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Evil Dead

Jurassic Park 3-D

April 11, 2013

Evil Dead (** ½)

I’ve made mention in the pages of Focus on more than one occasion that I received my first VCR in the fall of 1985. It was a life-changing thing in those days for a film buff like myself who had previously been forced to see films only when they were shown at a theater within driving distance or on local television.

I can clearly recall when Sam Raimi’s 1981 film The Evil Dead finally arrived in our area—in a single theater in Charlotte in the fall of 1983. Since I wasn’t old enough to drive at the time, I missed the theatrical experience of seeing the much-discussed film, finally catching up with it on one of those fall days in 1985, not long after getting acquainted with my new VCR. The wait was worth it as the film delivered the goods and proved to be a milestone, in terms of horror films and my relationship with them up until that time. Its lowbrow plot involving five teens locked in a secluded cabin, fending themselves off from resurrected demons, rattled me in a way few films had up until that time—the only film coming close most likely being the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which, ironically I was also introduced to courtesy of my trusty VCR.

Several weeks ago, I found myself at a Q and A/lecture, hosted by the star of the original Evil Dead trilogy, Bruce Campbell.

Scene from Evil Dead

He gave us his reasons for remaking the film-Campbell, along with Raimi and Rob Tapert, are producers of the new film—and assured all that the new film would stand on its own, just in case he and Raimi decided to resurrect the original franchise for one more go round. He made a convincing case and so it was with much anticipation that I approached the remake of The Evil Dead, simply titled Evil Dead.

I’ll start with the film’s attributes, which are mainly that the characters have some semblance of a back story. There was scarcely an attempt at this in the original film. Not that I missed knowing anything about the original film’s characters, but it’s nice for the characters to have some semblance of a past, which is getting rarer in horror films these days. In the case of Evil Dead, there is Mia (Jane Levy), who is a drug addict and is being taken to the cabin for the purpose of detoxification by her brother, David (Shiloh Fernandez), who left home to pursue his own life and is now resented by Mia for leaving. There is also Olivia (Jessica Lucas), a caring nurse, David’s girlfriend, Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) and a schoolteacher, Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci).

Eric, academic that he is, turns out to be the character that unwittingly opens the door to hell by reading aloud incantations from the Book of the Dead, just as a central character did in the original Evil Dead film. 

What director/co-writer, Fede Alvarez, chooses to do for the rest of the film is to amp up the gore to levels that make the original Evil Dead look tame by comparison and that’s saying something considering the original went out unrated due to its violent content. This does the film no favors, especially when one takes into consideration the sense of humor that the original Evil Dead series always had going for it, something that is sorely lacking here. If watching someone slice off their face with a shard of a mirror or seeing someone amputate an arm in graphic detail, complete with muscle and tissue seen coming apart, you’ve found your film.

If The Evil Dead had to be remade there are worse ways to go about this endeavor, I suppose. There are some mildly suspenseful scenes and a few nods to the original Evil Dead franchise but the film could certainly have used some the original trilogy’s trademark humor. Evil Dead is a competently made film and, refreshingly, it contains no CGI effects but, like so many of the retreads out there today, it isn’t going to come close to replacing the original low-rent Evil Dead trilogy any time soon. Younger audience members may lap it up, but those who fondly remember the original will most likely find themselves shrugging and wondering what the fuss is all about.

Jurassic Park 3-D (***)

Does the re-release of Jurassic Park deliver the goods in 3-D, and is it worth doling out coinage for something one can easily view in the comfort of their own home? I’m sure those are the main questions that anyone reading this review wants answered and I’ll get them out of the way, right off the bat. Succinctly put, the answers are yes and yes. The 3-D upgrade for the twenty-year old film is well done, adding a feeling of depth and a sense of urgency that only serves to enhance the film’s well-remembered set pieces. When those dinosaurs stampede, you feel as if you are in the midst of the action. As for those of you who are wondering why exactly that you should shell out money to see a film that can easily be found in multiple, home viewing formats, the answer is simply that Jurassic Park is a film meant to be experienced on the biggest screen possible. It certainly loses something in translation when viewed on a television monitor and gains everything when projected onto a big screen.

The film’s plot of DNA replicated dinosaurs wreaking havoc on an island designated as the site of a future amusement park is, I’m sure, familiar for just about anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock for the last twenty-plus years, so I won’t bother to reiterate.

Jurassic Park 3D - very scary!

It’s still the equivalent to a good amusement park ride with many tension filled moments played to perfection. I’ll just say that of the film’s mostly solid cast (Sam Neil, Laura Dern, Richard Attenborough, Samuel L. Jackson), it’s still Jeff Goldblum’s plum role as a cautious scientist that shines above all others. Goldblum, with his style of halted line readings, gives the film its much-needed shot of humor that keeps everything in check. Seeing Goldblum here made me wonder why he isn’t being used more in films like this these days.

Considering that Jurassic Park utilized CGI effects when they were in their relative infancy, those effects have not dated in the two decades since the film’s original release and seeing the film again on a big screen was refreshing in this sense. The dinosaurs in the film look as realistic as anything we’re seeing these days, in spite of all of the advances in digital technology since then. In that respect, director Stephen Spielberg must be commended for the visionary approach he took two decades ago when choosing to adapt the late Michael Crichton’s (Crichton also co-scripted along with David Koepp) novel into a big-screen spectacle.

As good as the film still looks in its re-release, the problems that plagued Jurassic Park from a scripting standpoint still remain. There is the typical kids-in-peril subplot that makes its way into too many of Spielberg’s films. It seemed old-hat even during the film’s original release and it does the film no favors in its re-release. We all know by now that no harm ever comes to children in a Spielberg project, so the fate of the kids is always an afterthought. And then there is Spielberg’s tendency to go a tad over the top with his flair for melodramatics. Unfortunately, these are problems that 3-D and Imax can’t solve but it’s still a small price to pay for a film that delivers so many pleasures on a visceral level.

Questions or comments? - email Adam Long at filmfan1970@hotmail.com

 

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