Evil Dead And Other Remakes


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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Phoenix Film Festival


Hello everyone,

I have been awfully busy as of late. Between my podcasts, prepping for the premiere of Death By VHS, and trying to get my next short moving forward after some speed bumps slowed me down I have not had much time to blog. Sorry for that. But, if it’s any consolation, I do miss you.

Here’s what’s going on with me right now. Starting today I am going to be spending some time at the Phoenix Film Festival. We were able to score some press passes to the event thanks in part to the wonderful Andrea Beesly. This festival also includes the annual International Horror and SciFi Festival. This year they have Meg Foster coming by to screen They Live, the John Carpenter classic starring Roddy Piper. I’m hoping I get a chance to interview her for you all. If I do it will be up on the Abnormal Entertainment page soon.

Among other guests I am hoping to chat with are DB Sweeney, Teller, Natalie Imbruglia and one of the producers of the Saw franchise. I will try and update you as soon as I can on what we were able to score from our time at the fest.

Also, we are going to be at Phoenix Comicon next month, C4 (a first year comic convention in Ventura, California) in September and the Rapture Horror Expo in October in Tempe. If you are planning to come to any of those shows make sure you come by and say hello. We always love to meet people who listen to either The Gorram Nerd Hour or From The Underground.

Thoughts Of Past And Future


Here we are, just a few short months after I started this blog, and we have one short film nearly ready to show, another starting next month and The Gorram Nerd Hour has recorded nearly 20 episodes. All of that in just a few short months. When I started this blog I was talking about the features Brian Smith and I have been writing. We got detoured…but for good reason. We needed something to showcase our talent. We were a little arrogant to think that two writers with no credits to their names could get someone to give them money to produce and direct a movie of their own. Now we’ll have two things to show.

Since I was a boy I have loved movies. I would sit and watch an action movie like any little would. I loved Commando, Lethal Weapon and Die Hard. I also had an affection for every other type of film. I didn’t care. If someone made I wanted to see it. Science Fiction, Horror, Romantic Comedy, Sappy Melodrama, Musicals. I just loved movies. What I took away from all of that was that it was what I wanted to do. I wanted to make movies of my own. At first I thought I wanted to be an actor until I took a drama class in High School and my teacher had me direct something for the first time. That’s when my passion made itself crystal clear. I loved the behind the scenes aspect of things. 

I always enjoyed writing. It has been a passion of mine for as long as I remember. What I wrote was always weird. I would go off and write a sequel to Romeo & Juliet in iambic pentameter or a western about aliens hiding among the townsfolk and planning on destroying the town with radioactive lima beans. So when Brian and I sat down to write Lepus I suggested we write the whole thing in Klingon save for the killer’s one line which would be in German. 

Sometimes I need to be reigned in.

We decided not to go with Klingon. But we kept Brian’s line in German. There is not one good reason for it other than it made us laugh. Lepus is a comedy, after all. We started off goofy with our next short film and decided to go darker once we started writing. Terrestrial will be a different side of our writing. It’s tone is more serious while still being quirky. 

As I write this we are only a couple days away from the open casting call for Terrestrial. I couldn’t be more excited about who we have coming in to read. a couple of our Lepus cast members are coming in for it – Jai Yunae and Randy Robinson. I loved working with them on Lepus. I can’t wait to see what they bring to this audition. We also have some other really talented people we didn’t cast for Lepus coming in for another go. Wilman Vergara II was someone I was really impressed with and just couldn’t find a good place to put him last time. This time he’s coming in to read for the lead in Terrestrial and I think he’s got a great shot at it. Adam Boggs is another up and comer I really liked and he’s coming in to read for us again. I was impressed with both of them so much. I’m glad they want to come in and try for this one. 

We’re still not at a point where we’ve been able to pay anyone for their work. It’s all just copy and credit basically. I’m amazed by the talent that has been willing to work with us for nothing. Hopefully by the time we get started on the next two parts of Lepus we have a budget…something to pay these amazing people for their time. 

Back to Lepus for a moment – The rough cut I saw a while back is good. I was really happy with how it turned out. It was a very rough cut with no score, no effects, no foley. But it was great, great enough for Walter Reuther (aka Scarlet Fry) to tell me it was his favorite in the anthology horror DVD we will be included on. And he directed all the other shorts. 

David Sabal, our wonderful renaissance man (DP, producer, editor) just got the score back from the composer. I asked for something similar to a score from the 80’s scifi and horror movies I loved so much. I wanted something like an old John Carpenter score. From what I hear the composer delivered. Hopefully I will hear it in the next few days. 

Now on to The Gorram Nerd Hour. We have been having a lot of fun recording our show every week. Brian and I love working on it. We are talking about re-tooling the show a little. The first twenty or so weeks have been about finding out what works and what doesn’t. We’re gonna be trying a few new things in upcoming episodes that could prove to be a lot of fun. We are also going to be spending the weekend of February 8-10th at the Bloody Hero International Film Festival at the Phoenix Convention Center. We will be recording our podcast, conducting interviews and serving on the jury. This is a big deal for us. I know I’m really excited about it. We may have another fun surprise for our listeners that weekend too. This will be a part of the re-tool of the show. Let us know what you think.

One last thing before I wrap this up. We had a friend from our Abnormal Entertainment family in town last weekend. Camm Harston, co-host of Raise Your Spirits with Camm and Kevin. While he was here Brian and I both guested on their show. We had a lot of fun and everyone should go listen.

Here;s hoping 2013 proves even better for Robot Vampire Productions than 2012. We’re already off to a great start.

 

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.

I Have Come Here To Chew Bubble Gum And Review “They Live”…And I’m All Out Of Bubble Gum


Throughout the 1980’s John Carpenter made his best movies. The Thing, Escape From New York, Big Trouble In Little China and Starman being among them. But none of them are quite like They Live.

I remember the first time I saw this movie. It was on a local television station in the 80’s. They would show cheesy movies every Saturday afternoon. I found myself engrossed in its stupidity. I thought the acting was terrible, the story was weak, and the dialogue was laughable. Bit something happened after it was over. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

John Carpenter did something absolutely brilliant with this movie. He crafted a very smart film in a very stupid package. It almost seems like even that was a commentary on our society, like he believed that Americans didn’t want smart movies anymore so he made look as dumb as possible.

The story is a simple one. The world’s class system is becoming more and more divided. More people are out of work and the rich get richer. Former pro wrestler Roddy Piper discovers that aliens are behind everything when he puts on a pair of sunglasses that show him the world for what it really is. Then it is up to him to stop it.

Upon its initial release They Live was a disappointment at the box office. It was met with poor reviews and nearly forgotten…until television and home video made it into a cult classic. In fact, I would put in my all time top 5 John Carpenter movies. The list would probably go as follows – 1) The Thing 2) Halloween 3) Escape From New York 4) They Live and 5) In The Mouth Of Madness.

What makes this movie great is Carpenter’s disdain for authority and his inabilty to take things at face value. It was there in most of his work in the 80’s. He took a bad premise and turned it into a movie that is a social commentary about commercialism, ignorance, politics, and racism. It really was a very smart film.

If you have never seen this movie you need to. If you have and didn’t look past its cheesy exterior you owe it to yourself to watch it again. This is a great movie with a message that is just as important today as it was nearly 30 years ago.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

80’s Movie Review – Escape From New York


John Carpenter and Kurt Russell together is a wonderful combination. I love The Thing and Big Trouble In Little China. I even like Russell’s portrayal of Elvis in the barely remembered made for TV movie of the same name directed by Carpenter. But Escape From New York holds a soft spot in my heart.

I have always loved the strong brooding anti-hero in movies. Add an eye patch and it somehow becomes even cooler. The story is simple – a former war hero turned master criminal is forced to go into New York, now a maximum security prison wasteland, to rescue the president after his plane goes down.

Over the course of the film Snake Plisskin has to find the president on a time limit while fighting his way through the scum of the city with help from Ernest Borgnine, Harry Dean Stanton and Adrienne Barbeau. Snake us put to the test several times physically when he meets Isaac Hayes as The Duke and his henchmen.

The movie is goofy and dated. The thing that makes this movie special, as with many Carpenter films, is the social and political commentary of it all. His anti-establishment views are all over this film. That, coupled with the great performances of the previously mentioned cast and Donald Pleasance as the President, makes this movie a true classic. And the use of the theme from American Bandstand was brilliant.

This movie deserves to be remembered AND NEVER REMADE! I give it 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Where Have All The Genre Heroes Gone?


I was shaped as a young boy watching Halloween, A Nightmare On Elm Street, Friday The 13th, and some of the smaller films like House, Night Of The Creeps, and many others. I wonder sometimes where the people who made these movies ended up.

John Carpenter created one of the most iconic killers in cinema history with nothing more than a shoe string budget and a William Shatner mask. Michael Myers burst onto the scene and changed genre filmmaking forever. Carpenter went on to make some other great and lasting contributions to horror and genre fare. Big Trouble In Little China, The Thing, Escape From New York, and In The Mouth Of Madness. It was after Madness that he started to show signs that he was faltering. Village Of The Damned, although a decent remake, was a sub-par offering from the man who gave us such other great films. Then there was Escape From L.A. and Ghosts Of Mars. That ended it for him. It was like he knew his time was over back in 2001. Masters Of Horror got him back behind the camera for two episodes that were fun but not as good as some others, definitely not Carpenter worthy. But it gave him the itch again. He directed The Ward, a movie I have yet to see and am afraid to watch, much for the same reason I have a small amount of trepidation when I see the names Lucas or Spielberg anymore. I’m afraid his best days are behind him.

Wes Craven gave us The Last House On The Left, The Hills Have Eyes, Shocker, The Serpent And The Rainbow, and Scream. The most he can muster now is My Soul To Take and the soulless Scream 4. What happened? Where’d the spark go?

Steve Miner may not be the big name the previous two are but he made a couple Friday The 13th movies, House, Phantoms, even a Halloween movie. Now he’s doing television. It’s like nobody will hire the guy to make movies anymore. Is that a good thing? I’m not here to judge. But I do love House.

All these directors get old. Their sensibilities change. Spielberg removed shotguns and replaced them with Walkie Talkies in E.T. for God’s sake. I know that as I get older I want to scream everytime a kid turns on Justin Bieber. But if I was a 12 year old girl I would feel differently. That’s part of aging.

My question is – why can’t we see these directors do something else, something that sparks their passions as they are now? Would Clinton Eastwood have done a movie like The Bridges Of Madison County after Pale Rider? no way. But as he got older he realized that he could. Good for him. He figured it out. What these great directorate need to do is figure out their passion again, find it, follow it. It may not be genre but it will be good…because it’s what they want to do. Who’d have thought Kevin Smith could have made a movie with not one Star Wars reference or dart joke. But he did and Red State was amazing. Grow, change, do what you love. Just don’t do what is expected.