break-in as Ruth is.

Tony and Ruth work together to try to track down Ruth’s stuff.  It starts out fairly simple but then gets progressively more complicated (and violent) as things go on.  Ruth and Tony become unlikely heroes.  (In one of the film’s more memorable moments, Ruth witnesses a sudden burst of violence and reacts by throwing up.)  The world may tell Ruth and Tony that they should just accept things the way that they are but Ruth and Tony aren’t willing to do that…

I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore was directed by Macon Blair, who previously starred in the thematically similar Blue Ruin.  It’s not a perfect film, of course.  There are a few uneven moments but, overall, the film is strong enough that I can’t wait to see what Blair follows it up with.  The best thing about the film is that it provides lead roles to Melanie Lynesky and Elijah Wood, two quirky and appealing actors who rarely seem to get the parts that they really deserve.  As played by Lynesky and Wood, both Ruth and Tony are so likable and sincere in their desire to make the world a better place that you can’t help but wish the best for both of them.

I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore is a good film and definitely one that deserves more attention than it’s received.  It’s on Netflix so, the next time you’re trying to decide what to watch, why not take a chance on it?

Previous Sundance Film Reviews:

  1. Blood Simple

TV Review: Twin Peaks: The Return Part 5 (dir by David Lynch)


Well, there’s one thing that you can definitely say for sure about not only Twin Peaks but also about every other film that David Lynch has ever made.  (And make no mistake — they may be calling this the third season of Twin Peaks but it’s obviously meant to be more of an 18-hour film than a traditional television series.)  Lynch moves at his own pace.  He knows where he’s going but, often, he doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to get there.

And, quite frankly, that can sometimes to be frustrating.  David Lynch requires patience on the part of the viewer and a willingness to have faith in his ability as an artist.  To a certain extent, the modern world almost seems to be set up to make things as difficult as possible for an artist like David Lynch.  We’re used to things being fast-paced.  We’re used to having immediate (if superficial) answers to any and all questions.  In a time when movies are dominated by hyperactive editing and overwhelming soundtracks, David Lynch has the courage to portray moments of silence and stillness.  It’s what sets him apart from other filmmakers.  It’s also the reason why this critically acclaimed director has always struggled to get his films made.  In 41 years, David Lynch has had ten films theatrically released.  Michael Bay directed his first film twenty years after the release of Eraserhead and he has gone to direct twelve more.

Part 5 of Twin Peaks is a perfect example of Lynch’s deliberate pace.  As I watched it, I found myself occasionally saying, “When is Cooper going to get normal again!?”  I mean, Kyle MacLachlan is doing great work as Dougie/Cooper but how many more times am I going to have to watch him get confused over the need to urinate?  That’s a joke that’s getting old.

Yes, I was frustrated.

But here’s the thing:

As frustrated as I may be by the whole Dougie/Cooper situation, I’m not going anywhere.  I trust David Lynch and, throughout Part 5, there were scenes that reminded me of why I trust David Lynch.  The man is a genius.  I’m thinking of the three women in pink nonchalantly watching as the casino pit boss got beaten.  I’m thinking of the close-up on Amanda Seyfried’s face after she snorted the cocaine.  I’m thinking of Russ Tamblyn ranting.

I will follow David Lynch anywhere.

As for Part 5, it opened with Lynch’s camera prowling through the streets of Las Vegas, a city that seems especially Lynchian.

Out at the Rancho Rosa Development, the two hitmen who were sent to kill Dougie are still sitting outside of the deserted house that Dougie used for his lost weekend with Jade.  They’re watching Dougie’s car.  One of them calls a woman and tells her that they still haven’t seen Dougie.  She does not take the news well.  She sends a message to Argentina, where it is apparently received by a black box sitting in a basin.

In South Dakota, the coroner has found something in the stomach of the body that was found underneath the head of Ruth Davenport.  It’s a gold ring, one that has an inscription: “To Destiny, With Love, James C.”  (I’ve listened to the line about the inscription about a dozen times and I’m pretty sure that’s what the coroner said.  If I’m wrong, please let me know.)

(CORRECTION: According to Dylan Lange, host of Dylan Knows, the inscription read: To Dougie With Love, Janey-E.  Thank you, Dylan! — LMB)

In his prison cell, Doppelganger Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) stares at himself in his cell’s tiny mirror.  He flashes back to the time he and Killer BOB shared a laugh in the Black Lodge.  He sees himself smashing his face into the mirror at the Great Northern.

In Twin Peaks, we are reintroduced to Mike Nelson (Gary Hershberger), who was Bobby’s best friend and fellow drug dealer during the first two seasons of Twin Peaks.  (He eventually became Nadine’s boyfriend during the time that she had amnesia and thought she was 16.)  Mike is a grown-up, suit-wearing professional now, sitting in an office that is decorated with the mounted heads of dead deer.  Mike is conducting a job interview with Steve Burnett (Caleb Landry Jones), who appears to be a real loser.  Mike informs Steve that his resume is the worst resume that he’s ever seen and then kicks him out of the office.

At the Sheriff’s Department, Doris Truman (Candy Clark) comes by to yell at Frank (Robert Forster) about something.  Honestly, I kinda tuned out this scene and I hope that Doris doesn’t become a major character.  If anything, Frank is even more laconic than his brother.

Back in Las Vegas, Janey-E (Naomi Watts) finally gets Dougie/Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) out of the house.  She has to tie his necktie for him.  As she tells him everything that he needs to do, Dougie/Cooper stares at her with a blank look.  It’s interesting that, as frustrated as Janey-E gets with Dougie/Cooper, she still tries to rationalize his strange behavior.

At the Rancho Rosa development, Dougie’s car continues to sit there.  The two hitmen drive by again.  They are followed by five more guys, who are all in a black car and playing their music super loud.

Janey-E drops Dougie/Cooper off at his place of employment.  Apparently, Dougie worked for Lucky Seven Insurance.  However, Dougie/Cooper is less interested in his job and more fascinated by a statue of a cowboy pointing a gun.  In an oddly beautiful scene, he imitates the statue’s pose.  Finally, one of his co-workers wanders by and tells Dougie to “get the lead out” because they have a meeting.  That co-worker is carrying 8 cups of coffee so, of course, Dougie/Cooper follows after him.

At the meeting, which is full of vapid insurance people, Dougie/Cooper reveals that he can now tell when people are lying.  Apparently, whenever someone lies, a green light flashes across their face.  When Dougie/Cooper offends another agent (played by Tom Sizemore, no less) by calling him a liar, their boss, the wonderfully named Bushnell Mills (Don Murray), defuses the situation by giveing Dougie/Cooper several case files to take home with him.

Out in the hallway, Dougie/Cooper needs to pee but, like a panicking Sim, has no idea what to do.  Luckily, one of his co-workers, assuming that the men’s room must be locked, sneaks Dougie/Cooper into the ladies room.

At the Silver Mustang Casino, Rodney Mitchum (Robert Knepper) and Bradley Mitchum (Jim Belushi) demand to know how Cooper/Dougie could possibly have won 30 jackpots.  Rodney’s way of handling it is to beat up the pit boss (David Dastmalchian) while three women in pink stand in the corner of the room and nonchalantly watch.

Back at Rancho Rosa, Drugged-Out Mother (Hailey Gates) is passed out so her son leaves the house and walks across the street, intent on investigating Dougie’s bomb-laden car.  Fortunately, before the kid can set the bomb off, the black car pulls up.  The five men jump out of the car and tell the kid to “get the fuck outta here!”  They’re planning on stealing Dougie’s car for themselves.  Of course, as soon as the engine starts, the car explodes and takes three of the car thieves with it.  The kid runs back to his house, where the junkie mom is just now starting to come out of her stupor.

At a nearby carwash, Jade (Nafessa Williams) is getting her car washed when she comes across the key to Cooper’s room at the Great Northern.  She drops the key in a nearby mailbox.

At the Double R Diner — it’s Norma (Peggy Lipton) and Shelley (Madchen Amick)!  25 years have passed and they’re still exactly where we left them.  Except that Shelley now has a daughter named Becky (Amanda Seyfried) and Becky’s married to Steve.  Becky comes by the diner to borrow money from Shelley.  Then she goes outside and snorts cocaine with Steve.  Lynch’s camera gives us a close-up of Becky’s face as the drugs temporarily takes away all of her problems.  In this scene, not only does Becky look like Shelley’s daughter (Madchen Amick and Amanda Seyfried really do look like they could be related) but there’s also a disconcerting resemblance to Laura Palmer as well.

(Also, remember how Shelley used to say that she married Leo because of his car?  Well, Steve has a corvette of his own.)

Back in Vegas, Dougie/Cooper is still acting weird.  He doesn’t understand that, when riding an elevator, you’re supposed to get off when the doors open.  Some people get upset with him about that but Dougie/Cooper is more interested in going outside and staring at that statue.  Of course, Dougie/Cooper is still holding onto those case files.

At the Sheriff’s Department, Andy (Harry Goaz) and Hawk (Michael Horse) go through the Laura Palmer case files, searching for what’s missing.

In his trailer, Dr. Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn) goes live online, delivering a rant about globalist corporate conspiracies and selling his gold-painted shovels so that his listeners can “dig yourself out of the shit.”  Nadine (Wendy Robie) and Jerry (David Patrick Kelly) listen appreciatively.

At the Pentagon, Col. Davis (Ernie Hudson) is informed that they’ve gotten another “database hit” on Garland Briggs’s fingerprints.  Apparently, in the years since his mysterious death, Briggs’s finger prints have shown up in 16 different locations.

At the Roadhouse, the kickass band Trouble is playing.  Meanwhile, a handsome but dangerous looking man (Eamon Farren) sits under a sign that says no smoking and smokes a cigarette.  When a Roadhouse employee tells him to put out his cigarette, the man hands over a pack of cigarettes.  Inside the pack are several hundred dollar bills.  So, apparently, the Roadhouse is still the center of the Twin Peaks drug trade.

When Charlotte (Grace Victoria Cox) tries to flirt with him, the man suddenly turns violent, grabbing her and taunting her with, “Do you want to fuck me, Charlotte?  Do you want to fuck?  I’m going to laugh when I fuck you, bitch!”  It’s a deeply unpleasant scene, as Lynch obviously meant for it to be.

The man’s name is not mentioned but, according to the end credits, he’s Richard Horne.  Presumably, he’s a member of the infamous Horne Family.  Is he a cousin?  Or maybe Jerry’s kid?  Or, even more intriguingly, Audrey’s son?  Whatever he is, Richard is bad news.

(And let’s not forget that, way back at the start of Part One, the Giant told Cooper to remember “Richard and Linda.”)

At FBI Headquarters, Tamara (Chrysta Bell) compares the finger prints of both Cooper and his Doppelganger.

At the South Dakota prison, Doppelganger Cooper finally gets his phone call.  The warden (James Morrison) thinks that they’ll be able to listen in on the call but Doppelganger Cooper has other plans.  After taunting everyone listening, Cooper pushes several keys on the phone, which somehow causes every alarm in the prison to go off.  While the warden tries to restore order, Doppelganger Cooper says, into the phone, “The cow’s jumped over the moon.”  As soon as Doppelganger Cooper hangs up, the alarms fall silent.

In Argentina, the black box changes into a small ring.

In Vegas, Dougie/Cooper continues to stare at the statue.

And so, the latest episode ends.  The story may be moving at its own pace but I can’t wait to see where else it leads.

Twin Peaks on TSL:

  1. Twin Peaks: In the Beginning by Jedadiah Leland
  2. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.1 — The Pilot (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  3. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.2 — Traces To Nowhere (directed by Duwayne Dunham) by Jedadiah Leland
  4. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.3 — Zen, or the Skill To Catch A Killer (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  5. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.4 “Rest in Pain” (dir by Tina Rathbone) by Leonard Wilson
  6. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.5 “The One-Armed Man” (directed by Tim Hunter) by Jedadiah Leland
  7. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.6 “Cooper’s Dreams” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  8. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.7 “Realization Time” (directed by Caleb Deschanel) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  9. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.8 “The Last Evening” (directed by Mark Frost) by Leonard Wilson
  10. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.1 “May the Giant Be With You” (dir by David Lynch) by Leonard Wilson
  11. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.2 “Coma” (directed by David Lynch) by Jedadiah Leland
  12. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.3 “The Man Behind The Glass” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Jedadiah Leland
  13. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.4 “Laura’s Secret Diary” (dir by Todd Holland) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  14. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.5 “The Orchid’s Curse” (dir by Graeme Clifford) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  15. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.6 “Demons” (dir by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Leonard Wilson
  16. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.7 “Lonely Souls” (directed by David Lynch) by Jedadiah Leland
  17. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.8 “Drive With A Dead Girl” (dir by Caleb Deschanel) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  18. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.9 “Arbitrary Law” (dir by Tim Hunter) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  19. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.10 “Dispute Between Brothers” (directed by Tina Rathbone) by Jedadiah Leland
  20. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.11 “Masked Ball” (directed by Duwayne Dunham) by Leonard Wilson
  21. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.12 “The Black Widow” (directed by Caleb Deschanel) by Leonard Wilson
  22. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.13 “Checkmate” (directed by Todd Holland) by Jedadiah Leland
  23. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.14 “Double Play” (directed by Uli Edel) by Jedadiah Leland
  24. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.15 “Slaves and Masters” (directed by Diane Keaton) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  25. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.16 “The Condemned Woman” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Leonard Wilson
  26. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.17 “Wounds and Scars” (directed by James Foley) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  27. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.18 “On The Wings of Love” (directed by Duwayne Dunham) by Jedadiah Leland
  28. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.19 “Variations on Relations” (directed by Jonathan Sanger) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  29. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.20 “The Path to the Black Lodge” (directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  30. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.21 “Miss Twin Peaks” (directed by Tim Hunter) by Leonard Wilson
  31. TV Review: Twin Peaks 22.2 “Beyond Life and Death” (directed by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  32. Film Review: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  33. Here’s The Latest Teaser for Showtime’s Twin Peaks by Lisa Marie Bowman
  34. Here’s The Newest Teaser for Showtime’s Twin Peaks by Lisa Marie Bowman
  35. 12 Initial Thoughts About Twin Peaks: The Return Parts One and Two by Lisa Marie Bowman
  36. This Week’s Peaks: Parts One and Two by Ryan C. (trashfilm guru)
  37. TV Review: Twin Peaks: The Return Parts One and Two (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  38. 4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Twin Peaks Edition by Lisa Marie Bowman
  39. This Week’s Peaks: Parts Three and Four by Ryan C. (trashfilm guru)
  40. 14 Initial Thoughts About Twin Peaks: The Return Part Three by Lisa Marie Bowman (dir by David Lynch)
  41. 10 Initial Thoughts About Twin Peaks: The Return Part Four by Lisa Marie Bowman (dir by David Lynch)
  42. TV Review: Twin Peaks: The Return Parts Three and Four (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman 
  43. 18 Initial Thoughts About Twin Peaks: The Return Part 5 (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  44. This Week’s Peaks: Part Five by Ryan C. (trashfilm guru)

 

 

 

The TSL’s Daily Horror Grindhouse: Don’t Breathe (dir by Fede Alvarez)


stephen-lang-in-dont-breathe1

I’m currently on vacation but don’t worry!  I would never let a little thing like taking some time off get in the way of reviewing movies here on the Shattered Lens.  (Especially not when we’re in the middle of our annual Horrorthon!)

Before we left Dallas, Jeff and I finally saw Don’t Breathe.  It’s hard for me to explain why it took me so long to see Don’t Breathe.  Ever since I first saw the trailer this summer, I had been excited about eventually getting to watch it.  When the first few positive reviews started to come in, I got even more excited.  Everything I heard about Don’t Breathe made it sound like this was a film that was specifically made for enjoyment.

But then the film was actually released and it was just so damn popular.  It was number one at the box office.  It got great word of mouth.  People on twitter wouldn’t shut up about how scary it was and how much they loved it.  While I realize that this actually says a lot more about me than it does about the state of current American cinema, there was a part of me that started to think, “How good could it be if everyone else loves it?”  Traditionally, the best horror films have always struggled to find an audience.  Whenever the majority automatically embraces any work of art, that’s usually not a good sign.

And so, I put off seeing Don’t Breathe.  I decided to wait until it was a little less popular.  I didn’t want to have to watch this film surrounded by a bunch of people who didn’t know names like Argento, Fulci, and Rollin so I waited until the showings would be a little less packed.  Finally, last Tuesday, I saw Don’t Breathe.

Seriously — what was I thinking waiting so long?

Like almost all recent independent horror films, Don’t Breathe takes place in Detroit and the first few minutes of the film are dedicated to giving us a tour of a city in decline.  As we stare at the collapsing buildings, the potholed streets, and the desolate lots of overgrown weeds, we’re forced to consider whether any cinematic horrors could possibly match the horrors of real life.

Those establishing shots of Detroit are important for another reason.  They also provide all the motivation that our three protagonists need.  All we have to do is look at the landscape and we understand why they’re so desperate to find something better in life.  (And, of course, you can’t find something better unless you have the money to look…)  Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette), and Money (Daniel Zovatto) make their living breaking into houses and selling what they steal.  Money is their leader.  Alex’s father owns a home security company, which gives Alex access to everyone’s security code.  (Of course, Alex’s main motivation is that he’s in love with Rocky.)  As for Rocky, she’s just trying to raise enough money so that she and her younger sister can escape to California.

Money is given a tip about a blind army veteran (Stephan Lang) who apparently has $30,000 stored in his home.  (He won the money in a court settlement after his daughter was killed by a rich girl who was driving drunk.)  The veteran is the last remaining resident of an otherwise deserted neighborhood.  He spends all of his time in his large but dilapidated house, apparently living with only a viscous guard dog.  Money figures that all they have to do is drug the dog and then they can break into the house and steal everything that they need.  Money assures the hesitant Alex that it’ll be easy because the man’s blind and he really doesn’t need the cash anyway.

Of course, it doesn’t quite work out like that.  The three of them get into the house pretty easily but getting out proves to be much more difficult.  And when the man wakes up and hears his house being broken into, he turns out to be far more formidable and much more dangerous than any of them thought.

About halfway through Don’t Breathe, there’s a big twist that I didn’t care much for.  As played by Stephen Lang, the blind man was already intimidating enough without turning him into a Saw-style super villain.  But, even with that in mind, Don’t Breathe works.  It’s a relentless and well-directed thrill ride, with the camera freely roaming through that deserted house and the cast all giving good and believable performances.

Ultimately, the film is dominated by Stephen Lang.  Lang is one of those good actors who never seems to get the roles that he deserves.  (He was in Avatar but, in that film, he was 1) saddled with a bad accent, 2) had to recite some of the most melodramatic dialogue ever written, and 3) was stuck playing a character who was so thinly drawn that it’s a stretch to say he was even one-dimensional.)  When you first see the man, your natural instinct is to feel sorry for him.  He’s blind, he’s got a tragic backstory, and now he’s got three people trying to rob him.  That’s why it’s such a shock when you first discover just how dangerous and evil he actually is.  Lang transforms the man into one of the most memorable monsters of this very monstrous year.

So, if you haven’t seen Don’t Breathe, go see it.  Don’t let the fact that its popular scare you off.

db

Everyone Else Is Talking About The “Evil Dead” Remake, So I Guess I Will, Too


Evil-Dead-Poster

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat — first-time director Fede Alvarez’s new remake/”reimagining” of Sam Raimi’s 1981 classic The Evil Dead (this time going out minus the article at the beginning of the title, so it’s just Evil Dead, thank you very much) is not, as its ad poster claims, “the most terrifying film you will ever experience.” That’s actually a gutsier tag line than it sounds on first reading, since it’s essentially promising that not only is this flick scarier than anything you’ve already seen, it’s scarier than anything else you’re ever going to see for the rest of your life. It can’t live up to that, period — and truth be told, it’s not even very scary at all.

Which isn’t to say that it’s bad or anything. In many key respects — eschewing CGI for “real” special effects, not even trying to cast somebody new in the role of Ash since  absolutely anyone would suffer in comparison to Bruce Campbell (who, along with Raimi, is on board as at least an air-quote producer on this one) — Alvarez and  his cohorts (including, it pains me to say, co-screenwriter Diablo Cody, who I was fairly certain was going to fuck things up here in some way, shape, or form but, pleasingly, doesn’t) get a lot of what they’re trying to do here right. The film is gory beyond belief, moves at nearly the same breakneck pace as its ’81 template, there’s a sublimely wrong tree-rape (yes, you read that correctly) scene,  the script provides a believably updated reason for why our five protagonists are getting together in a remote cabin in the woods — that looks very much like the original, might I add — in the first place ( I won’t spell it out too specifically but it gives new meaning to the old “withdrawal’s a bitch” cliche), and the performances are, on the whole, fairly solid.

They’ve also wisely chosen not to mess with the whole “haunted book inked in human blood and bound in human skin that releases untold evil onto the world” premise, so points all around for not only not messing with what worked in the original, but also for not trying to catch  lightning in a bottle twice by hewing too closely to it. Alvarez seems to have gone into this one knowing what he should and shouldn’t play around with, and that puts him a step ahead of your average horror remake director.

Here’s the rub, though — whenever you’re trying to update the look and feel of a $375,000 production on a budget of $14 million, something’s bound to get lost in translation, and no matter how hard it tries, Evil Dead circa 2013 just can’t capture the grittiness, the grime, the immediacy and, dare I say it, the heart of its progenitor. Alvarez is definitely going for an old-school approach here, and I commend him for that, but it’s still (and obviously) not old-school in actuality. Once you poke beneath the paper-thin surface, it becomes fairly obvious that any successes the new film has are more or less of the cosmetic and superficial variety. It looks good, sure — but it still feels kinda wrong, even though it’s doing its level best to cover that up by, again to its credit,  not giving you too much time to think.

I mentioned before that I by and large liked the cast — Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore and, especially, Jane Levy as our doomed (or is she?) central “heroine,” Mia — all do a nice job. But none of them especially stand out, either, which isn’t too bad a mini-metaphor for the movie itself as a whole — it’s thoroughly competent in terms of its execution, but there’s not much extra “spark” to the proceedings. Alvarez seems to understand the essential ingredients for making a solid, respectful, won’t-piss-you-off updating of a classic, but he’s got some way to go before he can create a genuine classic from whole cloth himself.

In some respects, there’s really not a whole lot he can do about that — The Evil Dead was shot in a remote Tennessee cabin while Evil Dead constructed its own location in New Zealand that set out to ape the look and feel of middle-of-nowhere USA as best it can — but that’s just endemic of the greater problem at work here, namely that this is a story that just plain not only doesn’t need a so-called “upgrade,” but literally can’t survive one with its celluloid soul intact. I give Alvarez all the kudos in the world for trying, and for at least understanding the surface elements of what made the original the undeniable classic that it’s rightly hailed as, but so much of what made Raimi’s flick the singular triumph that it was can never be duplicated. Hence, I guess, why I just referred to it as a “singular” work. In short, while we’re still talking about the first one some 32 years after its release, I’ll be damn surprised if people are talking about this remake very much even a year from now.

Still — they did what they could here, I suppose. I had an exchange with a couple of friends on facebook earlier today about the endless stream of remakes in general that we’re forced to navigate, and it made me realize that at some unspecified, silently-arrived-at point, I went from going into these things thinking “I hope they get it right this time” to  “dear God I hope they don’t fuck this one up.” It’s a subtle shift, sure, but it  certainly speaks volumes about the general performance of the studios’ big-budget-remake machine. I’m pleased to say that Alvarez et. al. don’t fuck this one up (and whatever you do, hang around until the credits are over — you’re guaranteed to leave with a smile on your face even if you don’t actually like the film at all), but it is what it is. The Evil Dead 1981 was a product of blood, sweat, tears, determination, and — weird as it may sound — love, put together by folks who didn’t always know what they were doing but were always giving it more than their best effort. Evil Dead 2013 is, for all its attempts to duplicate the trappings of its predecessor, a professionally-executed Hollywood production. You tell me which is gonna be better.

Hell —  tell me which has to be.

Trailer: Evil Dead (Full Red Band)


EvilDead

Remake. Remake. Remake.

I can hear the howls now. Not another horror remake and one of a classic in the genre that many fans consider one of the holy grails of horror cinema. Guess what I say to those people. SHUT THE FUCK UP!

With the complete blessing from both Sam Raimi and Bruce “Who is God when he wants to walk amongst his creations” Campbell and them back but in the role of producers and mentor to the remake’s director, Fede Alvarez, and the young ensemble cast I have much more faith with this particular horror remake than others of its kind.

The trailer itself looks to go on the far extreme on the horror side of the original. I didn’t get a sense of much of the black humor of the original film (and it’s subsequent semi-remake), but I think that’s a good thing. Why remake a classic beat for beat when one can go their own way and explore something even the original never did.

One thing I can say about this full red band trailer that has me jumping up and down like a horror fan on bath salts…

VIOLENTLY AMOROUS TREE: Check!

LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS OF BLOOD: Check!

GRAPHIC DISMEMBERMENT: Check!

CHAINSAW: Check!

DEADITE POSSESSIONS: Check!

FACE-EATING (or Extreme GIRL-ON-GIRL MAKE-OUT SESSION: Check and Check!

Evil Dead lands it’s bloody, possessed corpse on everyone this April 12, 2013. Until then….

….Shop smart. Shop S-MART.

Horror Trailer: The Evil Dead (Red Band)


Horror remakes is almost as old as the history of film. I’ve tried to educate those who complain that another horror classic was being remade and it will suck. Guess what horror classics have always been remade and they don’t always suck. So, instead of telling these snobs to go in their rooms and drool and jerk one off to their classics they don’t want tarnished by a remake I just shake my head and try to see if the remake holds up to the original or, better yet, judge the remake on it’s own creative merits and see if it brings something new to the “classic” original.

In 2013 we see one such horror remake arriving on the big-screen with Fede Alvarez’s new take on a true horror and grindhouse classic horror, The Evil Dead.

The film will be produced by two of the same people who made the original film in Sam Raimi and Bruce “God when walking amongst the humans he created” Campbell. There will not be a character named Ash, but the role of Mia (played by Jane Levy) will take on a similar role in the film. This trailer first premiered for a select audience during this year’s New York Comic-Con and the response was loud, louder and even louder. One thing which everyone who saw the trailer seemed to agree was that the remake looks to honor the original film (rushing POV tracking shots to the oppressive atmosphere throughout the film) while also giving director Fede Alvarez a chance to add his own visual and narrative style to the production.

It is going to be a gory remake and very oppressive and nihilistic. What the trailer doesn’t seem to hint at is any sign of dark humor that fans of the original film are now nitpicking about. Guess what…the original was straight up grindhouse horror that had nothing humorous about (well unless you consider a possessed tree raping a woman as being hilarious). So, it’s going to be interesting to see if this remake will get a chance to impress the fans of the original while at the same time show those new to the horror genre a glimpse at what 70’s horror was really all about.

The Evil Dead is set for a 2013 release date.