Sam Raimi

October 15, 2015

The Horror Time Capsule – 1993: Body Bags

BODY BAGS: UN-FILLING

91 mins | Horror/Sci-Fi anthology | 1993

HBO had Tales from the Crypt, Showtime had nothing. But that all changed on August 8th 1993, Body Bags an anthology TV movie aired on Showtime…and that was it.

A star studded of a cast came together to make an extremely un-filling 91 minutes. Tales from the Crypt had the Crypt Keeper hosting its episodes, Body Bags had “The Coroner” played fantastically by the great John Carpenter. Yes I know I’m comparing apples and oranges, TV show with TV movie but clearly this is what Showtime had in mind. They had the power to do something unique but instead came up short.

The three best things are John Carpenter playing The Coroner, who is the most entertaining piece in this puzzle of a film. The second is the first story, “The Gas Station” which is a solid story that sets you up to be disappointed. The third is the cast, a balls to the wall of this guy and that comes up short. I liked this cast alot. It’s a shame they didn’t make more, it would of been fun to see where it goes with others making special appearances.

“The Morgue”
John Carpenter as The Coroner
Tom Arnold as Morgue Worker #1
Tobe Hooper as Morgue Worker #2

Is the glue that holds everything together. The Coroner is the Crypt Keeper here hosting the stories in a flat out entertaining performance by John Carpenter.

“The Gas Station”
Robert Carradine as Bill
Alex Datcher as Anne
Wes Craven as Pasty Faced Man
Sam Raimi as Dead Bill
David Naughton as Pete
Lucy Boryer as Peggy
George Buck Flower as Stranger
Molly Cheek as Divorcee
Only story that makes me feel like I didn’t waste my time. The others aren’t horrible but the this one just works. It’s a simple slasher, which paired with guests set the bar way too high. Seeing the likes of Craven, Raimi and Carradine peeked my interest. But I guess its just too good for this film, because sadly the others don’t come any close to “The Gas Station”.

“Hair”
Stacy Keach as Richard Coberts
David Warner as Dr. Lock
Sheena Easton as Megan
Dan Blom as Dennis
Gregory Nicotero as Man with Beautiful Hair
Kim Alexis as Woman with Beautiful Hair
Deborah Harry as The Nurse

Stacy Keach plays a guy who isn’t happy with his thinning hair. Sheena Easton says no and she loves him anyway. But it’s just too depressing 🙁 …He tries a few comical treatments but nothing helps. I’m pretty sure this whole story was suppose to be the funny one then again it was the 90’s. And let me say its very 90’s, very very 90’s.

He see a commercial and decides to try it. “Dr. Lock” played by David Warner (Titanic, Tron, The Omen) is the doc that can help. He asks Stacy what kind of hair he’d like using a 90’s computer generated program, you know how that looks without me saying anymore. Keach picks the Stallion. Yep it is its name, long black hair (see picture). And the whole things was done over night, without surgery! Sounds to good to be true hun? Well it is… And when you find out why, it feels like a copout. When its revealed I could hear myself say, “Really?!” I didn’t care much for it but I did like it more then the “Eye”. “Hair” was so bad yet I honestly think I liked this story about a guys hair more then the guy and his eye.

“Eye”
Mark Hamill as Brent Matthews
Twiggy as Cathy Matthews
John Agar as Dr. Lang
Roger Corman as Dr. Bregman
Charles Napier as Baseball Team Manager
Eddie Velez as Baseball Player


Were “Hair” was about hair I bet you can’t figure out what “Eye” is about?…NOPE

Your wrong it is about…

A eye. Let that settle in a bit. We have a film that is made up of three stories. Two are about something on your body. Not much to pick from apparently. “The Gas Station” stands out for its pacing and the fact its different then the others. “Hair” and “Eye” are about two guys getting transplants. And its goes wrong, like it feels like they didn’t try. “The Gas Station” isn’t a perfect film, but the “Eye” and “Hair” come off like they ran out of ideas and gave it to their 8 year old son to write. When you have three films it should feel like three and not two.

“Eye” is about a baseball player with an annoying accent. His wife played by Twiggy losses her American accent a few times and that too becomes annoying. Mark Hamill here is somewhat a joy to watch. The thing is he has always been but here I feel he was wasted. When he gets into a bad car accident in which his right eye is destroyed. He ends up losing it but receives one from a donor. The donor ends up being a serial killer who killed woman and had sex with them. This eye begins to take over the good old southern wholesome baseball player who was making his way to the top.

And thats it. Still feel hungry for more don’t you? Yeah thats how I felt.

“The Gas Station” = Solid

“Hair” = Short

Should of been left out. Or give us more. I didn’t mind the story but there could of been more, the story came up short for me on creativity.

“Eye” = Weak

Like the “Hair” I think it should of been left out. What would of been cool if they connected it to “The Gas Station” and its serial killer. Maybe that was his eye, sure it sounds like Im doing a copout but at least it’s something.

Because what we got in the end was very un-filling.

Kinda felt this way after the film but The Gas Station saved me

October 3, 2013

Here Comes Halloween: Phantasm II

Phantasm II – Look-a-like

LOOK-A-LIKE

Naturally it would make sense to review the first “Phantasm” before I get to it’s sequel, but there is a logical explanation; I simply enjoy “Phantasm II” better than it’s predecessor.  An odd way to begin a review, I’m sure, but I just wanted to get the semantics out of the way before I get into this review.  Welcome back to October, and an entire month of scares, frights, masks, blood, gore, inferior sequels, and more blood.

Phantasm II” is the 1988 sequel to the 1979 cult classic, “Phantasm,” written and directed by Don Coscarelli.  If you’re unfamiliar with “Phantasm” here is a quick refresher; A kid named Mike begins experiencing strange happenings around his town, with a sinister figure called The Tall Man behind said happenings.  As things begin to reveal themselves Mike finds himself stalked by The Tall Man in nightmarish visions involving corpses, metal flying balls with a taste for blood and a body full of embalming fluid and dwarves created from the reanimated corpses of the town’s dead.  Throw in a Bruce Campbell look-a-like named Reggie, and you got yourself “Phantasm.”

The sequel picks up right where the original leaves off, so for the purposes of this review, and if you don’t want to be spoiled, even though these would be 34, and 23 year old spoilers, respectively, tread lightly.  Mike is about to be taken away by The Tall Man but is rescued by Reggie.  We skip ahead roughly 10 years to an adult Mike who is being released from the local mental hospital.  After tragedy besets Reggie, the two spring into action to track down The Tall Man and end his reign of terror, forever.  Joined by a young girl, named Liz, with a psychic link to Mike, the trio head out to, once again, stop The Tall Man’s devious plans, including the creation of more zombie dwarves and to rescue Liz’s grandmother.

What I love about “Phantasm II” is the excess.  You can see clearly that the sequel takes a lot of it’s cues from another famous cult classic sequel; “Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn.”  While the original “Phantasm” relied on real scares and it’s tone to convey a feeling of dread, just like “The Evil Dead,” it’s sequel relies on banter between Mike and Reggie and a lighter tone, which includes a chainsaw fight and the creation of a quadruple shotgun, smells like “Evil Dead II.”  Consider the time frame between all the films as well.  “Phantasm” was released two years before “Evil Dead” and you can see some similarities in the tone, but that was also the sign of the times in the late 1970s and 80s.  Fast-forward to 1987, when “Evil Dead II” is released with a more comedic tone, and a year later “Phantasm II” is released with a lighter tone as well.  I’m not saying that “Phantasm” and “Evil Dead” share much with one another, but in comparing the two, you can see where there are similarities and the fact that each franchise borrowed a little from one another.

Now back to the “Phantasm II.”  I’m sure purists who love “Phantasm” will kill me for saying the sequel is superior, and I’m not actually saying that, I’m just saying that “Phantasm II” is more accessible for non-fans than the original.  Just as he was in the first film, Angus Scrimm literally stands out, again, as The Tall Man, the series’ main antagonist.  While The Tall Man never received the fanfare of Jason, Freddy, or Michael Myers, there was still something very creepy about an old supernatural man who steals corpses to create evil dwarves.  I liken The Tall Man to Henry Kane from the “Poltergeist” series as they both share a similar, skeletal look.

Like most sequels in the late 1980s, there is an extreme case of style-over-substance in “Phantasm II” with more special effects, spotty acting, and plot holes big enough to throw a million of those killer metal balls into.  However, the cheese doesn’t take away from the fun.  There are some excellent creature effects, done by a than relatively unknown Greg Nicotero and Robert Kurtzman, now of “The Walking Dead” fame.  And of course, it’s no surprise that Nicotero also did effects on “Evil Dead II.”  The comparisons continue!

While not exceptional, “Phantasm II” is a fun little sequel that lives in the zeitgeist of horror during the late-1980s.  It’s over indulgent, silly, campy, and not as good as it’s original.  But, it gives horror and gore fans what they wanted; MORE!

Fun Fact:  For even more The Evil Dead/Phantasm fun, take a look at one of the bags an undertaker is filling up and you might catch the name on the name.  That name being Sam Raimi.  Meta!!!!

April 2, 2013

Sneak Preview: Evil Dead (2013)

Evil Dead – Ode

*I’d like to thank aintitcool.com for putting on this sneak preview of the film down in Miami, FL, and of course for bringing Bruce Campbell.*

I’m not one for April Fool’s pranks. I find them annoying, stupid, and most of the time, ridiculous.  But there are times when one happens, and its wonderful.  It’s even better when you are going to see one of the most classic horror films of all time, 1981’s “The Evil Dead” with Bruce Campbell in the audience introducing the film and conducting a Q&A after the film.  It’s even better when the film starts, gets about a minute in, and the film breaks, revealing the trick, which I had a sneaking suspicion was coming.  April Fool’s, you’re not here to watch “The Evil Dead” ’81, you’re here to watch “Evil Dead” 2013.  Truly, truly awesome, and now I’m lucky enough to bring you kids a review of the as-of-yet-unreleased “Evil Dead” remake, which is an ode to everything wonderful and right with horror remakes.

Everything you’ve heard about “Evil Dead” is warranted; it’s a brutal, bloody, gory, sick, twisted, squirm-inducing nightmare.  In the best way possible.  While, as a rule, horror remakes are usually unnecessary, I really thought “The Evil Dead” was in need of a tune-up.  Coming out three years after “Halloween” and merely a year after the genre game-changer “Friday the 13th,” “Dead” made it’s mark as The Ultimate Experience in Grueling Terror.  It was low-budget, gritty, and a new take on the slasher genre.  It had the demonic spirit of “The Exorcist” but the wink-wink-nod-nod of “Friday the 13th” and even some old Herschel Gordon Lewis films.  However, if you look at “Dead” now, it seems dated.  You can tell that it only took them about $300,000.00 to make the film.  Still, I believe in keeping a classic, a classic, and not messing with a good thing.  Come some 30 years and two sequels later, a new vision of “Evil Dead” is about to be unleashed nationwide, and with the blessing of Sam Raimi and Mr. Bruce Campbell, I can honestly say we got a winner.

While keeping with the spirit of the original film, we follow five teens who have decided to head out to the middle of nowhere to a cabin in the woods.  The added twist this time around is that they are there for an intervention for Mia, played by Jane Levy, who could be America’s newest Scream Queen, a heroin-addict who just suffered an overdose.  I liked the fact that the teens are in the woods for a reason, because in films like these you always get a lot of red herrings, namely the Necronomicon, which is unnamed in this version, but you should know what the Necronomicon is at this point, where you have to suspend disbelief nearly the entire film, and don’t worry, you’ll have to do it anyway for most of this movie, in a good way.

While the story is reasonably strong for the genre, the violence and gore is ramped up to 11, and it’s wonderful.  The gore effects are great, and I was surprised to see that WETA was behind some of the work, and it makes sense, because some of the effects are right out of “Dead/Alive,” before Peter Jackson got all Hollywood on us genre fans.

As a horror film, “Evil Dead” is fine, a bloody-romp in the vein of what most people are used to out of the horror genre these days, as a remake, one of the best ones made.  And while I use the term “remake,” “Dead” is more like a re-imagining of the original.  There are various odes to Raimi’s masterwork, including our heroine wearing a Michigan State sweater, to the old car that she is also sitting on.  We even get some chainsaw, yes, a chainsaw, what would an “Evil Dead” movie be without some chainsaw.  With all that being said, if you’re a purist, go into “Evil Dead” with an open mind, and have fun with it; there are plenty of odes to the original, and if you’re new to the world of Ash and the Deadites, do your homework and watch “The Evil Dead,” “Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn” and “Army of Darkness” (the primitive screw-head next to me kept calling it “Evil Dead 3.”  I wanted to tell him to go home because his mom called, and he had chores to do, plus it was a school night).  2013’s “Evil Dead.”  In a world full or remakes and bad ideas, its nice to see they got something right.  Hail to the King, baby…..

Fun Fact:  Look closely at the car Mia is sitting on and you’ll notice that it’s an Oldsmobile Delta Royale 88, the same car used in the original “Evil Dead” trilogy. Which begs the question, could this possibly be a sequel as opposed to a remake, or just coincidence?

March 16, 2013

Oz The Great And Powerful

PROPER

Little self involvement time.  I haven’t written a review in a while mainly because I’ve been busy preparing content for our monthly podcast here at Simplistic Reviews. (SELF PROMOTION DURING SELF PROMOTION…SO AWESOME)  Anyway, when the days between reviews started piling up, I became cautious picking the PROPER comeback movie to review next.  (I was this close to reviewing Parker there for a minute, so count your blessings.)  This week, however, I happened to go against my previous judgement and against many preconceived assumptions by the masses and watch a film that made me anxious to talk about.  The film is Oz The Great And Powerful.  A movie that I have heard maligned even before it came out.   A movie that certainly does not deserve it.

Oz The Great And Powerful is a….DUN DUN DUUUUN!!!…prequel to the 1939 cinematic classic The Wizard Of Oz.  And for those who have been hiding under a rock in a cave in Timbuktu, The Wizard of Oz is about a Kansas girl named Dorothy who is whisked away by a tornado and sent to a magical world where wicked witches are the norm, munchkins are a plenty, and lions are cowardly.  Dorothy journeys to find a supposed wizard who can send her back home.  That wizard…74 YEAR SPOILER ALERT…turns out to be just a man behind a curtain named Oz.  Oz The Great And Powerful fills in all the blanks on how he got there and why certain witchly characters got their wickedness.

Now maybe because I’ve had to rewatch Star Wars episodes 1 through 3 for my 9 to 5 job, I’m standing on a hyperbole soapbox here.  However, I don’t regret saying that Oz The Great And Powerful is one of the greatest….DUN DUN DUUUUN!!!….prequels ever made.  My favorite, by the way is The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly.  When the familiar pieces of The Wizard Of Oz began to neatly fall into place in Oz The Great And Powerful, I got the same feeling I had when Blondie picks up that iconic poncho.  The same feeling I didn’t get when Lucas clumsily dropped his pieces on the ground, brushed off and forced onto me at the last minute.  The Good The Bad And The Ugly sets up a world that, frankly, is pretty easy to set up.  The Wizard Of Oz is anything but.  It has enough oddly shaped moving parts to make an Ikea salesman blush. (Rimshot.  Nailed it.)  One day I’ll have a discussion about how the land of Oz is just an imaginary place where one subconsciously goes to work out their inner issues.  A theme this film duplicates and also nails by the way.  However, for the sake of avoiding an even bigger monicker as an overly-analytical, auteur theory douche, I’ll stick with the simple things that make this film work.

I was very surprised that Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland disappointed me.  I thought that his famously quirky style would be perfect for the material.  It is why I was worried that director Sam Raimi might stumble into the same pitfalls with Oz The Great And Powerful.  Alice In Wonderland and The Wizard Of Oz are two worlds that are terrific at hiding morose, gruesome, and inappropriate subtext under colorful, shiny, childish window dressing.  Burton brought more of the morose subtext to the light, thus dragging down Alice In Wonderland away from what it was intended.  Whereas, Raimi keeps the balance and tone of his film’s predecessor.  I believe Raimi knew it was suicide to mess with a formula as delicate as The Wizard Of Oz.  Burton made subtext the focal point when he should have remembered it is the wonder the makes the world.  Raimi thrives here and never takes his eye off the ball.

Despite being an actor I very well should hate, I can’t help but like James Franco.  Perhaps it is his ‘in on the joke’ personality and the fact he never takes himself too seriously that disarms me.  His talent, when he’s trying, is undeniable.  This isn’t Franco’s finest work but I believe he’s perfectly cast as Oz.  Oz is a failed showman.  A man with the potential for great things, but seems to never be 100% genuine.  A man you want to expose as a fraud not laud as a talent.  Franco seems to fit the bill.  Since Spider-Man Raimi has seemed to know how to use Franco’s more unpopular tendencies.  His mugging for the camera never feels out of place in a Raimi film.  And his tender moments, ones that would be cheesy in any other film, seem right at home here.  Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams stand tall, where other actors would sleepwalk.  That includes Weisz’s great nod to, coincidentally Return Of The Jedi, and having a sorcery battle with Williams that rivals even that of Gandalf and Saruman.  But the stand out here is Mila Kunis.  She has been proving since That 70s Show that shes not just a pretty…pretty…pretty…damn she’s pretty…face.  It is probably known to all her role in the film.  However, I won’t spoil it other than to say she completely humanized and made me empathize with a character I thought would be impossible to.  

Oz The Great And Powerful isn’t the greatest film you’ll see this year by a longshot.  But it knows what it wants to be, it knows what it has to be, and accomplishes these things nearly perfectly.  Don’t believe me?  Close your eyes and imagine for a moment what you deem a PROPER…DUN DUN DUUUUN!!!…prequel to one of the most classic, iconic, and ‘out there’ films in almost the last hundred years.  Click your heals three times, open your eyes, watch Oz The Great And Powerful…then tell me I’m wrong. 

December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays: Premium Rush

SILLY

When it comes to Simplistic Reviews, I’m the elder statesman of the site.  My co-reviewers possess an amazingly vast knowledge of film and television stretching back to kingdom come.  I have the slim benefit and sometimes curse of having been alive when some of these older films and shows came out.  Sometimes it gives me perspective.  Most times, as my younger sister would say, it just makes me old.  Premium Rush reminds of a time in the early 80s before Xbox and cell phones and Netflix.  A time where you were the happiest son of a bitch alive if you had a nice BMX bike with the pegs or, God willing, a go-cart.  Where films like Rad, Quicksilver or BMX Bandits, starring an adolescent Nicole Kidman by the way, could capture your imagination like the Avengers does for kids now.  Those three films were SILLY, but you’d watch them a million times on cable and try to pull off the sick tricks they do in it with your friends.  Premium Rush is a film made in the wrong decade.  Made in the wrong century for that matter.  I thought about how my brain would have melted out of my head if had I saw it at seven years old.  Now, it just seems SILLY

What is the biggest flaw of Premium Rush?  The plot essentially makes sense, but can be easily unraveled if you start pulling at it.  That’s forgivable.  The main thing that makes Premium Rush feel SILLY is whenever it tries to introduce serious stakes.  This is a movie about a bike messenger alluding a dirty cop in New York City.  I have a hard time being moved in a film where anyone does a wheelie through Central Park or bunny hops over police cars.  Premium Rush has the benefit of being a 90 minute chase sequence.  However, it short circuits itself by attempting to be poignant.  Take a tip from Sly and the Expendables.  Know what you are.

I’ve made mention that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a soon to be Hollywood leading man.  His work in Looper and 50/50 is brilliant, he was a standout in Inception, and he ostensibly is the glue for The Dark Knight Rises.  You’d think with a film this…well…basic, he’d phone in his performance.  But he doesn’t.  I think Gordon-Levitt, much like his character in Premium Rush, only knows one speed.  All the way.  He does the best with what he has to work with for the character of Wilee.  However, most of the good stuff goes to his antagonist Detective Bobby Monday, played by Michael Shannon.  If there is any reason to see Premium Rush that I could point to, it would be Michael Shannon’s performance.   Monday is very reminiscent, but not better than Gary Oldman’s Detective Stansfield in Leon: The Professional.  Wow, that’s second time I’ve mentioned Leon: The Professional in as many reviews.  It does give me the opportunity the link THIS again.  Shannon is batshit crazy in Premium Rush.  I can only imagine how dark the character could have gotten if the film wasn’t burdened with a PG-13 rating.  Shannon still remains my primary hope to make Man Of Steel awesome.

Visually, Premium Rush is like watching an editor’s orgasm.  Well, that may be a little too graphic.  I mean, it isn’t as bad as Ang Lee’s Hulk or ANY Tony Scott film.  However, the Run Lola Run-like editing is frenetic, though somewhat appropriate for the material.  It turns bike accidents into a video game, which is apropos to the overall feel of the movie.  You have got to give writer/director David Koepp credit for having the balls to make an action thriller about a bike messenger.  Koepp has worked with some of the greats in Hollywood.  However, the directorial style that I think rubbed off on him the most was that of Sam Raimi.  Koepp’s framing, his camera movements, his mixing of comedic visuals during tense moments is all very Raimi. 

Premium Rush is a SILLY, yet, harmless film with a good performance from Joseph Gordon-Levitt and a great one from Michael Shannon.  As a whole, it would have been a great concept for an ongoing webseries.  For a film, however, it is as substantive as cotton candy.  Hop on…yank off the brakes…ride like hell…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.  

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