Dragged Into Mediocrity

Sam Raimi’s return to horror after Spiderman gave him a big dose of mainstream credibility opens up with a prelude establishing its demonic (and kind of racist) premise: in 1969 medium Shaun San Dela (played here by Flor de Maria Chahua) tries and fails to help a young couple whose son has been cursed after stealing a necklace from a gypsy – a curse which causes the boy to be physically dragged into hell, as the movie’s title promises.

In the present day, loan officer Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) is angling for a big promotion, and her boss Mr Jacks (David Paymer) drops a hint that what he’s looking for is someone who can make hard-nosed, tough decisions. On top of that, she overhears a conversation between her boyfriend, Psychology professor Clay Dayton (Justin Long), and his mother suggesting that she won’t approve of Christine unless she demonstrates more career ambition, and Christine’s main competitor for the post is Stu Rubin (Reggie Lee), an utter douche who uses shady tactics to make Christine look bad and to suck up to Mr Jacks.

Thus, when Sylvia Ganush (Lorna Raver), an elderly woman, comes in to request an extension on her loan repayments, and Mr Jacks suggests that this is just the sort of hard choice that he’s thinking of as far as the promotion goes, Christine is more than ready to deny her the extension, even though she knows it means Sylvia will be evicted from her home. (The direction also makes strong suggestions that Christine fines Sylvia’s personal habits physically repulsive, which might colour the way she presents Sylvia’s case to Mr Jacks in the first place.) Pushed beyond her limits, Sylvia curses Christine with the same manner of curse the child from the prelude had. Will four decades of mediumship experience help Shaun San Dela (played in her elder form by Adriana Barazza) beat the curse this time, or is Christine as inexorably damned as the kid in the prologue?

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Raimi of Darkness

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell’s cinematic CVs both have the same name at the top: The Evil Dead, the first full-length feature either of the two friends were involved with that earned Raimi notoriety as a horror director with a grisly imagination on a par with Tobe Hooper or George Romero,, and also gave Campbell credibility as a square-jawed B-movie stalwart. Each film presents a different riff on the various common features of the premise; although each time it boils down to Bruce’s character Ash facing off against demonic forces that reanimate the dead, each film offers an extremely different spin on the premise – and, for that matter, on the character of Ash himself.

The Evil Dead

The premise of The Evil Dead is nothing new – it’s the same old “teenagers or college students go somewhere isolated, scary stuff happens to them” premise which dates back to the 1950s at least in the cinema, and probably much earlier if you look at campfire ghost stories. (Cabin In the Woods is pretty much built on how generic this premise is.) In this case, the college students in question are Ash (Bruce Campbell), Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss), Scott (Richard DeManincor), Linda (Betsy Baker) and Shelly (Theresa Tilly), the isolated place is that good old standby, the lonely hut in the middle of the forest, and the bad thing that happens involves them discovering an archaeologist’s tape recording of readings from the Necronomicon, the playing of which frees the dark forces surrounding the cabin to launch a full-scale assault against their psyches. One by one the friends are possessed by the demons described in the book, turning into grotesque, malformed parodies of their former selves (dubbed “Deadites” in the later installments of the series), until eventually Ash is left on his own to fend for himself against his undead pals.

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Smothered At Birth

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

Of the three TV series issued forth by Sam Raimi’s Renaissance Pictures production house in 1995, American Gothic is the runt of the litter. Whilst Hercules: the Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess both found an audience to sustain them over several seasons, ‘70s teen hearthrob Shaun Cassidy’s attempt to bring the Southern Gothic aesthetic to television was cancelled by the CBS network before it even got rolling. The upside of being cancelled so very early in its life was that Cassidy and crew were at least able to craft a decent ending to the series and lay the groundwork for that conclusion in the episodes leading up to it; unfortunately, as well as cancelling the show, CBS showed the episodes out of order, and didn’t transmit four episodes at all, resulting in an incoherent mess.

Between the incredibly shoddy treatment of the series by the network and its brief run, not many people got to see it the first time around, and it gained a cult reputation partly because many of those who saw it did genuinely enjoy it, but also partly because not many people actually got to see it in the first place. Thanks to Universal’s basic but functional DVD release of the complete series, including the four unaired episodes, we can at last see the series in the order it was meant to be seen. Unfortunately, viewing it this way reveals that it isn’t quite as good as nostalgia has made it out to be.

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Sam Raimi Wants To Direct “Heroes” Instead

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

The Spoiler-Free Summary

Bear in mind that I have not, as yet, actually managed to watch any Heroes. (This deficiency is being resolved, never fear.) That said, Spiderman 3 feels more like a quick summary of a season of Spiderman: the TV Series than it does a coherent movie. Anyone who hasn’t seen the first two films and doesn’t want spoilers for the third shouldn’t read any further. In fact, if you’ve not seen the first two films you shouldn’t even be thinking about watching 3: not only will you not understand the plot (the “story so far” bits in the opening titles are useful for reminding people who’ve seen the first two films of what’s happened, but not much more than that), the other two are better.

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