Evil Dead And Other Remakes



Over the course of history we have had to suffer through a multitude of remakes with more on the way. It’s a fact of life that Hollywood wants to capitalize on a name. That’s just how it goes. How many times have seen the same Shakespeare story put on film even though there are other equally good Shakespeare plays that never get made? Why? Because people recognize the names of Hamlet and Romeo & Juliet.

Horror films get hit harder than any other genre because, as horror fans, we get excited that someone is actually releasing a horror movie in theaters. So we go and immediately take to the internet whining and complaining about the latest remake or sequel and how much the studio/director/star ruined your memories. But we go. Studios know this. And what do studios care about most? It’s not the fans. It’s profit. So we get remakes and a sequel a year to the likes of Saw or Paranormal Activity not because we demand it but because they know we’ll watch it. Hell, I have seen every Children Of The Corn and Hellraiser movie, not because I like them but because they were there. That’s what studios count on. Being a genre fan is frustrating and rewarding all at once.

Thirty one years ago an established horror and science fiction filmmaker set out to make his first remake before they became the trendy thing to do in Hollywood. It was one of the only films in that thirty one years to do it right. The movie was The Thing, the filmmaker John Carpenter. He was already moving toward legendary statud thanks to Assault On Precinct 13, Halloween, The Fog and Escape From New York. At the time this seemed like a bad career choice. Why make someone else’s film when you could do something original? But he believed in the movie and felt it had something to say just in the same way that the remake of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers did just a few years earlier. And, like Invasion, he got it right. Since then we have seen nearly all his early masterwork remade. None match what he did with the originals. There have also been a slew of other remakes of famous horror franchises with varying degrees of success – A Nightmare On Elm Street, Friday The 13th, Prom Night, The Hills Have Eyes. The list goes on and grows by the day.
One movie that many prayed for a sequel to and feared a remake of was Evil Dead. This was the movie that launched director Sam Raimi, producer Rob Tapert and star Bruce Campbell. It mixed horror and humor seemlessly as well giving us the most innovative low budget look any horror movie ever could. For those reasons fans, myself included, feared that someone would one day ruin the franchise for us with a remake that insulted us all. I’m glad I was wrong.

The movie started in a very different way than the original. It opened with a woman, bloody and beaten, trying to escape through the woods when something bad happens. Then it cuts to introducing us to the the cast twenty-something pretty people that one expects from a horror movie. But that’s where the movie stops being like your typical “Dead Teenager Movie” (if could steal a phrase from the late, great Roger Ebert). Fede Alvarez had a very clear vision of maing a movie that was not only faithful to the Evil Dead fans but also a balls out horror film that was original and gory fun.

It’s hard to get a remake right because people feel all at once beholden to the original material and have a strong desire to explain things. Take Halloween. Rob Zombie felt that he had to keep the genreal story intact while explaining the childhood of Michael Myers. A Nightmare On Elm Street did a similar thing with giving more back story on Freddy right from the start. This used to be something that wasn’t given till you were three sequels deep in the 80’s. And there’s a reason for that. You need to go in to the first film with the intention of scaring the living shit out of your audience. When you begin to explain the evil away the audience begins to sympathize with the killer. That is like putting the nail in the coffin before the movie is even released. Fede Alvarez knew better. He didn’t go into detail about where the Necronomicon came from or how it gained its power. It was just evil and there were people stupid enough to not heed the warnings and read from it anyway.

The movie got more right than it got wrong. It was smart enough to play with what we expect by keeping us guessing on who would live and who would die. The beats pulled from the previous Evil Dead movies were given a nice twist that kept me guessing. And Jane Levy was truly amazing as Mia. She went from frail to frightened to posessed to all out evil with what seemed to be such effortless ease. For her alone the movie is worth watching. But all the star aligned just right for this film. The cast, the director, the script – everything was spot on. Alvarez took just enough from Raimi’s style to make it feel like an Evil Dead movie while bringing in his own crazy style that fit so well for the movie. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Also, stay after the credits for a little surprise.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars on this one. It is what horror remakes should aspire to – a movie that doesn’t need to be defined by the fact that it’s a remake.


Shooting Lepus: Day Four

Well, we did it. We wrapped our ambitious little short film at about 2:30 this morning. It was our biggest day on set. We had multiple cast members and several extras, each with their own timetables we had to consider.

We were going to try and start with my nephew first and get the shot out of the way so we didn’t have to have an eight year old on set all night watching people die. The problem was his scenes were with a woman playing a sexy nurse. We had trouble finding a person for the role. At the last minute we had Victoria Paege come in. We had to wait for her to finish with hair and make up so we tried to shoot as much around her as we could.

Our first shot of the night was Kat Garcia and Kelsee Benson arriving at the Halloween party with a moment of dialogue. We had a Vulcan and a husband and wife pair of Mandalorian Mercs playing Twister. We had Kat in a chicken costume walking and talking with Kelsee who was dressed as sort of schoolgirl.

After that Victoria was ready. She had no dialogue. Her entire part was all about body language and she nailed it. My nephew Brennen was great as the eight year old throwing the party.

Then we were finally ready to knock out the dialogue scenes with RJ Markham, Kat, Kelsee, Tyler Gallant, and Jai Yunae. I can’t express how lucky I feel that we got the cast we did. Every single person did such an amazing job.

I have already talked about Tyler and Kelsee quite a bit in previous posts so I want to take a moment and talk about some of the supporting cast. Jai Yunae was fantastic as the lovelorn woman who desperately seeks the approval of Sheriff Cristos. She took just a few weird pieces of dialogue and turned them into something Brian and I didn’t even see when we wrote it. It took a long time before we got around to shooting her scenes last night so she took decided to become our unofficial still photographer. The pictures she took we incredible. She stuck around late even though she had an 8am call time for another short she was starting immediately after this one, also co-starring Tyler.

RJ Markham was another great find for us. He came in for the day to play Farmer. He not only shot all of his scenes but then stuck around to help is clean up all the blood and guts afterwards. He was a real trooper. And his performance was great. We had a lot of fun having him on set.

I know I have talked a bit about Kat Garcia already but I have to say how amazed I was with her last night. She didn’t want me to know, and I didn’t find out until a half hour after we wrapped, but she had a really bad ear infection during her scenes and was in terrible pain. She soldiered through and you would never be able to tell when watching her performance.

She wasn’t the only sick one on the set last night. David Sabal, our DP and producer, was also sick all night but never once complained. He just did his job and stayed to help clean after. I can’t thank him enough for the work he put into our little baby.

Last, I want to talk about the most awkward part of the night. There is a scene in Lepus where a woman gets killed by having a vibrator jammed into her mouth and out the back of her head. Before we knew we going to have a shot at professional actors we planned on Lepus being nothing but friends and family. Well, the first person we asked to play this role accepted, much to my surprise. My sister said yes to doing it. The reality really sunk in when Cherith was sitting there last night with vibrator in hand and Brian was about to shove it into her mouth. No matter what direction was given it just sounded dirty and wrong. Example – “We’re gonna a couple takes, Cherith. I’m gonna have Brian put it in and pull it out a few times. When he puts it in I want you to look terrified. How’s your gag reflex? Can it go any deeper?” Oh, the joys of being a director shooting a scene where your sister has to put a vibrator in her mouth. What was I thinking when writing the scene? What was I thinking asking my sister to do play this part?

I also wrote a scene for my nephew Brennen where he’s supposed to walk out of a bedroom with a sexy nurse two to three times his age and smack her on the butt and say “thanks babe”. That was awkward. The entire cast and family was sitting there watching as we shot the scene too. Brennen did a great job but he was so nervous about smacking Victoria on the butt. We told him he didn’t have to if he was uncomfortable. We found out after a few takes he was grabbing it. We never knew.

I can’t believe we got away with it. I want to thank everyone involved. Kelsee did great for this being her first time. So did her brothers and sister. All the extras that came out last night were so good. A special thanks to Justin Blair for taking direction so well, dressing like a Vulcan and knocking his one line out of the park.

We are going to have some pictures up on our page soon. Go here and you will see them soon.

Shooting Lepus: Day Three

Day three of Lepus was a very short day. We had just a few shots to get. There was a scene with the two sisters, Kelsee and Sierra Benson we couldn’t get to on day two. Then we headed over to Cherith Pruitt’s house to do a quick shot of her sleeping restlessly as she has a psychic vision.

We kept day three light because we thought we would not have Tyler Gallant or Kat Garcia available. They thought they may have been on a shoot for a major motion picture for Warner Brothers. It turns out the scene got cut and they would have been available to us all day. It did afford us time to record the latest episode of The Gorram Nerd Hour with Tyler as a special guest. So it all worked out.

Day four, our final official shoot date, is going to be a big one. We have nearly the entire cast, several extras and multiple kills to get through. It’s gonna be a long bloody night. I can’t wait to get started.

Shooting Lepus Day 2

Today was amazing. It was the first day of having Tyler Gallant on set to shoot his half his scenes as Sheriff Cristos. He knocked it out of the park. The character is gonna be so much to see on screen when it’s all edited together.

Today was day with with my little sister Cherith Pruitt as Zelda. She plays a psychic who comes to warn the sheriff about the killer Easter Bunny. She used to want to be an actress before she decided that being a wife and mother was a more important pursuit. She did a great job in scenes with Tyler.

Kelsee Benson, my other sister’s oldest child, is playing Jamie in Lepus and shot her first scenes today. She was great. I cannot wait to see what she does on Thursday when we shoot her frightened run.

Kat Garcia came in today to shoot her scenes as a lovely teen who is dressed like a chicken. We were lucky to get her and we have Tyler to thank for that. She plays Jamie’s bitchy friend Mary and did a wonderful job.

Rob Edwards, another one we got thanks to Tyler, stopped in to shoot his two scenes today. He is playing Deputy Beckett, one of the only people who realizes something funky is going on in town. His performance was subtle and very good. We are so grateful to have had in our short film.

Our friend Randy Robinson popped by today too. He is playing the town coroner who is more interested in his own life than in doing his job. His performance was hilarious.

And then there’s Brian Smith. He has never acted, nor did he ever have any interest in doing so. He just wanted to go-write and produce this with me. But I asked him to play the Lepus and he has been amazing. He is so creepy and funny in the pink bunny costume and his 70’s porn star moustache. I am so with his performance.

That just leaves David Sabal. This man is a one man film crew. We got so much accomplished in such a short time in the last two day we are taking tomorrow just to do pick up shots. I can’t say enough good about this man. Without him Lepus wouldn’t have been possible.

We got so much done today it was astounding. We worked our butts off…but it was so worth it. I can’t wait to have something to show you all.

Tonight We Read Lepus!

Tonight is a big one for me. First Brian and I will be recording the latest episode of The Gorram Nerd Hour immediately followed by a table read for our short film, Lepus.

First up, The Gorram Nerd Hour will recording at our permanent home of Samurai Comics in Mesa. Tonight we review The Garbage Pail Kids Movie. I know from speaking with Brian that the both of us hated the film with a deep burning Passion. It should make for a fun segment. We will also be touching on The Walking Dead, the death of the girl from Bring It On, and many other topics. Make sure to tune in. It will be available here on Monday.

With Thanksgiving rapidly approaching we will be reviewing ThanksKilling soon. It’s one of our favorite bad movies.

For tonight’s table read we will have the entire cast together for the first time before shooting begins in about a week. Tyler, Kelsee, Kat, Jai, Rob, Randy, Brian, Cherith, and myself will be sitting down to read Lepus together. It should be a lot of fun. We will have cameras set up so we can post some stuff on the net within the next couple weeks. Check out our facebook page for updates.

The Gorram Nerd Hour News

It seems things are moving in the right direction with The Gorram Nerd Hour. Brian and I have been putting a lot of effort into promoting the show. If you haven’t listened yet you really should. After the success we had at The Rapture Horror Expo recently we decided that we would like to keep doing more podcasts from festivals and interview guests.

Up next, unless something else pops up, us the Bloody Hero film festival in February. Chris Martin, one of the festival head honchos, asked me at Rapture if we would like to be involved. I said yes, of course. We also know for sure we will be podcasting live from Phoenix Comicon in May. I am trying to work out a deal to work the International Horror and SciFi show in April as well as seeing if we can get into The Amazing Arizona Comic Con in January. I haven’t heard back from the last two yet. Fingers crossed.

In the meantime I have an old friend from high school stopping by for our next show where he will try and convince Brian and me that the Star Wars prequel trilogy didn’t suck. Then we will be doing our Halloween show where I intend to talk about John Carpenter at length.

We also were talking about trying to get press passes to and a possible interview with the lovely and talented Danielle Harris when she’s in town next month screening her directorial debut. We are certainly doing our best to put on the best show possible for you all. I hope you’re tuning in. If you haven’t seen or heard the show yet go to http://gorramnerdhour.blogspot.com and check it out. We are also available on Stitcher, iTunes, and have video stuff available on YouTube. Just type in Gorram Nerd Hour and you’ll find us. Also, please go “like” our Facebook pages http://facebook.com/TheGorramNerdHour, http://facebook.com/TheCristosSaga, and http://facebook.com/RobotVampireProductions. There’s a lot of great stuff coming. We promise not to disappoint.

My Thoughts On Rapture Horror Expo

This weekend was a long one. But it was great. The Expo hit a few snags along the way. KB, the director of the Expo, put the whole thing together in record time. Normally when putting together a convention of any sort you want to have roughly nine months. This affords you time to get all your ducks in a row. You can schedule guests, make sure the panels are secured, and you have to get the word out. From what I understand they put this all together in under four months. That is amazing.

Sadly, this means there are going to be parts that are going to be a little disorganized. Even working at Phoenix Comicon where people never stop organizing and prepping all year long there seems to be snags and disorganization every year. It’s unavoidable. The important thing is to keep your head up and power through to make the experience as enjoyable as possible for your guests. And Rapture accomplished that.

There was another uphill battle they had to fight. I will not name names but I will say that there were people out there spreading fear about coming to the Expo, claiming it may be cancelled. It was all over Facebook. Some folks that I talked to said that they were going to buy the full event pass for $35 and didn’t because of what they read. This cut the profits of the Expo down considerably. It’s a shame this talk got started because the people who came to the Expo really seemed to enjoy it.

There were events at the convention center that ran through the evening including the screening of The Black Dahlia Haunting. There was also a lot to do at Monsterland in downtown Mesa. I was lucky enough to see the band First Jason perform a few tracks before having to leave on Friday. I was too tired, unfortunately, to see the burlesque show performed last night.

As far as guests I have to say that the highlights for me were Bill Oberst Jr., Jake Busey, Jessica Cameron and Devanny Pinn. They were all so nice. I was able to talk for a few minutes to Betsy Rue, star of My Bloody Valentine. You will want to see that interview. I was not about to ask any of these women about their nude scenes but she brought it up and talked in detail about her scenes in My Bloody Valentine. She was really open and fun about it. Brooke Lewis was a great deal of fun to talk to. Her work as an actress is fascinating but she doesn’t want to limit herself. She has also become a motivational speaker and a life coach. She talked to me about that for a while. Everyone was so nice and willing to talk. There was a wonderfully open atmosphere on the floor that was given off by all of the guests.

I want to make sure I give a quick thank you to everyone that helped put this together – KB, you were awesome. Thank you for the opportunity. Kara, without you we would have been lost. Thank you. Chadington, what you did for Rob Edwards was amazing. You rock. Thank you. Bill Oberst Jr., you gave us our best show yet. We love you and will watch even the most terrible movies if you’re in them. Thank you. Jake Busey, you gave me a great 15 minutes and you were just plain cool. Thank you. Devanny Pinn, keep doing what you do. Making movies on the cheap and making them look pretty is a hard thing to do but you’re doing it. And I love your enthusiasm. Thank you. Jessica Cameron, you gave us not one but two interviews now. You are so sweet and we really want to see Shadow. We love your work. Keep it coming. Thank you. Ari Lehman, from acting to music to your love of the craft you’re just an all around cool guy. And thanks for the bumper. Brooke Lewis, even if you never act again what you’re doing is amazing. We love you for it. Thank you. Tommy Piech, watching you work crafting a zombie was amazing. You have something for sure. I can’t wait to see where you go from here. Thank you. I know I have probably left people out and I’m sorry. My brain is fried right now from the weekend. But I have to thank a couple more people. Tony and David, if it hadn’t been for you this would not have gone as smoothly. Plus we got free sandwiches at Denny’s. Thank you both. This leaves Brian. I’m not gonna sing Wind Beneath My Wings but we make a damn good team. I had a lot of fun this weekend. I don’t know that I would have wanted to do this if it hadn’t been for you.

The Gorram Nerd Hour Episode 3

We just finished recording our latest episode of The Gorram Nerd Hour. It was an episode of firsts. Brian and I both agreed on something. That was a first for the show. We also conducted a couple of phone interviews. As I mentioned previously The Rapture Horror Expo is coming up October 5-7th. We had the man behind the con, KB, talk to us via phone to tell us what we can expect from the first horror con of it’s kind at the Mesa Convention Center. Then we got on the phone with Dave Reda and the lovely Jessica Cameron and talked about their upcoming movie “Shadow”. It sounds like an awesome concept. I can’t wait to see it. They were both driving to a convention in Sacramento and we lost signal a couple times but we got through it. Jessica was telling us about a movie she will be promoting here called “The Black Dahlia Haunting” and Dave told us about his time as an extra on “So I Married An Axe Murderer”. They were very nice folks.

During the time we spoke with KB he told us that there will be a bunch of special guests coming. He mentioned Jake Busey and Tony Todd, which we already knew about. We found out that “My Bloody Valentine” star Betsy Rue will be there, the man who played Kincaid in “A Nightmare On Elm Street 3 and 4”, the star of “Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies”, director and comic book legend Brian Pulido, and a lot more. Visit their website for full details http://rapturehorrorexpo.com

Brian also ranted a bit about Superman Issue 0 that just came out and how they’re changing everything. We talked about the cinematic stink bomb that was C.H.U.D. and even managed to squeeze in time to talk about some potentially big news about the upcoming X-Men movie sequel/prequel. And we had a chance to plug our friend Ricardo Vasquez’s movie “The Fallen One” which shares a couple cast members with our upcoming short film “Lepus”. It was a good episode. You can find it Monday at http://gorramnerdhour.blogspot.com and http://facebook.com/TheGorramNerdHour.

Another Lepus Update

The cast is secured. The locations are set. We should have most of our props and costumes. We had one victim left to cast. I may have spoken with someone this morning willing to do it. It’s a non-speaking role so it was hard to really find anyone how was a proper actress to show up, dress in a sexy nurse outfit and die.

Brian and I have been friends with a girl for years. She’s very pretty but not an actress and never had any aspirations to one. So obviously we never really thought about her. I sent her a message on Facebook about a week ago asking if she would like to be an extra at the Halloween party scene. That’s when Brian suggested I ask her to be the sexy nurse. She called me this morning and said she would get back to me tonight about it.

This is the last piece of casting we had left. I can’t wait to get started. We have a production meeting this week to discuss the project and see if there’s anything else we need to stress about but everything is looking great so far.

What’s great is that we have places that would work perfectly for the Sheriff’s station, the party house, and the few other locations we need right at our disposal. I am so excited to see what my actors do with the material. They were all amazing at the audition, even the ones we didn’t cast.

Go to our Facebook page http://facebook.com/TheCristosSaga for more details coming soon.

A Study In Technique

While doing the auditions for Lepus last week Kelsee Benson got a bit nervous. She has never been around professional actors and felt intimidated running lines with them during the audition. After it was over and I took her home she pulled me aside. She asked me, “Geek (that’s a nickname I got saddled with when she was a baby and couldn’t say Jake), what am I supposed to be doing? I haven’t ever done anything like this before.”

Kelsee goes to a performing arts school. She’s used to stage work, singing and dancing mostly. She’s very confidant on stage but cameras are another story. I told her I would come back on Friday and we could go through the script and I would help her get comfortable.

I got to her house on Friday and first had to remove a refrigerator, install another one, jump my sister’s car battery, and suffer through watching The Voice before I finally got to work with Kelsee. As we sat there going through the script I could see the talent coming through. She has one problem – she can change her voice to express emotion but her face stays the same. It took some time but I got her to be more expressive. I had her use body language and I kept telling her to use her eyebrows more, just not as much as the stupid kid on the original 90210 who was David’s friend and accidentally killed himself when he dropped his dad’s gun.

After working on Kelsee’s expressiveness I had her try doing the frightened run she needs to do for the end of the short film. She’s supposed to run up to the sheriff to get him to stop the Easter Bunny. As she was running she kept looking like she was smiling. Finally, I got her to open her mouth and raise her eyebrows and she had a perfect look on her face where she looked scared but it was also very funny. I called her mother outside to watch the frightened run and she agreed. It is a perfect look and a slightly funny run that she does and completely sells it. She’s going to do great.