Evil Dead – Blu-ray

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Evil Dead – Blu-ray
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment – 2013

Directed by Fede Alvarez
Screenplay by Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues

Starring
Jane Levy
Shiloh Fernandez
Lou Taylor Pucci
Jessica Lucas
Elizabeth Blackmore

I saw this in the movie theater when it came out in April.  At that time the movie left a pretty strong impression on me.  The Blu-ray reinforces that with a pristine transfer sporting superb image and knock-out sound.  It also comes packed with enough supplements to please any fan of the film or genre.

I have to say that this remake has to be the most violent film I’ve ever seen a major studio release.  There is a ton of bloodshed, which is appropriate considering The Evil Dead was a ground breaking juggernaut of gore and innovative camera acrobatics.

There is no doubt that the people behind this movie put their hearts and souls (couldn’t resist) into it.  The acting, Aaron Morton’s cinematography, Robert Gillies’ production design, Roque Baños’ music, the physical effects, make-up effects, visual FX and Bryan Shaw’s editing are all fantastic.

I think it was a good idea not to try to recreate the same characters from the first film, but rather use an entire new set in a similar situation.  The fact is Bruce Campbell was so good as “Ash” that anyone who would even attempt to play the part would pale in comparison.

I don’t think the prologue showing how the cabin became cursed was necessary.  Sometimes the less you know about a film’s threat, the more mysterious and cinematically magic they end up being (say Michael Myers in John Carpenter’s Halloween or the title character in The Mothman Prophecies).

I’m really impressed with Fede Alvarez.  The young filmmaker has a bold vision for this film and is unrelenting in his approach to horrifying the audience. His skills with actors, the camera and capturing effects are outstanding.  Maybe the thing that most stands out about Alvarez is that it’s obvious to me that he respects the original, yet isn’t afraid or timid to make this film his own.

As far as the story, I actually liked that the writers tried to ground the story by having the trip to the cabin in the woods be a drug intervention for Mia (Jane Levy).  Not only did it help give the characters an onscreen cause but lent to having her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) and her friends; Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), Olivia (Jessica Lucas) and David’s girlfriend, Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) to doubt her claims when weird things start happening because of her problem.

I think the cast did a real solid job.  Actress Jane Levy endures a tremendous amount of physical punishment as Mia.  She represents the Bruce Campbell part in this film.  Levy gets covered from head to toe in blood and is beaten to a pulp like Campbell was in the original.

Shiloh Fernandez is quite compassionate as David.  Without his sensitivity he film wouldn’t have an emotional center.

Special Features are: Making Life Difficult – captures the intense physically exhausting creation of the film.  Directing the Dead – Director Fede Alvarez Re-imagines the Cult Horror Classic.  Being Mia – Jane Levy’s physical and psychological transformation into “Evil Mia.”

Blu-Ray Exclusives include Cast & Filmmaker Commentary – which Alvarez and co-writer Rodo Sayagues join with actors Jane Levy, Lou Taylor Pucci and Jessica Lucas talk about making this movie. Unleashing the Evil Force – Tells the origins and design of the new Book of the Dead.  Evil Dead the Reboot – Bruce Campbell talks about the long gestation of finally making a new Evil Dead film, we get to see cast rehearsals, learn of Deadites and more.

There’s no way this film could ever replace Sam Raimi’s original film.  If you compare this against that low-budget pioneer film, it can’t touch it.  Even with The Evil Dead’s more amateurish production blemishes, including questionable acting, there’s an energy and cinematic glow that just can’t be equaled.  Never the less, I’ve heard some folks put this film down because of the comparison, which I don’t think is necessary or completely deserving.  In due time, people will look at this re-do with more affection because it definitely warrants it.  I highly recommend getting this Blu-ray.

www.sonypictures.com/bluray

 

Halloween 35th Anniversary (Blu-ray)

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Halloween 35th Anniversary (Blu-ray)
Anchor Bay Entertainment – 2013

Directed by John Carpenter
Written by John Carpenter and Debra Hill

Starring
Donald Pleasence
Jamie Lee Curtis
P.J. Soles
Nancy Loomis

It’s amazing how fast time flies.  It’s hard to believe that it’s been 10 years since I reviewed Halloween 25th Anniversary DVD.  Thankfully Anchor Bay Entertainment is helping celebrate another milestone for John Carpenter’s masterpiece with a superb Blu-ray that has to be the best looking so far.  Director of Photography Dean Cundey supervised the transfer and you know there’s nobody more qualified than him to oversee that important job.

Halloween looks alive with autumn colors; Cundey’s breathtaking blue night time lighting and the contrasting shadows that run thought the film.

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The 35th Anniversary Edition also comes with a brand new Audio Commentary with John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis.  Curtis helps uncover some new tidbits of information about the shoot.  But what’s best about this track is hearing Jamie Lee’s obvious enthusiasm for the film, even telling John Carpenter how to watch is own movie.  Curtis does this in an innocent way that proves she doesn’t watch horror films and that she probably hasn’t watched Halloween that often.  I found her enthusiasm genuine and funny.

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There’s also a Special Feature called The Night She Came Home which chronicles Jamie Lee Curtis attending a film convention in Atlanta.  This is the first and probably one of the few such events she’ll ever attend, so it was cool we get to see it.  What’s so impressive is how respectful she treats people.  She has the people in attendance sing happy birthday to one fan who was getting some things signed and she goes out of her way to make people feel her warmth and humanity.  My only disappointment was not being there myself to meet the star of one of my two favorite films.

This also comes with On Location; 25 Years Later which was on the 25th Anniversary DVD.  It didn’t hurt to see this piece again as well as the other supplements, which include; Trailers, TV & Radio Spots, Additional Scenes from the TV Version.

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But there’s something else I can’t forget to mention, which is worth the price of this Blu-ray without counting anything else.  The 35th Anniversary Edition comes inside this cool hard-book cover with a neat painting of Michael Myers.  Better than that, inside has 20 pages of behind the scenes photos I’d never seen anywhere before with a fantastic write up detailing the making of Halloween and the response since.  It’s all presented on beautiful paper stock in a layout that really gels with the film’s atmosphere.

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“The Boogeyman” in Halloween, is there anything more frightening…I don’t think so.

Since I’ve already reviewed Halloween in great detail before (please click on link to read) I’d like to try something new and just riff (observation & comments) on things I noticed watching Halloween this time.  The thing I really noticed was how simple John Carpenter’s Classic is.  The story is crystal clear, told with mature restraint and it is never rushed.  The long Panaglide shots are not only brilliantly conceived and executed (by Dean Cundey’s lighting and Raymond Stella’s camera operation) but they work magnificently by giving the film style and Carpenter was able to capture considerable page counts because of the duration of each shot.  This was smart when considering the short shooting schedule.  I’ve never seen or heard anyone ever talk about the editorial correlation between the ghost/Michael Myers with Lynda (P.J. Soles) scene and the first beach scene in Jaws.  Watch the movie again, paying attention to this scene and you’ll see that like the first crowd beach scene in Jaws (where Chief Brody is trying to watch the swimmers) every time John Carpenter & his editors cut from Lynda to Michael (sheet covered ghost at door) each successive cut goes to a longer lens shot.  Because of the edit  not everyone will notice it but it’s a sneaky way to bring Michael Myers closer, amping up the intensity of the suspense.  It’s also an abbreviated visual representation of how Halloween is designed directorially.  The movie gets tighter and more confined as it plays out until the nerve shattering climax.

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You will not find a better movie to watch on Halloween.

www.anchorbayentertainment.com

Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th

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Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th

CAV Distributing Corporation – 2013

Written and Directed by Daniel Farrands
Based on the book Crystal Lake Memories by Peter M. BrackeNarrated by Corey Feldman

Make no mistake, this massive two Blu-ray set is absolutely, positively a must have for any fan of horror.  With 400-minutes devoted to the entire Friday the 13th franchise of films, including TV Series and remake, you should not be without it.

Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th devotes around 30 to 40 minutes on each film, combining; current interviews, behind the scenes footage & still photos, outtakes, screenplay pages, footage of what locations look like now and so much more that you will be overwhelmed with the trove of information provided by this Blu-ray set.

I like how each chapter represents a different Friday film, because it made it easier to stop/start and keep your place.  Another benefit of the gigantic size of this documentary is that it provides entertainment that will last at least a week or so (unless you do an all-day marathon).  For me, it gave me great pleasure to know each night I could watch a chapter or two depending on my schedule.

DISC ONE:

Begins with a little campfire skit, where Corey Feldman tells the story of the Friday the 13th legend and gets this whole documentary into a proper mood.

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Book author Peter Bracke & Corey Feldman appear in the opening scene for Crystal Lake Memories

Chapter one covers Friday the 13th.  It was awesome seeing everyone who’s interviewed talk about their work on the unadulterated classic.  It’s not only cool hearing their comments but seeing how the cast & crew look now.  Considering I recently read David Grove’s super-in-depth book On Location in Blairstown: The Making of Friday the 13th, I didn’t really learn anything I didn’t already know but it’s still brilliantly put together.

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Jeannine Taylor “Marcie Cunningham” Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th Part 2 is the second chapter and this was a real treat for me.  I learned quite a bit about the production I didn’t know and one of the many highlights was seeing what the Connecticut filming locations look like now.  I never knew that the late Stan Winston was supposed to do the make-up effects but couldn’t when he took another film instead.  This project certainly didn’t suffer from getting Dick Smith protégée Carl Fullerton to handle the job instead.  I consider Part 2 to be one of the top-three Friday films and you guys will probably enjoy getting the detailed lowdown of how they did it.

I didn’t realize that Director Steve Miner played the newscaster on TV at the beginning of Friday the 13th Part III.  This is the kind of information that gleams in chapter three.  We get to see what the California locations look like now.  I never knew the production had a problem with bees and snakes but you’ll be told about it here.  There’s a great deal of insight shared about how the production used three-dimensional photography.  It was funny listening to how the crew came to loathe the huge Louma Crane, Steve Miner choose to utilize to give the movie its look.

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Kimberly Beck “Trish Jarvis” Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter

With the fourth chapter, Director Joseph Zito and Tom Savini speak comprehensively about their involvement of Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter.  I also appreciated hearing actress Kimberly Beck, Corey Feldman and the other cast members talk about the shoot.  One of the most interesting stores is told by Ted White, who didn’t take a credit playing Jason Voorhees.  White tells the story of when they were filming the scene in the lake where he kills Samantha (Judie Aronson) by stabbing her through the chest, while she lies on a rubber raft.  Supposedly the lake was near freezing temperature.  To pull off the effect Aronson had to stand positioned with most of her body submerged beneath the lake, with a fake backside dummy attached to her head on the raft.  Because of this she couldn’t move, which caused her to turn blue from the frigid water.  White went to Director Joseph Zito to let him know about her condition.  When Zito refused to stop shooting, White told him he’d walk off the film if they didn’t take care of her.  This will a good call on White’s part as Aronson had developed hypothermia.

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Melanie Kinnaman “Pam Roberts” Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning

Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning is represented in the fifth chapter.  Everyone talks about how Director Danny Steinmann came from exploitation side of filmmaking and brought a seediness that exceeded anything the franchise had seen.  To hear one person describe how Steinmann communicated on the set during one scene, some might find it offensive but it was funny at the same time.  Melanie Kinnaman explains that her and her co-star John Shepherd were supposed to be cast in next Friday film but then Shepherd decided against it canceling out her opportunity.  Being a big-bust fan, I enjoyed hearing how Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives hottie Darcy DeMoss was passed over in casting for well-endowed actress Debi Sue Voorhees.  Both actresses talk about it as well.  I didn’t know that Danny Steinmann passed away in December of 2012.  There’s a recent photo of him as a tribute that closes the chapter.

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Jennifer Cooke “Megan Garris” Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives

Speaking of Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, it was enlightening listening to Frank Mancuso Jr. talk how after the poor reception of the fifth film, Paramount Pictures wanted him to get the film series back on track.  Mancuso Jr. selected Tom McLoughlin because of McLoughlin’s ingenious idea of resurrecting Jason Voorhees in Frankenstein fashion.  McLoughlin speaks candidly how he felt he needed to lighten the tone a bit to make it more entertaining, while at the same time bringing a Gothic touch to make it scary as well.  It was great seeing actress Jennifer Cooke again as I really liked her in the film.  Actress Darcy DeMoss discusses how the nifty special effect was achieved to get her face imprint sticking out of the Winnebago wall, after Jason forcefully shoves her face against it.  Tom McLoughlin also explains how he made all sorts of references within the film to horror filmmakers (like Carpenter & Craven) as well as genre legends like Karloff to honor horror heritage.  The director says Kevin Williamson later told him that his Friday film actually influenced the way Williamson wrote Scream ten years later.  I also thought it was very telling that McLoughlin points out that his film was the only one in the entire series to include children in the camp setting.  He felt that putting children in potential danger heightened the on screen terror and I would have to agree.  These are just a few of the reasons why Jason Lives is easily one of the top-three Friday films and contrary to popular opinion, better than The Final Chapter.   I can’t forget to share a funny story told about Producer Don Behrns.  Nobody on the crew liked the way Behrns was always penny pinching the production.  To get him back, multiple crew members describe that there was an expensive piece of equipment that Behrns would be getting a bonus for, if it was returned unharmed after the film was complete.  Aware of this, when the dangerous Winnebago stunt was set up at the end of the shoot, crew members purposely fastened it on top of the RV.  When the recreation vehicle hit the ramp and flipped sideways, the item flew off and shattered against the pavement, much to the rest of the crew’s delight.

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Friday the 13th Producer Frank Mancuso Jr. spearheaded Parts 2 through Part VII and the Television series

Ten-minutes are spent talking about the Friday the 13th Television series, which rounds out the first Blu-ray disc.  Frank Mancuso Jr. is still proud of creating 73 hours of television, which included segments from David Cronenberg and Tom McLoughlin.

DISC TWO:

The seventh chapter is devoted to Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood.  The biggest story from this Alabama shot installment was how Director John Carl Buechler, his cast & crew describe how the MPAA cut the film to ribbons.  The movie had a bunch of extended gore effects that had to be removed to get an R-rating, castrating this movie in the process.

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan is the focus of chapter eight.  Besides the tenth installment (in space) this has to be the most far-fetched, ridiculous concept for a Friday movie.  Though I understand the same location got a bit stale after a while, the fact is the camp ground is almost as much of a character as Jason.   Removing him from his habitat really didn’t work and was straight up silly.  Writer-Director Rob Heddon was aware of all the holes in his concept and choices for where he story goes (Jason goes under water at Crystal lake and ends up coming up in the Hudson River) but decided to just let the audience figure out how it could feasibly happen (that’s lazy and worked against the movie).  It’s choices like this that made it one of the weakest entries and not surprisingly one of the lowest money makers because of it.

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Erin Gray “Diana Kimball” Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday

In chapter nine, Sean Cunningham says he came back to Friday the 13th because he really wanted to do Freddy vs. Jason.  While waiting for that project to lift off, Cunningham decided to make another Jason film to keep character relevant.  Paramount didn’t want to do any more sequels after the lackluster performance of Jason Takes Manhattan so Cunningham was able to get the rights back from Paramount and then set something up with New Line Cinema.  The reason why part nine is called Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday instead of a Friday the 13th film is because Paramount kept the rights to Friday the 13th, while Crystal Lake Entertainment retained to rights to Jason Voorhees.  Cunningham turned to Adam Marcus, who was 23 years old to take the reins for Jason Goes To Hell.  Marcus was incredibly enthusiastic but admittedly way over his head making a movie of this size.

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Julie Michaels “Agent Marcus” Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday

While Freddy vs. Jason was in development hell, Jim Isaac suggested they make another Jason film.  So they went to Toronto to make Jason X.  Fortunately the production was able to secure the services of the crew who worked with David Cronenberg, when they cast the legendary director to play an important part as a actor.  Jason X had a budget of 13 million dollars and Isaac tried his best to push the movie to the max in terms of being ambitious.  The project was affected by the success of Scream because the studio gave notes that they wanted the script changed to become self-referential and this negatively changed the overall tone from dark to light.  On a sad note, Director Jim Isaac passed away in 2012 at the young age of 51 years old.

You will learn in chapter eleven that there were numerous (fifteen or so) screenplays written for Freddy vs. Jason.  Then on top of that, the studio considered forty different filmmakers for director.  New Line head honcho Robert Shaye finally decided on Ronny Yu because he had a journeyman quality and an outside perspective.  The whole hoopla about Kane Hodder not being cast as Jason is discussed with multiple people and I’ve always felt it was the right move not to use him.  I’ve never agreed that Hodder was the best Jason.  New Line Cinema felt this way and there choice of putting Ken Kirzinger in the role certainly paid off.  One of the best scenes in the movie, the cornfield massacre, is discussed at length and it was really cool listening to Ronny Yu point out specific moments and shots that make it a standout scene.  Actress Monica Keena says that actress Kelly Rowland despised the scene where she had to give Jason mouth to mouth to keep him alive, in the scene they were transporting him in a van back to Camp Crystal Lake. 

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Director of Photography Daniel Pearl Friday the 13th (2009)

Twelfth chapter goes over the ill-conceived & poorly executed reboot of Friday the 13th, which easily is one of the worst remakes in my opinion.  Michael Bay’s company Platinum Dunes inquired the rights to Sean Cunningham’s film but foolishly decided against using the original story of Ms. Voorhees, which was honestly an idiotic move because Jason is considerably less interesting as a character and had been done to death.  By the way there is a fun little edited section where everyone describes this new take was drilled into the cast & crew as “reboot”, which is a word I don’t like because it almost always equates to crap.  Derek Mears was a huge fan of the Friday the 13th series and it was his dream of a lifetime to play Jason.  Mears also says, he has a disorder called Alopecia, which is where hair is rejected by his body, which made him feel an affinity to Jason Voorhees character because this made him different like the legendary character.  Producer Brad Fuller says that he felt the series went away from having nudity in it, so it was important that they bring it back.  It was no surprise to hear that there was a constant battle between Director Marcus Nispel and the Platinum Dunes producers.  That might explain why it turned out so poorly.  That kind of interference always works against a film.

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Narrator Corey Feldman “Tommy Jarvis” Friday the 13th: The Final ChapterFriday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning

The last section, the thirteenth chapter is called “Reflection on the Water” devoting fifteen minutes to the past, present and future of Friday the 13th.  Almost everyone talks about how being in a Friday movie has empowered them and they’ve become quite proud of being in the series.  Mancuso and Savini say they lived for the moment of seeing an audience react to the movie.  I think it’s really great to hear to hear how almost universally all the people that worked on a Friday movie feel so positive about it now because let’s face it, society as a whole has always put the series down.  Sean Cunningham admits that he doesn’t understand why Friday the 13th has become so iconic but he’s just glad it happened.

www.cavd.com

www.crystallakememories.net