Welcome to The Last Horror Blog, a biweekly column on all things horror.
Dead Snow 2 images bring us more Nazi zombies – Tommy Wirkola, fresh off the surprise success of Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, is back on familiar turf – hard at work on Dead Snow: War of the Dead.
The sequel to his cult hit about a group of friends taking on hordes of Nazi zombies is currently shooting, and the first set photos are now online. That’s just one of many (most are Not Safe for Work thanks to the gore quotient) to be revealed. You can check out a full gallery at Twitch.
The sequel picks up right where the first film ended, with a survivor of that zombie massacre teaming up with a band of American zombie hunters for another fight to the death with the undead.
Spend your summer vacation with Detention of the Dead – Alex Mann’s indie zombie comedy Detention of the Dead finally has a release date: June 28, 2013 in select theaters. Odd to have a detention in the middle of summer, isn’t it?
The film, which is billed as “The Breakfast Club meets Shaun of the Dead," finds a group of high school students forced to set aside their cliquish differences in the face of the zombie apocalypse. The film is a low-budget affair, but it actually looks pretty fun. Have a look at the trailer below and see what you think.
Criterion Collection's The Devil’s Backbone release date revealed – We’ve known Criterion was working on a super special edition disc to celebrate Guillermo del Toro’s chilling ghost tale The Devil’s Backbone for a few months now, but we can finally report when you’ll be able to buy the set from your retailer of choice: mark your calendars for July 30. The disc is packed with extras (including a restored print, audio commentary and other goodies), and in perhaps the most perfect touch of all, will come with spine #666.
Torso rises from the grave – Brian Michael Bendis’ graphic novel Torso is once again back in development. The project, which was once set up at Paramount with David Fincher attached, has now moved to Circle of Confusion, where David Lowery will write and direct.
The story is based on a crime spree that occurred between 1934 and 1938 and follows a post-Untouchables Elliot Ness as he hunts down the “Torso Murderer” – a killer who leaves behind the midsections of his victims.
Rebooting a classic horror franchise is no easy task – just ask Rob Zombie, whose take on John Carpenter’s seminal Halloween series still divides fans to this day. Now, imagine if Zombie had made the Halloween remake as the first feature film of his career. That’s the position Fede Alvarez finds himself in with his updating of Sam Raimi’s beloved Evil Dead.
Tackling this project was certainly a ballsy move on Alavarez’s part – fail, and his career as a Hollywood director (launched when his 2009 short film Panic Attack went viral on the Internet) could be over before it ever really had the chance to start. That’s a hefty gamble a lot of fledgling filmmakers wouldn’t have taken.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt when you have Raimi and Evil Dead icon Bruce Campbell on board as producers, helping you through every hurdle and doing all that they can to quiet a contingent of fans opposed to seeing Evil Dead redone in the first place. Still, there were a lot more risks than rewards in tackling this gig, so it’s pretty neat to see Alvarez mostly succeed in his quest to bring Evil Dead to a new generation of fans.
Alvarez’s take on the original Evil Dead is at once familiar and unique. Early on, the production made the wise decision to not cast anyone in the role of Bruce Campbell’s Ash character, because no one would ever be able to fill Bruce’s giant, ass-kicking boots. Once viewers get past the fact that Campbell’s beloved doofus isn’t around, the rest of the film is eerily reminiscent of its inspiration. It mimics the look of the original (albeit with a much higher production budget), and features plenty of nods to the earlier entries.
That being said, this is not a shot-for-shot remake. Alvarez has added his own flourishes to the Evil Dead mythos and introduced an entirely new group of characters into the mix. He has varying degrees of success in this regard.
The five friends wind up at the abandoned cabin in the woods in order to help Mia (Jane Levy) kick heroine once and for all. When one of them finds a basement filled with dead cats and a sinister looking book, things start to get creepy. When an incantation from that book is then read aloud, all hell literally breaks loose as the Deadites possess the living in a bid to resurrect an even greater evil.
Many fans forget that the original Evil Dead was a straight horror film. Sequels Dead by Dawn and Army of Darkness mixed horror with laughs (often at Ash’s expense…), but that first film was genuinely interested in scaring you and grossing you out with its brutal FX work. Alvarez’s film takes that same approach. Anyone coming into the new Evil Dead expecting laughs to go along with the gore is in for a rude awakening.
This new Evil Dead earns every bit of its R rating, and is one of the most violent and gory mainstream films I’ve seen in years. It’s a gore fan’s dream in that it features copious amounts of carnage, and almost all of it was created within camera practical FX work. Alvarez’s decision to avoid CGI in favor of more classic traditional special effects pays off in spades. The bodily dismemberment is graphic and reminded me of the original film on steroids. Anyone who loves some blood and guts in their horror films is going to walk away from this outing quite pleased.
So, Evil Dead delivers when it comes to the red stuff, and the fan-service homages to earlier films, which means it’s a slam-dunk remake, right? Not so fast…
For as good as Alvarez’s film is – and it is good, which is a point I want to stress here – it’s not quite perfect. I mentioned earlier that Alvarez and his team made the wise decision to not try to recast Ash for this outing – and that was the right call. The problem is that it’s all but impossible to really make a great Evil Dead film without Bruce Campbell as Ash.
Sure, you can have the cabin, the POV shots, the Oldsmobile, a Necronimicon (once again called the Naturon Demonto in this version – another callback to the original Evil Dead…), Deadites, and Kandarian rituals, but Evil Dead is really all about Ash. Campbell’s character is the engine that makes the Evil Dead machine run; the soul that animates the pile of flesh. Without him, the whole thing feels like it’s missing its heart.
It may seem like damning Evil Dead with faint praise to say “it could have been a lot worse,” but it’s true. There have been a multitude of completely forgettable and unnecessary genre remakes in the past few years, and Evil Dead could have easily numbered amongst the biggest letdowns of the bunch. It doesn’t – because Alvarez is a talented filmmaker who wasn’t afraid to take risks and push the envelope a bit with his update. In that regard, Alvarez joins Alexandre Aja on the very short list of filmmakers I think actually do remakes well, and I’m feeling positive enough about this experience to be interested in where Alvarez will take Evil Dead in the almost-certain-to-be-announced sequel. If you’re a fan of the original films, this remake is worth seeing. It’s not going to ever replace the classic Evil Dead films, but it does provide an entertaining and gory update to a one of horror’s most beloved franchises.
Horror on the Horizon
April only offers up one theatrical horror release in its last two weeks, but it’s a doozy. Rob Zombie’s hotly anticipated Lords of Salem makes its limited theatrical debut on April 19. The modern day witch story is sure to divide fans – like all of Zombie’s previous efforts. Personally, I hope it’s great.
Horror on Home Video
Things are a little more interesting on the home front, at least.
The week of April 23 sees the release foreign slasher flick Cold Prey II, as well as the dark fantasy Thale. Jean Rollin fans can also check out Night of the Hunted and Grapes of Death.
The month ends on a quiet note – with Jeff Burr’s Night of the Scarecrow (not to be confused with the cult classic CBS film Dark Night of the Scarecrow) being the only notable release on April 30.