Showing posts with label bruce campbell. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bruce campbell. Show all posts

Mar 25, 2020

MINDWARP (1992)


Filmmakers, especially horror ones, were sort of obsessed with the idea of computers and artificial intelligence during the 1990s. Lawnmower Man comes to mind, as does Ghost in the Machine and Brainscan. None of these films are of any particular merit, but it's not really the fault of the horror genre per se. For fun, we can throw The Net into the mix for proof that big-budget Hollywood projects could be equally ludicrous. Hell, perhaps you remember the sexually charged Disclosure from 1995, a serviceable thriller starring Michael Douglas and Demi Moore that features, by today's standards, a frankly hilarious virtual reality third-act climax whose special effects were on par with South Park. No one was really making any pro-computer films because they were still considered a new technology (at least at the consumer level), and, as with all "new" things, people didn't know enough about them, and hence were terrified of them.

Mindwarp, released in other parts of the world with the higher-stakes title of Brain Slasher, is something of a different beast. It has more in common with 2001 than any of the above films, and also includes a dash of Mad Max and Total Recall. It presents on a philosophical level the danger not of computers in general but of our dependence on them. On this wasteland formerly Earth following nuclear fallout, human civilization was divided into two groups of people: The first group consisted of those who escaped the blast into a permanent indoor environment where they can plug into computers all day and pretend to be anyone, anywhere, at any time in history. (These plugs go into the back of the neck, by the way, so suck it, The Matrix. Mindwarp was here first.)


One of these hiders is a young woman named Judy, confined alongside her mother, who has grown tired of the artificiality of it all and demands to SysOp (the Systems Operator) to free her and allow her entry to the outside world so that she may see for herself what the "real" world is like. Well, its exactly there where Judy meets the other group of people: scavengers destined to hunting rodents to survive, covering themselves head to toe in furs and burlap to shield themselves from the sun (and those who don't turn into drippy gooey mutants). As you can imagine, some of these outsiders are really really mean and it causes all sorts of havoc. Along the way, Judy meets Bruce Campbell, one of these scavengers just trying to survive. Things go fairly well, and each begins to learn about how the other half lives, but then things go badly pretty quickly and Judy is kidnapped by these mutants where she meets Lord of the Mutants, Angus Scrimm. Only one person will save the day - guess who!

Fucking Mindwarp. What a quirky, well-meaning film. At times both philosophical and entirely stupid, well made and...not so well made, it's the kind of harmless Blockbuster horror shelf fodder that I frankly miss. Regardless of the success that Mindwarp obtained, it's easy to tell that everyone involved in this - from director Steve Barnett, co-writer John D. Brancato (hey, he wrote The Net!) to its cast of Campbell, Scrimm, and Marta Martin - believed in the film they were making, because it shows. Everyone's on board, even for the silliest of aspects, so for that alone Mindwarp deserves at the very least a round of mutant applause. 

Mindwarp is goofy, corny, and was destined for late-night Sci Fi Channel. But there's also an undeniable charm about the whole thing. A film with a rather pessimistic view of the future that features philosophical conversations about God, love, "what is real?" mixed with mutant cannibals, swords and leather, scary women with green gooey syringes. Take Bruce Campbell, add some Angus Scrimm, remember that this film is "presented" by Fangoria, and just enjoy it for what it is: an early '90s cheese plate.



Apr 18, 2013

REVIEW: EVIL DEAD

 
(Spoilers abound.)

With the release of Evil Dead, the umpteenth remake of a beloved horror property, I think it’s safe to say the redo/reboot/reimagining craze might be coming to an end. After all, every hot title from the ‘70s and ‘80s has been modified for newer audiences, with a range of quality from excellent to downright maudlin. Our remaining and untouched heavyweight titles are The Exorcist and Jaws, and despite having said the same things about Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street, I doubt studios have the balls to try.

In the case of films like Halloween, a remake wasn’t at all necessary. Halloween, while not perfect, is damn near, and remains probably the greatest slasher movie of all time. However, in the case of Children of the Corn or Prom Night, there wasn’t too much outrage. Fans of those films or not, no one could argue they were perfect, or even good, and so there was massive room for improvement.

And then you have 1981’s The Evil Dead, a near-impossible film to recreate. Not because it’s flawless – far from it – but because of the circumstances under which it was made, and how those circumstances crafted the film and made it something extra special. To sit down and watch The Evil Dead for the first time (if it was the remake that led you there) is a fool’s errand. Quite frankly, the remake would be just that much better by default. A certain level of appreciation for guerilla-like film-making and no-budget improvisation are the direct result of The Evil Dead’s fan love. Sam Raimi and Co. had very little skill and even less money. And it shows, by god. The Evil Dead, as far as “should it be remade?” criteria goes, falls somewhere in the middle between the high watermark Halloween and lower titles like Mother’s Day or Night of the Demons. It was, simply, great and fun, and it skated by on its can-do attitude, but it also had massive room for improvement.

So Evil Dead 2013 (dropping 'The," because time is money) is finally arriving in theaters after years and years of speculation. And what a mixed affair it is. A twist on the old concept is a good one, to be fair: a group of friends are assembling in an old family cabin deep in the woods to take part in a drug intervention for Mia (Jane Levy), sister of David (Shiloh Fernandez). These two have history, involving a dead crazy mother and feelings of abandonment when one sibling couldn’t deal with all the goings-on and peaced out. But after Mia’s last overdose, which was nearly fatal, she’s decided enough is enough. She tosses her junk down a well and announces it’s now or never.

Then someone finds that damned book bound by human flesh and inked in blood, reads it, Mia is raped by a tree, and all hell breaks loose. Hey, sound familiar? It should, because except for a few million more dollars used directly on special effects and production design, you’re not going to be seeing anything new.


Last year’s Cabin in the Woods was successful in not only lovingly sending up the horror genre, but in rendering this remake completely irrelevant before it ever existed. After all the insane mythology that Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard created in that super-fun and meta blast, kids in the woods getting mutilated simply isn’t enough anymore. Cabin in the Woods was a “game changer,” a term I abhor using, but one that is absolutely imperative to use here.

The script for Evil Dead isn’t real because there is no script. It’s filled with the kind of lazy exposition that I’ve grown to hate in films: when one character manages to shoe-horn information about the person to whom they are speaking: “Why, hello, Hairy Bearded Man! I see you have taken time off from your career as a high school teacher to be with us at this, my younger sister’s intervention!” Give me a fucking break.

The prologue, involving a witch, a group of inbred creepsters, and a father burning his own possessed daughter alive, promises something different and new. It promises a fleshed-out history of the Naturum De Montum, and a dabbling in everything that has come before the events soon to unfold. But after the opening, it’s the same story involving the same archetypes. Oh, only one of them is black now. How fine. And one of these characters is so terribly underutilized that you’d be hard pressed to remember her name (if it’s ever even spoken aloud). At least every other character is given some kind of trait or background to flesh them out them just a little, but for this one in particular, she’s clearly there to die horribly (after nonsensically cutting off her own hand, because hey, remember when the older movies did that??).

Evil Dead is 90 minutes of one character walking from one room into another, seeing something fucked up, and becoming possessed/mutilated/killed because of it. That’s… basically it. Watch as Girl goes into the bathroom and begins cutting off her own face, and then watch as Boy goes into that same bathroom a few minutes later to see what’s taking Girl so long. Say, what’s Girl # 2 doing? Oh, nothing – just walking around as everything goes to shit around her. Guess she’ll go into the cellar, where she gets stabbed and threatened with demon cunnilingus.

Oh, speaking of, can we please have a moratorium on foul-mouthed, sexually explicit demon talk going forward? Yes, The Exorcist did it. Yes, it was effective…forty years ago. Let’s just stop. A demon threatening to give you a blowjob is not scary. Not whatsoever. It makes audiences laugh, as it should. If that’s your idea of scary, then Evil Dead is for you. Try to fit it somewhere in between your viewings of "South Park."


If I were still in high school, then I would call Evil Dead “fucking cool, dudes!” I would have been easily swayed by the film’s cameos – of the Oldsmobile, of Bruce Campbell’s post-credit one-liner, and of the original film’s audio recording that details the history of the Naturum De Montum. And I admit to laughing out loud during the end credits when seeing the “Fake Shemps” list. But watching this film with mature eyes, after a previous decade of horror remakes actually trying new things with old concepts, all of this so-called love and reverence for the original seems like nothing more than pandering. Yes, the violence is gruesome, near cartoonish, and certainly holds up its gnarled middle finger at its baffling R-rating. Yes, a demon broad gets chain-sawed through the head and blood flies in massive clouds as the infamous cabin becomes an inferno in the background. High School Me’s boner would have penetrated the silver screen; even as a more mature viewer I’ll say it was an awesome, over-the-top moment. It just would have been that much more effective had it been preceded by something a little more in-depth and intriguing beyond “kids go to the woods, kids find evil book, kids get dead.”

People seemed very optimistic about Sam Raimi’s involvement and I have to wonder why. Obviously the original film was his baby, and if anyone was going to take care of it, it would be him. But goodness, have you seen Ghost House Production’s filmography? The Grudge series? The Messengers? Boogeyman, for fuck’s sake? Let’s just say the double-team of Raimi and Tapert don’t exactly have the same luck and eye for talent as Jason Blum, who has produced much better horror fare (Insidious, Sinister). Raimi himself hasn’t even directed a decent film since 2000’s The Gift; his bizarre and stupid Drag Me to Hell has pretty much insured that I will never care about a potential Evil Dead 4/Army of Darkness 2, which is likely to carry forward the goofy "we're in on the joke now!" tone begun in Evil Dead 2.

All of the above sounds very embittered, I know. So let’s end with some positivity. Evil Dead still remains one of the better horror remakes – certainly the best since 2009’s My Bloody Valentine. There’s nothing inherently terrible about it. Lazy script and bland characters notwithstanding, Fede Alvarez’s direction is solid. Two things that were essential in the realization of this remake were kept in place: the eerie, dreamlike and almost surreal tone of the original, and the understanding that the new film not rest on humor, which too many people incorrectly associate with the original. (Funny it may have been, it certainly hadn't set out to be.) Additionally, the first scene showing a girl wandering through the woods filled with fog, lit from above by the sun, is gorgeous, as is much of the violence soon to unfold. And in the aforementioned prologue, in which a young possessed girl gives up on trying to charm her way out of the ropes that bind her, and in her sweet, innocent voice, tells her father she’s going to rip out his soul (sounding almost conflicted about it) – before she changes into the demon that has taken hold of her – it works. It’s eerie, and it’s effective in that way a remake should be: It remembers, fondly, the source material, but attempts to try something new. It’s just a shame this wasn’t attempted for the remaining 88 minutes of the film.


If you enjoy the original The Evil Dead for what’s presented on-screen, with no reverence for the behind-the-scenes struggles the filmmakers endured in getting that bastard into theaters everywhere, then there’s no real reason why you shouldn’t enjoy the remake. It is beautiful looking and superficial entertainment at best. But if what you appreciate about the original – much like I do – is all the hell Raimi and Co. endured in getting the film made and managing to do so under the worst conditions, then there’s no reason you shouldn’t be disappointed. The tale of a 22-year-old amateur filmmaker creating a no-budget feature filled with demons, levitation, tree rape, stop-motion effects, claymation, innovative camera techniques, and oceans of blood, and driven by his love of schlock and movie-making, is far more interesting than a multi-million dollar remake funded by a major studio and produced by the guy who made Spider-Man (even if it is that same amateur filmmaker many years later).

Something special was lost in translation, and that isn’t groovy at all.

Sep 28, 2012

EVIL DEAD: AN ANIMATED TRIBUTE


Published on Jun 19, 2012 by DanielKanemoto

For more information, visit www.exmortisfilms.com.

Follow the evil that roams through the dark bowers of man's domain in this balls-to-the-wall animated tribute to the sights, sounds and unforgettable characters of Sam Raimi's iconic EVIL DEAD trilogy!

This is my cinematic love letter to three influential movies that made me want to be a filmmaker: EVIL DEAD, EVIL DEAD 2, and ARMY OF DARKNESS.

I created all the artwork in the sequence, but the final image is directly inspired by an incredible EVIL DEAD poster created by Olly Moss. The moment I saw it, I only wanted to see it move -- which is how I feel about all great posters. The new wave of artists working with Mondo have made movie posters worth collecting again, and that's a great thing. I hope to someday join their ranks.

And I can't wait to see the new EVIL DEAD remake. My studio specializes in title sequences, and I want the opening credits for this new journey to the cabin to be just as frightening and original as the film they introduce. (I would not-so-secretly love a chance to pitch my take, and if that's even close to possible, I'm open for business at www.exmortisfilms.com.)

Special thanks to the cast and crew of the EVIL DEAD trilogy, Jeff Yorkes (who found me a print of that sold-out-in-an-instant Olly Moss poster), and Joe Pleiman, the most talented sound designer in the world.

CREDITS

Directed, Drawn, & Animated By Daniel M. Kanemoto | www.exmortisfilms.com
Inspired By A Mondo Poster Created By Olly Moss | www.ollymoss.com | www.mondotees.com
Sound Design By Joe Pleiman | www.joepleiman.com
Music By Joseph LoDuca | www.loducamusic.com