Review: Ash vs. Evil Dead - "Confinement"


By: Heather Seebach

With the possessed Classic subdued and the Necronomicon cast into Hell, a celebratory Ash is ready to pack up and head back to his Jacksonville paradise but evil is not yet done with Elk Grove. So too are the police not yet done with Ash, who is swiftly arrested for murder. Meanwhile, the much-talked-about villain Baal finally makes his first appearance in the flesh - literally. Just call him Buffalo Baal because this bad boy has a thing for skinning folks and wearing their hide! 

With Ash in jail, the whole gang soon assembles at the local police station and that's when things go a bit John Carpenter: Assault on Precinct 13 meets The Thing as everyone is locked in the station and Baal slowly turns them against each other using paranoia. Among those trapped is Sheriff Emery, who has a serious grudge against Ash (one made even stronger by Baal's whispers), along with his wife and daughter. Chet, a knife-happy prostitute, and the town drunk are along for the fun, as well. 


Ruby in particular is taking no shit this episode and to be honest, it is the most I have liked her character in a long time. Mostly, I find her pretty useless and uninteresting, but I was buying her act a little more this episode. Lawless goes face-to-face with fellow Kiwi actor and Xena alum, Joel Tobeck, who portrays Baal, and who looks exactly like the would-be lovechild of Michael Shannon and Brad Dourif. He likes to slit people open with his velociraptor fingernail and masquerade in their skin-suit, thus creating the fear that he could be anyone and anywhere. 

The skinning thing is pretty gnarly, and one of the best displays of practical FX to date on this show. It is obvious that the show-runners listened to CGI-related woes from the fans after season 1, as this season has definitely upped the ante on practical gore FX. Furthermore, that change has not remotely slowed the flow of blood; in fact, this season has only gotten wilder and bloodier! For that, this horror fan is most grateful. 

My three wishes for the next episode:

- I would like to see what else Baal can do. This particular demon has been mega-hyped and I hope he is as frightening of a foe as they make him out to be.

- Please give poor Pablo a break. He has existed this season entirely to be tortured, tormented, and generally used as a meat puppet, and it's just getting sad now.

- Bring the original films back into the mix. I suspect there is a Cheryl subplot still coming and I look forward to that. The first episode of this season had a lot of direct and indirect references to the films and then the show shifted away from that. 


Ash vs. Evil Dead airs Sunday nights on STARZ at 8PM ET/PT

Review: Ash vs. Evil Dead - "D.U.I."


By: Heather Seebach

Picking up just moments after the shocking conclusion of episode 3, "D.U.I." wastes little time on tears and slips right back into disgusting, hilarious territory. Ash's beloved Delta 88 is still possessed and wreaking havoc on Elk Grove. While Ash searches for his metallic baby, Ruby is hunting down her own kids for fear they may find the Necronomicon first. Meanwhile, Pablo takes an unwanted joyride and goes face-to-face (literally) with the Book of the Dead. 

This episode fortunately gives Bruce Campbell and Ted Raimi a lot more screen-time together. When Ash's own vehicle breaks bad, he needs some wheels and that's where Chet (Raimi) comes into it. Campbell and Raimi go way back, and Xena: Princess Warrior fans are no doubt anxiously awaiting a three-way reunion between those guys and Lucy Lawless on this show. For now, it is a treat just watching the boys together again, especially with Ted's signature Raimi hamming. 

Kelly joins Ruby in her quest, which is kind of boring and redundant if I'm being honest. The ladies kick deadite ass but there is nothing new here, save for a creepy jump-scare or two. I was more interested in Pablo's latest brutal premonition, which gives us our first little glimpse at Baal, the putative villain of this season. So far, we have only heard vague mentions of the name, and I am still hoping his eventual introduction is not a let-down.


Oblivious to the goings-on with Baal and his minions, Ash tracks the Classic to an abandoned Demolition Derby where he engages in a bullfight of sorts with the demonic car. There is a bit of cartoon-y CGI but hey, at least the gore isn't so digitized this season, yes? In truth, nothing about this episode takes itself seriously, from the gruesome opener to shtick-y banter between Ash and Chet. "D.U.I." is absolutely caked in blood and violence but the stakes do not feel especially high, not yet anyway. That is where I am hoping Baal will come into it -  the proverbial shit on the fan. 

Evil Dead fanatics should keep their eyes peeled this episode for little Easter eggs, like the many references to the local brew with an amusing name, or a familiar sticker on the rear window of the Classic...

"D.U.I." airs Sunday, October 23rd at 8:00 PM ET/PT on Starz

Happy 35th Birthday to THE EVIL DEAD!


This very day, 35 years ago, the Michigan Mafia premiered their debut feature, Book of the Dead at the Redford Theater in Detroit. This little horror movie would, of course, later be known as The Evil Dead, one of the most revered and infamous films of all time.

That night at the Redford, the cast was in attendance along with crew members and friends such as Josh Becker, Ted Raimi, Tom Sullivan, and even Ethan Coen, who actually delivered the final reel to the screening. His brother Joel was an assistant editor on the film. Of course the three main amigos were there too - director/writer Sam Raimi, producer Rob Tapert, and star Bruce Campbell (all featured above) - arriving in a limousine decked out in their tuxedos. According to Becker, the limo would drive around the block and individually drop each of the three men off to make it appear as if they each had a limo. If that isn't so perfectly Raimi-esque, I don't know what is.

Campbell had suggested the Redford Theater because he grew up watching films there. Sam wanted the premiere to be as theatrical as possible, using custom tickets and wind tracks set in the theater. He ordered big searchlights and ambulances to be waiting outside the theater to build hype. Raimi was inspired by filmmaker William Castle who was best known for his theatrical gimmicks with films like The Tingler and Macabre. The Redford also had the largest pipe organ in the Midwest so of course they used it open the film with Bach's haunting Toccata and Fugue in D minor.

Sam Raimi and Josh Becker

According to "The Evil Dead Companion" by Bill Warren, the movie shown that night is the movie we see today with two exceptions:

1) The title (obviously)

2) Sam had composed the film for a 1:1.66 aspect ratio, which the Redford Theater was able to accommodate, and it has never been shown that way again since.

The 1100-seat Redford Theater ended up being packed with a thousand guests, far exceeding the expectations of the filmmakers. They deliberately filled the balcony with hundreds of high school kids who provided exactly the uproarious reactions they wanted. The screening was by all accounts a big success, after which Raimi & co. went on to "tour" the film to build hype and secure distribution. The rest, of course, is horror history.

Sam Raimi and Ethan Coen


Fun Fact: It Follows (2014) had a particularly effective scene in a movie theater where the protagonist goes on a date. That scene was filmed in the Redford Theater!


Review: Ash vs. Evil Dead - "Last Call"


By: Heather Seebach

The Evil Dead franchise has only a few consistent staples that appear in every incarnation. Among them are Bruce Campbell, the Necronomicon, and Sam Raimi's 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88, better known as The Classic. This episode of Ash vs. Evil Dead pays special attention to the yellow machine after it was stolen by some hoodlum teenagers in the last episode. As a fan of all things Raimi, I was particularly tickled watching The Classic have its day, including a loving montage that recalls all the good times it and Ash have shared over the years. The montage is especially amusing if you know that Campbell, in fact, once vowed in his book to "have an army of mechanics dispatched to destroy [the car]." Their relationship is a complicated one, needless to say. 

In "Last Call", however, Bruce has nothing but love for the old Delta 88 which, along with the Necronomicon, is now in the hands of some thieving kids. In order to get his baby back, Ash has a plan: throw a party and lure the thieves with the promise of drugs and fun! With the help of his old pal Chet (played by another Evil Dead staple, Ted Raimi), he mixes up his famous drink "Pink Fuck" - a Ketamine-laced liqueur concoction - to lure every drunk, horny teenager in Elk Grove. The plan goes awry, however, when Ash's dad Brock crashes the party.


Meanwhile, said teenagers learn they shouldn't smoke weed and drive the hard way when The Classic meets "the Force" for the first time in Evil Dead history - think Christine with shades of Death Proof. The episode is full of over-the-top gore scenes but three in particular drive it home (pun intended): 

1) One of the teenagers is dispatched in a delightfully nasty way.
2) We see what a swirly looks like in the Evil Dead universe.
3) A shocking moment that just might make you exclaim "Jesus!" (as I did)

 Viewers who dislike the "sex and drugs" element of the show may be turned off by this episode but hopefully the combination of The Classic and Ted Raimi will sate those old-school fans. I am particularly hoping for more of Bruce and Ted hamming it up together, as we only get a brief glimpse in this episode. On the plus side, we get more of Bruce and Lee Majors together, including a mechanical bull challenge and other forms of father-son bonding. There is even some surprisingly heartfelt conversation between the two. 

"Last Call" is a bit of a come-down after the insanity of last week's episode (that morgue scene!) but it's a fun, interesting time all the same. I look forward to this season finding its villain but it seems Ash has a lot of internal demons to defeat first.  

Ash vs. Evil Dead airs Sunday nights at 8pm ET/PT on STARZ


Josh's Essential Halloween Viewing


By: Josh Bravo 

If you’re reading this, you probably love Halloween as much as I do. It’s just the best - pumpkins everywhere; horror movies on basic cable; cool air (depending on where you live); autumnal colors (also depending on where you live); Spirit Halloween stores popping up; the costume and decoration section at big box stores; mini Snickers; those orange Oreos; haunted houses; fog machines; haunted trails; skeletons; Michael Jackson’s "Thriller" being overplayed; Halloween-themed TV episodes; bobbing for apples; people discovering The Misfits; costume parties; blah, blah, blah. I could go on forever. I really think the best part of October is that everyone suddenly relates to all of us horror fanatics for 31 days. Everyone is in the mood to watching something scary. Where are these people the rest of the year? Who knows! 

But let’s get to the bottom line of this article: every October I have a sustaining desire to watch movies ABOUT Halloween. I’m not even exclusively talking about something scary. I’ll take something family-friendly or funny or weird or whatever it might be. If it’s about Halloween, I’m in. And I’m not talking about having one scene set during Halloween. I’m saying, if you can replace Halloween and set it around any other day or holiday, I’m out. Halloween has to have a crucial part of the plot. 

So, with all that said, I’ve compiled a list of some of the best and some of my favorite Halloween movies, TV episodes and specials. Right off the bat, I’m not including the usual suspects: John Carpenter’s Halloween, Hocus Pocus, Trick R Treat, It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, and Halloweentown. These are Halloween staples and just way too obvious to include. I want to shine a light on the more obscure ones; the ones that I believe should be on the Halloween display in every movie section. I feel like these capture the spirit, flavor, and charm of Halloween perfectly. Oh, and I promise I won’t include a complex, wordy book report on each one that so many “lists” include nowadays.


1. The Midnight Hour (1985) 


The Midnight Hour is too good to be a TV movie. It's a much darker Hocus Pocus. I mean, people straight up die in this movie! And that ending would put test audiences into a frenzy. Did I mention it’s similar to Hocus Pocus? A group of kids on Halloween inadvertently resurrecting a witch? Check. Trying to break the curse before midnight? Check. The undead roaming around the town? Check. Someone from the past coming back to a put a stop to the curse? Double check.



 2. The Real Ghostbusters - The Halloween Door (1989) 


This arguably might be better than Ghostbusters II. This Halloween special (which was aired during prime-time) shows what would happen if you erase Halloween from existence - which is, you know, demon-monsters rising up and destroying New York. It also has a great Halloween song sung by the Ghostbusters. But the best part of this special is the design of the main demon. It’s so downright creepy that he might as well be the Devil. Did you hear what I just said? Yes, it could basically be boiled down to the Ghostbusters vs the Devil on Halloween night.



 3. Night of the Demons (1988) 


 I have a soft spot for teen horror flicks from the 80s. You just always know what you’re going to get: a group of way-too-old-to-be-in high-school teenagers; that one girl that you want to see naked will get naked; tons of over-the-top kills; one person will survive until the sequel; and the whole thing will be set to music from a Casio keyboard. Night of the Demons doesn’t do anything new but it’s the Halloween version of all of that. Oh, and it’s the best Linnea Quigley movie ever.


4. Tales from the Darkside - Halloween Candy/Trick or Treat (1985/1983) 


Out of all the anthology horror television shows, this is the one that was the most unsettling, especially that intro! I’m taking the two Halloween episodes and making them one big episode for this entry. On one side, you have the episode “Halloween Candy” directed by Tom Savini, who knows a thing or two about scary shit. If you’ve seen Trick R Treat (and you probably have), it plays out almost identical to the final segment. It's a true Halloween and curmudgeonly old man tale if there ever was one. Speaking of a curmudgeonly old man, “Trick or Treat” - which was written by George Romero - will seriously have you yell out, "Holy shit!" It has probably the scariest witch I have ever seen and what I can only imagine is Satan (hey, it’s his second appearance on this list) handing down punishment for taking the “trick” in trick or treat too far. Basically, if you’re an old man, don’t hate on Halloween - it is never going to end well for you!



5. Garfield’s Halloween Adventure (1985) 


Some of the best cartoons are the ones that find that middle ground of not too childish and not overly adult either. You know, it starts out pretty normal and funny and cute but as it gets going it begins to get spookier and spookier, until it has you at that point where a telephone ring would make you jump. That's this one. And it has a Halloween song by Lou Rawls that you will have to immediately add to your Halloween party mix after hearing it.



6. Halloween with the New Addams Family (1977) 


 The Addams Family in color! And real color, not that colorized BS. This special televised reunion was meant to be a reboot for a new series, which ended up never happening. How appropriate for the family of weird to get such a weird Halloween special. This one is shot on videotape instead of film - which gives it a cheap middle school production feel - and is filmed in a real house as opposed to a studio. Plus, there is a new opening theme song and a laugh track that can’t decide whether to join in or sit out. All of that aside, having the Addams Family prepare for Halloween by putting up a Halloween scarecrow and singing Halloween songs is too good to leave off. Also, there is a flute gag with Gomez that is just perfect.



 7. WNUF Halloween Special (2013) 


Why don’t local news stations do Halloween specials anymore? Do they even dress up for Halloween on the air anymore? If they don’t, they should. But I digress. The fictional film, WNUF Halloween Special not only captures Halloween in a nutshell but it perfectly captures the VHS era. Recording your favorite movie or TV show on a cassette tape; fast forwarding through the commercials; and sometimes not hitting record fast enough and missing the first few seconds - WNUF has all of that plus fake commercials to go alongside the broadcast. It’s a genuinely refreshing take on the found-footage genre and even takes it up a few notches.


8. The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t (1979) 


He is never going to be mentioned alongside Christopher Lee, Bela Lugosi, or Klaus Kinski but goddamn is Judd Hirsch really funny as Dracula. Okay, funny is different for everyone, so I will be more specific: This one is pretty slapstick-y. It even has a Scooby-Doo style chase in it. My biggest takeaway from this movie: wishing the real world loved monsters like the kids in this movie do.


 9. The Halloween Tree (1993) 


 This is a legitimate love letter to Halloween that is written and narrated by Ray Bradbury. You don’t get much better than that. It inches toward PBS educational territory, as we learn about the historical significance of the holiday, but then the plot goes deep and dark with a child about to stare death in the face. It features a ton of Halloween imagery and some damn fine animation, courtesy of Hannah Barbara. When it comes to animated Halloween tales, this one is unrivaled.


10. Goosebumps - The Haunted Mask Part I and II (1995) 


I am going to combine episodes again: making ’The Haunted Mask Part I' and 'The Haunted Mask Part II' into one big episode really makes it much scarier. It tells the tale of a mask that simply won’t come off, which is terrifying. Not only will it not come off, but it slowly begins turning you into someone or something else entirely. And remember, these are prepubescent kids that are in danger here - a theme that you see a lot during Halloween.



 11. Fun Size (2012) 


This is a theatrical release that should have been a TV movie. A really fun film that has all the imagery of a hectic Halloween night. You’re not going to find anything macabre here but you’ll get Adventures in Babysitting on Halloween. Plus, it’s one of those movies that gets a little too raunchy for its own good - you know, for a family film.



 12. Under Wraps (1997) 


This spot would easily go to Halloweentown but that one has gotten pretty popular over the years, and as I said in the intro, I'm omitting the more popular choices. You can find the entire Halloweentown series on DVD in almost any store but Under Wraps is the one that seems to get kicked to the curb. In this Disney Channel Original, a group of kids help a mummy that needs to get back to his coffin before midnight on Halloween. It also features a Halloween-obsessed kid that I’m sure everyone can relate to.


13. Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) 


Remember when I talked about kids in danger? Well, killing kids is literally the plot of this movie. I mean, how brilliant is it to take the two biggest factors of Halloween (kids and costumes) and turn them into a method of murder for the antagonist? I swear, this movie would be a classic if it didn't have "Halloween" in the title. That fact is ironic because Season of the Witch is way more about Halloween than Carpenter's Halloween is about Halloween. This is the movie that should be the October equivalent of A Christmas Story. It would be such a metal parallel device to have everyone singing that "Silver Shamrock" tune in real life. You would get sick of it just like Tom Atkins got sick of it in the movie! 


There you have it! Thirteen films and specials that should give you those Halloween feels when you need them the most. Sit down and watch them in the dark; project them onto a wall during your annual Halloween party; have them playing in the background while you’re carving your pumpkin; or any time you just want to get into the Halloween spirit. These all deserve to be seen, especially in October. 

The Sound of Vengeance: The Music of 'The Crow'


By: Tristan Collett

From the tribal, middle eastern-inspired opening bars of Graeme Revell’s score, hovering over a tapestry of burning buildings, it is clear that the soundscape of The Crow is as integral to the character of the film as its visuals. However, along with this orchestration, the nocturnal urban setting is perfectly complimented by a carefully chosen rock soundtrack.

When I went to see the film adaptation of James O’Barr’s graphic novel in 1994, it felt like the first time alternative rock culture was represented on a decent-budget movie. To blend with the comic book dark fantasy, The Crow took cues from the 80s goth music scene, reviving its influence. It may even be to blame for late 90s metal going on to embrace such a morbid, theatrical visual style. The dark rock soundtrack was, of course, fitting, seeing as the source material’s character was influenced by cultural icons such as Iggy Pop and Bauhaus lead singer Peter Murphy.

Music is everywhere throughout this movie, whether incidental in the background (such as ‘Big Empty’ by Stone Temple Pilots and ‘Snakedriver’ by The Jesus and Mary Chain); more deliberately present to set the mood for the scene (in the menacing ‘Golgotha Tenement Blues’ by Machines of Loving Grace, for example); or even actually helping drive the narrative. The soundtrack feels almost like another character in the movie.


The Crow provides a great example of how well music can be used in a film. Certain moments feel like set pieces designed around the music and are all the more impressive for it, gelling image and soundtrack perfectly. When the recently resurrected Eric Draven remembers his lost lifetime, he channels his rage, transforming into the avenger. ‘Burn’ by The Cure, an original song written for the film, gives songwriter Robert Smith licence to his interpretation of our protagonist. Everything about this tune is hauntingly beautiful, depicting Eric’s character transition perfectly - consumed by grief, lost love and anger: “Every night I burn, Scream the animal scream, Every night I burn, Dream the crow black dream”.

As he realises his mission, Eric chases the crow across the rooftops to his first revenge kill. For this sequence, the truly inspired choice of Nine Inch Nails’ cover of original goth-rockers Joy Division’s ‘Dead Souls’ is used. This choice is validated by O’Barr having credited Joy Division as having particular influence on him throughout his writing the book. A song this slow shouldn’t work, but the relentless trudge of the rhythm section mixed with the drive of the faster power guitars allow Eric to keep pace. The lyrical mantra “they keep calling me” replaces the need for an expository monologue. Director Alex Proyas knows when to let the film breathe with the music.

The introduction to the main antagonist’s club hangout is accompanied by the raw energy of a live performance. As T-Bird and Skank walk into The Pit, shoegaze band Medicine are playing ‘Time Baby III’. The fact that you can feel it has been recorded live gives a gritty realism to the world, subconsciously pulling the viewer even deeper into the story.


As the film reaches its final act, ‘After The Flesh’ by My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult brings us back into the villain Top Dollar’s lair, building the tension for the imminent conflict. A frenetic live performance from the band on the lower floor level stage is intercut with preparation for the violence of the Devil’s Night arson attacks. This board meeting is interrupted by the titular supernatural crow and indestructible Eric, erupting into a systematic slaughter of the mob in order to reach the next target, Skank. The techno-infused rock accentuates the chaos, heightening its impact. As one of the henchmen is catapulted down into the club level, crashing into the stage, the music stops and the tone changes. Purposefully, this emphasises that this is no time for a rock video to glamorize the violent, vengeful proceedings.

For the closing credits, ‘It Can’t Rain All The Time’ provides a softer bookend to the story, borrowing from one of Draven’s fictional songs within the film itself. Although more commercial-sounding than any of the other music in the film, the bittersweet lyrics sung by Jane Siberry and the acoustic instrumentation give the much-needed break the audience needs from the melancholia of the previous 90 minutes.

The soundtrack to The Crow worked against the odds. Although prolific use of alternative rock in a movie’s soundtrack is commonplace nowadays, back in 1994 it was a risk. The song choices did not come from as much of a commercial standpoint as most examples of its day, free reign seemingly having been given to Alex Proyas when directing. When watching the film, it feels that Proyas successfully created a mutual trust between himself and the intended counter-culture audience, which remains over 20 years on.

The Incredible "Off The Wall" Sculptures of Brad Hill


Today, Los Angeles' own pop-culture art gallery Gallery1988 featured these unique and adorable little sculptures based on some of the best genre films! Created by Brad Hill, these figures are one-of-a-kind. So as you can probably imagine, they are not cheap - and most are already sold out - but you can still feast your eyes by checking out Hill's "Off The Wall" gallery right here on Gallery1988! Below are some of my favorites...

Aliens

An American Werewolf in London

Donnie Darko

Mad Max: Fury Road

Jaws

Pet Semetary

Se7en

The Thing
 


Review: 'Ash vs. Evil Dead: Season 2'


By: Heather Seebach

Last year, the Michigan Mafia - that is, Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert, and Bruce Campbell - made all my deadite dreams come true when the long-awaited sequel in the Evil Dead franchise appeared in the form of a Starz television series (my review). After en epic first season full of guts, gore, and grooviness, here we are with another round! What follows is my review of the first TWO episodes of season 2: "Home" and "The Morgue."

Full disclosure: I am an Evil Dead fanatic. That means, yes, I am predisposed to love virtually anything related to the original films, but it also means I am a harsh critic when new material attempts to honor those films. This world is sacred to me. While the story in Ash vs. Evil Dead season one occasionally stagnated, I enjoyed the hell out of it overall. Ash was truly back, complete with one-liners and the same disgruntled attitude. Joining him were two fantastic supporting characters - Kelly and Pablo - who were more than just token sidekicks. So too was that Raimi sense of humor represented, even when Sam himself was not behind the camera.

So how does season 2 fare so far? Well, now that the introductions are out of the way, the series gets to gleefully jump right into the gory madness! Within the first ten minutes, every lead character's face is covered with gallons of disgusting fluid (blood or otherwise). In "Home", we catch up with Ash, Pablo, and Kelly living it up in Jacksonville, Florida when the deadite menace rears its ugly head again. The gang is forced to seek out Ruby (Lucy Lawless) in Ash's hometown of Elk Grove, Michigan. Here we meet Ash's father, Brock, played by the perfectly-cast Lee Majors. We only get a few moments with Brock Williams in the first two episodes but I already love him. He is everything you would expect Ash's father to be - exactly like him, and yet the bane of his son's existence. I cannot wait to see them (presumably) team up later in the season!


In Elk Grove, Evil Dead fans should keep their eyes peeled for fun blink-and-miss-it Easter eggs (Hint: check out the name of the local record shop). One fantastic element of Ash going home is that the story finally addresses what happened to Ash between the cabin and now, specifically how the world around Ash responded to their neighbor/son/etc. hacking up his girlfriend with a chainsaw. That is a side of it we had not seen before, so I am thrilled it is included here.

Once back in Michigan, naturally a lot of mayhem and carnage ensues. There are plenty of geek-out moments for fans, including Ash fashioning a clever new version of the boomstick; a brilliant (albeit short-lived) variation on the old Ash vs. himself gag; and so many Three Stooges gags that you would swear Sam himself must be there behind the camera. Director Rick Jacobson in fact helmed this episode but he was clearly paying a lot of homage to Raimi. There are also MANY references to the original films; so many in fact it does become a bit much. Some scenes feel a little too familiar (like one moment with Kelly that borrows from both Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness). Still, the fact that the show can now legally reference Army of Darkness is pretty great! They waste no time at all dropping references to it, and I look forward to how they use it going forward.

In "The Morgue", things are stepped up a notch - or ten. Some fans may find this episode goes too far. Personally, my mouth was agape but I was enjoying the ever-living hell out of it! The Evil Dead franchise has always been associated with b-cinema and horror-comedy, thanks especially to the second film. Still, there is an invisible line it never quite crossed - a territory where films like Re-Animator and Dead Alive fit more comfortably. And that territory is where "The Morgue" ventures with reckless abandon! It is a bit shocking but hard not to enjoy, and I promise everyone will be talking about it afterwards. This is the episode where Ash vs. Evil Dead proves it has no fear! The episode is crazy fun in other ways too, including its quirky sense of humor. Keep an ear out for the very literal record scratch gag - Raimi would be proud.


The Ruby subplot is still developing, but so far I love her creepy "kids" from the first season, now all grown up. The whole story continues to expand in interesting ways, and I am sure there are a lot of twists still coming in the next eight episodes. There is no sign of the big villain or Ted Raimi yet (unfortunately), but they are coming. It also looks like the series is relying even more heavily on prosthetics and practical blood than it did last season. So far there is significantly less CGI which is great! Furthermore, the first two episodes alone have already produced two of my all-time favorite Ash one-liners: "What the Harryhausen?!" and "Alright, you naked assholes!"

This Evil Dead fantatic is loving what she sees so far. The series continues to be gleefully over-the-top in gore and humor without restrictions (thank you, Starz). I expect we have a bonkers ride ahead of us, screwheads, so buckle up!

Ash vs. Evil Dead season 2 premieres Sunday, October 2nd at 8PM ET/PT on Starz!

'Don't Breathe' and the Controversial "Turkey" Scene (SPOILERS)


By: Heather Seebach

**Warning: The following contains major spoilers about Don't Breathe**

**Warning #2: The following is a discussion about rape on film**

Fede Alvarez's thriller Don't Breathe dominated the box office this past week and garnered largely positive reviews from critics and filmgoers alike. There was, however, a moderate backlash against one particular sequence in the film. It was the very same sequence that, right when it happened, I knew people would either love or hate it. Personally, I love it and will explain why as I address some of the complaints against it. The sequence in question, of course, is when Rocky (Jane Levy) is captured, tied up, and threatened with forced insemination by way of a turkey baster. 

As any horror fan knows, rape is hardly off-limits when it comes to the genre. It has been used in ways that range from tactful to downright trashy. In my eyes, rape is a particularly heinous form of assault. Things like torture, castration, animal abuse etc. are similarly brutal tactics that are used in horror films to elicit fear and disgust. To make a good film, of course, any of these elements must be used within the context of the story and must serve a purpose. It is when rape, torture, etc. become excessive and sexualized that their use becomes trashy and cheap. Basically, anything that is done just for the sake of shock is lazy horror writing. Some people love easy, shock horror and that's okay - to each their own - but I am speaking to what I consider good screenwriting in the horror genre.

 Having said that, I will now dive into Don't Breathe. Let's get something clear: the act with which The Blind Man is threatening Rocky absolutely IS rape. That is never in question. There is a moment when he says, "I never forced myself upon her. I'm not a rapist" in regards to his other kidnapped victim. Some critics have misinterpreted that line as justifying his actions, suggesting the writers do not consider this rape. That is absolutely not the case here. The Blind Man is a delusional psychopath who BELIEVES what he is doing is morally acceptable. That line of dialogue is there to show the audience just how crazy this man is - it is NOT suggesting he is not a rapist. What he did to the previous victim - and what he threatened to do to Rocky - absolutely IS rape. This is the moment in the film when the writers want us to NOT sympathize with this guy.

Another common complaint against the sequence argues that it is a cheap use of rape for shock's sake. To that, I disagree completely. For one thing, Rocky escapes and is not raped. The THREAT of rape is enough to instill horror in the audience, but the filmmakers did not see the need to follow through on showing any actual rape (to Rocky or the other woman). Furthermore, I love how they un-sexualized the act by removing the penis from the equation. Again, it is still rape, no argument there, but the very aspect that typically serves to exploit rape scenes - the sex - is removed. We the audience are still horrified, possibly even moreso, at the thought of being violated with this man's semen and a kitchen object. I think that is an interesting, unique take on a rape threat. If anything, it emphasizes the reason rape is so horrifying: loss of choice. The very idea of being forced to carry a psychopath's child is terrifying and I doubt many filmgoers (men especially) consider that particular element when it comes to rape scenes. 



Another argument I have heard is that the sequence does not fit the tone of the film, hence why those critics feel it is used just for shock's sake. I agree that it represents a tonal shift in the narrative, but I actually loved that! Here is a mainstream film that, while tightly made, was following all the usual beats of a home invasion thriller until, suddenly, it wasn't. Suddenly, it ventured into nutty territory and it is great! And how incredibly rewarding was that moment when Rocky shoved the turkey baster full of semen into her attacker's mouth?! I did not see the whole sequence as a "shocking twist" and I am not sure why others do. Perhaps the marketing is to blame for that. I just saw it as peeling back another mysterious layer on this blind man as the intruders ventured deeper into his home. The Blind Man goes from poor disabled veteran to dangerous, sick monster. The narrative was designed to make the audience question their sympathies and I find that interesting.

Don't Breath took heat for threatening the protagonist with rape, while films with long, gratuitous rape scenes get the seal of approval from horror fans. Why is that?  Are the graphic rape scenes in I Spit On Your Grave and Last House on the Left made "okay" because they are followed by revenge? What about Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead? Raimi himself admitted he used poor judgement when he included the tree rape scene, as he was young and immature. There is that unnecessary shot of Ellen Sandweiss' naked breast. Neither Sam nor the viewer can deny that the scene was going for shock and exploitation, and yet, it is revered by horror fans everywhere, including the same people who loathe Don't Breathe's attempted-rape scene. Why is that? One answer I heard is, "Well, the tree rape is just SO ridiculous." And a man who keeps his spunk in a basement and injects it with a turkey baster isn't ridiculous? I think the tree and the turkey baster are actually alike in that way, and I wonder how much that was intentional on Alvarez's part (considering his existing relationship with Raimi).

Clearly, there seems to be a double-standard when it comes to what is "acceptable" rape in cinema. Tone, again, seems to play a role. When Straw Dogs and Deliverance did it, it was fitting, right? When the other end of the spectrum, say, ridiculously exploitative movies like Death Wish 3 or A Serbian Film did it, genre fans tolerated or even defended the use of rape. Whether the tone is serious or outrageous, rape seems to be "accepted" but not in-between, like with Don't Breathe.

I think we all can agree on this: rape is NEVER okay. It's all horrifying, and that is why horror films love to use it. The most responsible things a good filmmaker can do are, A) Not sexualize the act; and B) Use it fittingly in the narrative. Is the attempted rape a crucial plot point in Don't Breathe? Not really; however, I believe the film strongly benefits from its inclusion. By turning that strange corner, this mainstream horror dipped its proverbial toe into exploitation territory without becoming cheap and trashy, and thereby opened up an interesting, unpredictable avenue. The Blind Man's threat against Rocky elicited such gasps of horror from the crowd both times I saw this film. And it only took the implication of a horrific act to inspire that response. Hell, when he put the scissors up to her pants, I winced. I rarely ever wince. I consider that a win for horror.

I enjoyed the hell out of Don't Breathe all-around. It has fantastic cinematography and music; the tension is palpable; and all the crowd-pleasing moments really pay off. It has some flaws, for sure, but this verbal beating it has taken over this so-called "rape dungeon" sequence is unfair. I completely understand if someone has an aversion to sexual assault (or the implication thereof) on film, or feels such scenes could trigger traumatic memories, but I also do not feel that any movie should be censored for that reason. It is up to each individual to decide what to watch or not to watch. As these types of scenes go, the one in Don't Breathe is restrained, tactful, and unique. It livens up an otherwise paint-by-numbers plotline and forces its audience to think about the horrors of sexual assault in a non-traditional way.



Review: 'Lights Out'


By: Heather Seebach

It is no wonder the horror genre is taken less seriously than most, as Hollywood churns out one half-assed horror film after another. Most are remakes or uninspired sequels, and they are plagued by tired jump scares and CGI ghosts with gaping maws. The genre has become so monotonous that the films making a sincere effort often go unseen amidst the garbage. 

The best hope for a movie like that is to slap a household name on it - in this case, that name is James Wan. I am a fan of Wan's work but he is not the reason I saw Lights Out. What attracted me to this one was knowing the short film of the same name upon which it is based, and the fact that the director of said short, David F. Sandberg, was brought on-board to direct the feature adaptation. If nothing else, I love when newcomers are given a chance to break into the industry and potentially breathe new life into the horror genre.

 With his feature directorial debut, Sandberg does not break the mold (yet) but what Lights Out does deliver is a satisfying spookfest with a surprisingly solid story. The film follows a brother and sister (Gabriel Bateman, Teresa Palmer) who discover that their mother's mental illness may in fact be something far more sinister, as a creepy entity stalks the family. Sandberg and screenwriter Eric Heisserer expand quite a lot upon the short film, which had very little story. They turned a one-off concept into a full-fledged tale rather than the lazy after-thought it could have been. They also refrain from recycling everything that made the short so memorable, which is admirable.

The scares are simple and follow the old "less is more" adage, employing shadows, sound effects, and just a bit of makeup fx. It makes clever use of lights, as the menace of the film is restricted to the darkness. The shadowy creature, known simply as "Diana", is equal parts animalistic and manipulative, making her a formidable villain. Even someone as bored of paranormal films as me found myself double-taking at shadows while writing this review.


While the scares will satisfy filmgoers looking to jump and scream, the more memorable aspect of Lights Out is its screenplay that ties the supernatural into real-life issues like mental illness and domestic abuse. As the rattled mother battling grief and depression, Maria Bello is fantastic and provides some of the film's more genuinely scary moments in ways you might not expect. The relationship between mother and daughter (Palmer) also feels sincere, right down to how alike they look - damn, that's some good casting! Seriously, though, the family dynamic is believable and it is rare to find a paranormal horror film that bothers so much with expanding its characters. They are not simply fodder for a pissed-off poltergeist, but rather human beings with real-world problems bigger than the creepy dead lady in the house. 

Do not be fooled by generic trailers: Lights Out has more to offer than your average spookfest. Much like Wan's horror efforts, it is a film that respects its characters and is not overly reliant on cheap, piano-note scares. Sandberg has already been tapped to helm the Annabelle sequel, which concerns me, as there is this trend of latching up-and-comers onto crap sequels (e.g., See No Evil 2, Sinister 2) but I still hope it will be a springboard to seeing what else he can do.



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