Category Archives: Horror

Insidious: The Last Key (2018) Review

Time: 98 Minutes
Age Rating: M – Violence, offensive language & supernatural themes
Lin Shaye as Elise Rainier
Angus Sampson as Tucker
Leigh Whannell as Specs
Spencer Locke as Melissa Rainier
Caitlin Gerard as Imogen Rainier
Bruce Davison as Christian Rainier
Director: Adam Robitel

Parapsychologist Elise Rainier gets thrust into returning to her eerie childhood home where she and her family have to fight a dangerous otherworldly entity.

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In rewatching the Insidious movies in the lead up to the fifth installment The Red Door, I never checked out the fourth movie, particularly after not hearing good things. So I was curious to watch it and I liked it more than I expected.

The Last Key is still a prequel but is set between Chapter 3 and the first film. As usual, Whannell’s script finds a way to tie into the first movie, and includes some connections. Without getting into it too much, it’s clearly intended as the final Insidious movie focussing on Elise. The previous three movies focussed on a family with Elise Rainier coming to their aid in some way in a notable supporting role. Instead, The Last Key has Elise as the protagonist, now dealing with a case which is related to her childhood. As expected, anything involving Elise is pretty great. It looks into her character’s origins and it was interesting watching her backstory. Interestingly the plot is a lot more personal, and it is clearly more interested in its story than delivering scares. It does feel like the story is underdeveloped somewhat, especially with regard to the demon. I do think the demon in this movie is more effective than the one in Chapter 3, but it is still lacking somewhat.

Lin Shaye gives her best performance as Elise Rainier, taking over as protagonist in this movie. She brings such weight to her character and conveys so much here. Naturally, the next major roles would be that of Tucker and Specs played by Angus Sampson and Leigh Whannell, who become somewhat co-leads alongside Shaye. There are some comedic moments involving them which were a bit much, but they had some good scenes. There are good smaller performances from actors like Josh Stewart and Bruce Davison, but most of the characters outside of the main trio are pretty underdeveloped.

I was sceptical about the direction because it didn’t have a James Wan or even Leigh Whannell behind it, but Adam Robitel’s work was pretty good. The visual effects and the design of the main demon are pretty good, the movie has an eerie atmosphere, and there’s some good tension. The setups of the scares are pretty good, especially with the camera movements. That being said, while it is a well made movie, the imagery and sequences aren’t that memorable for the most part, especially compared to the previous three movies. Most disappointing of all was the score. Despite being done by Joseph Bishara again, it’s not that memorable and it really lacks the iconic and familiar screeching of the violin which made the movies even more unnerving.

Insidious: The Last Key isn’t without its issues, and it’s not on the level of the first two movies. However, it is still decent and enjoyable on the whole, with a solid enough story and a great central performance from Lin Shaye.


Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015) Review

Time: 98 Minutes
Age Rating: M
Lin Shaye as Elise Rainier
Stefanie Scott as Quinn Brenner
Dermot Mulroney as Sean Brenner
Angus Sampson as Tucker
Leigh Whannell as Specs
Director: Leigh Whannell

Quinn, a young girl, reaches out to a powerful psychic to help her contact her recently deceased mother. However, her plan backfires when an evil spirit makes Quinn a host and hurts her physically.

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After writing horror movies, including the first two Insidious movies, Leigh Whannell made his directorial debut with the third chapter in the franchise. I really didn’t remember much of it as I was entering my rewatch of it, but overall I thought it was alright.

Despite the title, Chapter 3 is a prequel to the previous couple Insidious movies, focussing on a new family being affected by a demon. I wasn’t invested with them as much as I was with the Lambert family in Chapters 1 and 2. It was a more cliched and generic demon possession story. Still, it was a decent enough story, and it mostly stands on its own. Many have noted that killing the character of Elise Rainier at the end of the first movie was one of the franchise’s biggest mistakes. Given how the third movie went back in time to have a movie with her, it seems that the creators are inclined to agree. It still has the family as the main focus, but Elise has a much bigger role and plays a part in the plot from the start. Everything involving her were the most interesting parts of the movie. It provides even more backstory for the first movie, and it was nice seeing Elise team up with her sidekicks Specs and Tucker for the first time. One of the weaker parts of the movie for me was the demon. Its design is pretty good, but there’s plenty about the entity that wasn’t explained, and there wasn’t any development for it. It felt kind of disposable and could’ve been swapped out with any vague demon idea.

Stefanie Scott is pretty good in the lead role as the girl who is affected by the demon. However, the standout unsurprisingly is Lin Shaye as Elise Rainier, in an increased role here. The first couple movies had her as an intriguing character, a psychic who is very aware of the spirit world and now doubt had plenty of experiences. In Chapter 3 we get to learn a bit more about her. It really shows her struggle of not wanting to tap into the supernatural, the movie really humanised her and expanded on her. It also shows more of paranormal investigators Specs and Tucker played by Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson as they were starting out before meeting Elise.

Instead of James Wan directing Insidious: Chapter 3, Leigh Whannell is helming it. It is a decent directorial debut, but you do notice the lack of Wan. The visual effects, makeup and costume design for the demon are great as always, some of the imagery is eerie, and the familiar score from Insidious is on point. It even has some of the dread and atmosphere that you’d expect. However, the jumpscares were lacking even compared to the last couple movies, and felt a little cheap.

Insidious: Chapter 3 is far from the best in the series. However, it was a pretty good and enjoyable prequel with some solid performances and was a decent directorial debut for Leigh Whannell.

Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013) Review

Time: 106 Minutes
Age Rating: M – Supernatural themes and violence
Rose Byrne as Renai Lambert
Patrick Wilson as Josh Lambert
Ty Simpkins as Dalton Lambert
Lin Shaye as Elise Rainier
Steven Coulter as Carl
Barbara Hershey as Lorraine Lambert
Leigh Whannell as Specs
Angus Sampson as Tucker
Director: James Wan

Josh Lambert and his family relocate to his mother’s old house in the hopes of recovering from past trauma. However, they soon encounter strange and chilling paranormal events.

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After the success of Insidious in 2010 and its cliffhanger ending, a sequel was inevitable. It seems that the films following the original weren’t that well received, even the immediate follow up by original director James Wan. However, I quite liked it.

Insidious: Chapter 2 picks up right after the first movie, so I don’t recommend watching the two movies too far apart. The story for the most part is good enough and paced steadily. There are two plotlines going on, one focussing on the main Lambert family with Josh being possessed by a demon, and the other following the characters played by Barbara Hershey, Steve Coulter, Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson as they investigate the demon. I found myself more interested in the latter plotline; it was interesting learning about the backstory. The Lambert family plotline had potential; Josh’s mind getting hijacked was interesting, but I felt that it could’ve been handled better. It mainly consists of haunting occurrences and jumpscares, and not much else. One thing I do like about Chapter 2 is how it continues the story instead of just rehashing the stuff in the first film. It builds on the first movie and fleshes out the story and backstory, provides context, and ties up the loose ends. Much like Insidious and much of James Wan’s other movies, the third act goes over the top and it is a little silly, but that’s to be expected. Chapter 2 isn’t without its issues. More so than the first movie, it falls into some horror cliches. Some of the dialogue is a little clunky, whether it be with some of the exposition or the comedy. While there was a good balance with its humour and scares in the first movie, Chapter 2 is a tonally unbalanced at points. The biggest issue though comes as a result as one of its biggest strengths. While it gives a lot of answers, it takes away from the feeling of the unknown and therefore much of the unsettling feeling is rather lacking. The more that is explained, the less scary it becomes. Finally, there’s a plot twist in the third act which is dated, at the very least.

Like with the first movie, the acting and character development is particularly good. Rose Byrne is believable in her part, and the movie even finds a way to bring Lin Shaye back to reprise her role of Elise, especially given that she was the standout character in the first movie. There’s also more screentime for the comic relief provided by Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson, as they are more heavily involved with the plot. The standout performance however is from Patrick Wilson, mainly because his character of Josh is now possessed by a demon, giving him the opportunity to really ham it up. He’s great, and one of my bigger complaints is that we don’t get to see as much of this throughout the movie. He really gets to shine in the third act, but I wish the descent into madness got more screentime.

James Wan’s direction once again is solid. There’s some memorable and haunting imagery, good production design, and some solid thrills. The sound mixing is superb, and Joseph Bishara’s score continues to be unnerving. It builds ominous tension over time, and you feel it mostly in the first half. While it is a more polished movie, I think the previous movie did a better job at generating the atmosphere. There are plenty of jumpscares throughout, I think they are fine, but they are a little hit or miss and aren’t nearly as effective as the last movie.

Insidious: Chapter 2 is good continuation and is almost on a similar level of the previous movie, with strong direction and good performances. It is a more polished movie and is more complete storywise, but I think the first film is slightly better if only for the atmosphere and tension it generated. Still, worth checking out if you enjoyed the first Insidious.

Insidious (2010) Review

Time: 101 Minutes
Age Rating: M
Patrick Wilson as Josh Lambert
Rose Byrne as Renai Lambert
Lin Shaye as Elise Rainier
Ty Simpkins as Dalton Lambert
Barbara Hershey as Lorraine Lambert
Leigh Whannell as Specs
Angus Sampson as Tucker
Director: James Wan

Josh and Renai move to a new house, seeking a fresh start. However, when their son, Dalton, mysteriously falls into a coma, paranormal events start occurring in the house.

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I previously watched the first three Insidious movies and I liked them. With the 5th film coming this year, I decided to go through the whole franchise beforehand. While the following movies had a mixed reaction, the first Insidious was received pretty well and was a hit. Over a decade later, I think it’s still pretty good and holds up today.

Insidious is yet another collaboration between director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell, and on the whole, the script is pretty good. Initially, much of the movie is familiar when it comes to ghosts and demon possessions. Still, it manages to make itself stand apart from similar movies. While it begins as a usual ghost story, it goes into different directions in the second half, especially when it starts getting into things like astral projection. Additionally, the strong family dynamic and likable characters help to get you invested in the story. From the beginning there is a real sense of doom which is sustained throughout the entirety of the movie. As I said it goes in different directions in the second half, and the third act is where some people might not like it. However, I like the departure it takes, and even enjoyed when some of the horror got a little cheesy. It also delivers an unexpected ending which was certainly put there to lead the way for a sequel. There is a lot of exposition of the movie, mostly from Lin Shaye’s character, which could’ve been trimmed down. It’s not necessarily a runtime issue since its only 100 minutes long and the pace is solid, but it does over explain some things.

The actors are great in their parts and help to bring their characters to life. Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne are great as the parents, and Ty Simpkins is good as the child who falls into a suspicious coma. Other actors are solid including Barbara Hershey as Wilson’s mother and a pair of paranormal investigators played by Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson. However, Lin Shaye is the standout as a psychic who comes to help the family with the paranormal activities.

James Wan delivers another well-crafted horror movie with Insidious. Interestingly, it’s a horror movie that’s PG-13 and while it easily could’ve amped up to an R rating, it achieved what it needed to here. Personally, I wasn’t scared of the movie, but nonetheless the horror was handled well. The jumpscares can be quite in your face, but they are put together well and some of them are quite clever. Most of all though, the film successfully builds up the tension and atmosphere. The desaturated colour pallet and memorable nightmarish imagery add to the tone, sense of unease and atmosphere. Finally, the instrumental score from Joseph Bishara is excellent and fits the mood of the movie well. The main theme is particularly one of the most distinct and recognisable modern day horror themes, and never fails to set me on edge and give an unsettling feeling.

Insidious is still an entertaining, tense, thrilling, greatly directed and performed supernatural horror film. I wouldn’t call it one of the best horror movies out there (even within the 2010s), but it is quite good and worth checking out if you’re a fan of the genre.

Beau Is Afraid (2023) Review

Time: 179 Minutes
Age Rating: R16 – Violence, sexual violence, offensive language & content that may disturb
Joaquin Phoenix as Beau Wassermann
Patti LuPone as Mona Wassermann
Amy Ryan as Grace
Nathan Lane as Roger
Parker Posey as Elaine Bray
Stephen McKinley Henderson as the therapist
Director: Ari Aster

Following the sudden death of his mother, a mild-mannered but anxiety-ridden man confronts his darkest fears as he embarks on an epic, Kafkaesque odyssey back home.

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Leading up to the release of Beau is Afraid, I wasn’t sure how I would feel about it, despite Joaquin Phoenix being cast in the lead role. Director Ari Aster is interesting to me, I liked Hereditary when I saw it, but was also very lukewarm on his follow up film Midsommar. However, the polarising reactions to Aster’s latest did have me curious, and I’m glad to say that I liked it.

Beau is Afraid is far different from any movie that Ari Aster made in the past, it more closely resembles a Charlie Kaufman movie than Hereditary or Midsommar. It’s by far his most ambitious film yet, a creative and unpredictable 3 hour long dark character piece and psychological trip through anxiety. The further the movie goes, the deeper Aster gets into protagonist Beau’s mind. The initial plot may seem simple, with it focusing on Joaquin Phoenix’s Beau going to visit his mother, but the actual movie is far from simple. So much of the movie is over the top and exaggerated. It’s takes place from Beau’s perspective and never leaves it, so you can’t get a grip on what is real and what isn’t. It is stressful and anxiety inducing, and the subject matter is uncomfortable at times. At the same time, the weirdness somewhat has a charm to it. There’s even some surprising dark humour, usually with how absurd the scenarios are. Beau is Afraid sets the tone within the first 5 minutes, and I started off having a good feeling about it. The first act was a dark comedy about irrational fears and takes place in a city where just about everyone has gone mad, and it had this absurdist charm to it. It worked well at establishing Beau and his anxieties, and you really feel his tension and fears of everything.

After it leaves its first act and enters the second hour beginning with a section where Beau is staying with a couple, that’s where it began to stumble for me. Despite some good moments and great acting, it gets shaky really quickly. Once the journey actually begins, its like the movie is just dragging Beau from one traumatic experience to another. It loses its focus until the third act, and the momentum fizzles out over time; by the end I didn’t think it went anywhere particularly thoughtful. At a certain point, it really seems like Ari Aster is just opting to torture Beau, and the mean spirited attitude towards the main character does have some mixed results. I was on board with it for the first hour or so, but it becomes grating. It is also a very self indulgent movie with some elaborate set pieces, and while they are well crafted, they don’t always add a whole lot to the movie. This movie obviously can’t just be taken on face value and you have to look a little deeper to find further interpretations, but weirdly it felt a little shallow and on the nose. While the last act has some stand out parts and is more consistently strong than the middle act, it culminates in a dissatisfying ending which takes an abrupt turn. I’m sure its meant to leave you with that feeling, but my patience had been wavering over the course of the movie, so the conclusion did leave me feeling a little cold and not necessarily in the good way. For a 3 hour long movie, so much of it felt incomplete and underdeveloped. It is definitely too long, parts of the middle act and the ending stand out as such. It drags at a certain point, and it doesn’t help that its already exhausting to watch.

The acting is pretty strong. Joaquin Phoenix in the lead role gives another emotionally committed performance, he really sells so much of his character and the situations he’s thrown into. The rest of the cast are pretty good in their parts too, including Nathan Lane, Amy Ryan, Parker Posey, and Stephen McKinley Henderson. However, Patti LuPone is the standout and makes a strong impression in her scenes.

Ari Aster once again shows himself as a more than capable director. The cinematography is stunning, it’s greatly edited, and the sound design and musical score from Bobby Krlic is on point. The visual storytelling is impressive, and all the technical elements come together to build the anxiety filled atmosphere. While you could question the necessity of some of them, the set pieces are at least visually appealing and creative.

Beau is Afraid is an ambitious, surreal, overlong, and anxiety filled nightmare which has its fair share of issues. However, it is also incredibly directed and shot, creative, darkly funny, and has some great performances. Ari Aster takes some massive swings with this movie and I’m happy that he got to do that, even if there’s a lot of the movie that didn’t entirely work for me. It’s very difficult to gauge who this would be for, but once again I have to throw out the often-redundant declaration “it’s not for everyone”. Even though I liked it myself, it’s not one I want to revisit (even beyond the length), but at the very least I admire it.

Evil Dead Rise (2023) Review

Time: 97 Minutes
Age Rating: R16 – Graphic violence & horror
Lily Sullivan as Beth
Alyssa Sutherland as Ellie
Morgan Davies as Danny
Gabrielle Echols as Bridget
Nell Fisher as Kassie
Director: Lee Cronin

A reunion between two estranged sisters gets cut short by the rise of flesh-possessing demons, thrusting them into a primal battle for survival as they face the most nightmarish version of family imaginable.

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As far as consistency in quality across all of their installments goes, Evil Dead may well be the best horror franchise. You’ve got the Sam Raimi movies which ranged from gruesome camp to slapstick goofiness cheese, you’ve got the remake from 2013 which leans into the utter brutality and griminess, and you got Ash vs Evil Dead which is a fun tv series sequel to that original trilogy. So, its easy to see why I was looking forward to Evil Dead Rise, and it didn’t disappoint.

3 of the prior 4 Evil Dead movies take place in a cabin in the woods, with Army of Darkness being in a more medieval fantasy setting. Evil Dead Rise made a smart decision and sets the movie somewhere else, an apartment complex. It does mean that the setup for the book of the dead causing chaos is a little contrived (at least compared it being in a cabin in the woods), but I went along with it. As the movie started, I was a little unsure about the movie. However, once the demon possession in the main plot begins, that’s when it takes off. Despite being a more familiar setting, the high rise apartment building still feels as dark and claustrophobic as the cabins in the woods. Over the course of the movie, it gradually increases the level of terror and absurdity. Tonally, it’s at the halfway point between Sam Raimi’s slapstick and cheesy original trilogy (specifically 2), and Fede Alvarez’s more brutal remake. Rise brings the nastiness, gnarly and grimy mean spirit that you would expect from an Evil Dead movie. Plenty of grizzly and gruesome things happen, and unlike most horror movies, not even the child characters are safe. At the same time there is some dark humour here, especially with how absurd the film can get at times. The story of Evil Dead Rise is standalone from the rest of the series, but is still respectful of the original. There are some callbacks to the previous movies, especially with some of the dialogue, but it doesn’t rely on them too much. Aside from a relatively slow start in the first act, it is paced well across its 100 minute runtime. My biggest issue with the movie is the first and last scenes of the movie. Mild spoilers ahead just because it’s the opening, but I’m assuming the inclusion of its beginning scene is that they felt obligated to have at least one scene set in the woods. I’m not really sure about the necessity of that scene beyond some creative kills and a great title drop. Additionally, the last scene is kind of limp compared to the scene beforehand.

The actors also bring it to their roles. Lily Sullivan made for a great lead, and Alyssa Sutherland was fantastic as the main demonic force, in a similar role that Jane Levy had for much of Evil Dead (2013). Much of Sutherland’s screentime is playing a deadite doing a lot of horrific things, and she brought such insane energy to it. The children played by Gabrielle Echols, Morgan Davies and Nell Fisher are also amazing. The family dynamic isn’t as fleshed out as I would’ve liked, but its believable enough and the characters are likable.

Lee Cronin did a great job directing this, with some amazing choices that added so much to the film. He even directs in a way that you’d expect Sam Raimi to direct, especially with the camera movements. There’s a lot of memorable imagery, and it does well at making you feel claustrophobic and confined. There are some fantastic and creative set pieces, with so much carnage on display and plenty of gnarly and bloody sequences. The scenes are well lit, and the sound design is top notch. Rise also utilizes great effects, both practical and CGI, and they are put to good use here especially when it comes to the mutilation and damage to human bodies (as expected with this being an Evil Dead movie).

Evil Dead Rise is satisfyingly gnarly, gruesome, tense and entertaining, with great effects, stellar direction, and amazing performances. It’s another strong and refreshingly different entry in the franchise, and I hope we don’t have to wait another 10 years for the next film. Not everyone will be into the movie, but if you liked any of the previous Evil Dead entries, I highly recommend the latest instalment as well.

Evil Dead (2013) Review

Time: 92 Minutes
Age Rating: R18 – contains graphic violence and offensive language
Jane Levy as Mia Allen
Shiloh Fernandez as David Allen
Lou Taylor Pucci as Eric
Jessica Lucas as Olivia
Elizabeth Blackmore as Natalie
Director: Fede Álvarez

Five friends decide to spend a weekend in a remote cabin located deep in the forest. When they accidentally summon a dormant demon, they strive to survive its evil ploys.

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Concluding my rewatches of the Evil Dead movies, I decided to revisit the Evil Dead remake as well. I remembered the lead up to this movie back in 2013, and even as someone who hadn’t watched the original trilogy yet, I could tell that most people weren’t exactly excited that the classic horror movie from the 80s was getting a remake. However, it ended up being quite a surprise, and while not everyone likes it, I think it’s really good.

Remaking a classic like Evil Dead is a bit tricky, especially when it comes to figuring out how closely to stick to the original. However, I think Evil Dead (2013) strikes the right balance. It captures the spirit of the original films and keeps elements from the trilogy, but it avoids being derivative and puts its own different spin on the story. While there are some familiar scenes and details that make it into the remake (such as the infamous tree scene), I liked the way it changes things to make it their own so they don’t feel included only out of obligation. Not all of it is perfect, and some lines of dialogue which pay tribute to the original movies are a little out of place here. Something new in the remake is that there are some added emotional stakes. In the original, the main 5 character go to the cabin for a vacation. In the remake however, its to help one of the characters Mia (Jane Levy) overcome a drug addiction, and there’s also a prominent connection between her and her brother. I think this emotional core does help the movie go quite some way, in spite of the story just being okay. The tone is starkly different from the previous three movies, which always had some degree of comedy in them. Evil Dead II was a horror comedy, Army of Darkness was a fully on comedy, and even The Evil Dead had elements of dark humour. Evil Dead (2013) on the other hand is very straight faced and full-on horror from beginning to end. While you could argue that this is one area where it isn’t true to the original films, I don’t think the comedy would’ve fitted in this much darker take. It delivers on the Evil Dead insanity that you expect. It is bloody and gory, which you’d expect from the remake, but it also is grim and dark and twisted in all the right ways. It all builds up to an incredibly satisfying and perfect third act, which it absolutely earns. Not all the writing works, the characterisation is a bit underdeveloped, and some characters make some really bad decisions, mainly the one that sets off the chain of events (it is up there in terms of worst decisions ever made in a horror movie, which is saying a lot). Still, it’s quite entertaining on the whole.

The characters are mostly generic and some of the acting are fairly hit or miss. That being said, Jane Levy gives a fantastic and captivating performance in this. She is incredibly convincing and shows such range in this movie, definitely one of the best ‘recent’ horror performances.

Fede Alvarez was a great choice to direct, he clearly had a vision for the movie beyond just remaking the original Evil Dead. It is very well shot and makes use of its great sets. Much of the environment and setting felt so real and it made you feel gross and dirty like the characters on screen. For the most part, the remake uses very little CGI and placed an emphasis on using more practical effects instead, which was one of the best choices for the movie. This especially works with the far more violent direction the remake has taken; this has to be one of the goriest and bloodiest horror movies from the past 10 years, and the effects really help to sell this.

Evil Dead (2013) is a gory, entertaining and greatly directed horror remake, with fantastic effects and an amazing performance from Jane Levy. There are some little issues like the underdeveloped characters, but it is solid on the whole. More importantly, while it pays respect to the original movies, it actually felt like its own take. Definitely one of the best horror remakes, and it’s worth checking out if you liked the original Evil Dead films.

Army of Darkness (1992) Review

Time: 81 Minutes
Age Rating: M – contains violence and offensive language
Bruce Campbell as Ashley “Ash” J. Williams and “Evil Ash”
Embeth Davidtz as Sheila
Director: Sam Raimi

Zombie-battling hero Ash takes on an army of skeletons after being sent back in time.

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My rewatch of the Evil Dead movies continues with its third instalment, Army of Darkness. This movie would be a jarring entry in the franchise considering that it takes quite a notable shift in tone and approach. However, it actually pulls it off quite well, better than expected.

Evil Dead II had to reshoot a recap of the events of the past movie because of rights issues, and funnily enough Army of Darkness has to do that too, albeit with it being much shorter and toned down. So hypothetically, you could just jump into Army of Darkness without any issues, but the first 2 Evil Dead movies are still worth checking out. While the second movie changed a little in the tone and approach from the first movie, becoming a horror comedy instead of a mostly straight faced horror, its third instalment takes an even bigger step. First of all, instead of it being set in a cabin in the woods, it is now in a medieval setting which happens to have deadites, following from Evil Dead II’s ending in which lead character Ash Williams was transported back in time. It is also a little more story focussed than the previous two movies, with it not being contained within a small location. Still, it doesn’t lack the distinct energy and creativity from the previous movies. The difference in tone is immediately noticeable. Army of Darkness is a PG-13 movie and it is a little jarring coming to that following the last two movies and lacking the usual blood and gore. The tone is far more comedic and lighter, which does have the consequence of making it feel a little disconnected from the last couple of films. It is also over the top and silly, and it leans further into the comedy and self awareness. It gets ridiculously goofy and campy, perhaps a bit too silly at points. However, on the whole it is a very well written movie, incredibly quotable and memorable, and most of the jokes work. The third act is also really entertaining, especially with the battle scenes. The endings are pretty interesting; there are two different cuts, Director’s and Theatrical, each with their own distinctly different ending. The Director’s Cut ending makes sense and is a good ending for an Evil Dead film, but I think the Theatrical Cut ending is the most tonally fitting for Army of Darkness, even if it only exists because people at test screenings found the original ending to be too dark.

Army of Darkness has a much larger cast compared to the last two Evil Dead movies, but again it mostly comes down to its lead star, Bruce Campbell. This is where his character of Ash Williams fully became the icon that he is today. Campbell elevates every scene he’s in, his comedic timing is on point, and he’s just fun to watch, whether he’s delivering one liners, or being put though the (PG-13 level) wringer. He’s at his most entertaining here, and I think this is one of the all-time best comedic performances in a movie.

Sam Raimi’s direction is strong once again, with the same creativity and vision you’ve come to expect from him. The camera movements are great, especially with the zooms and POV shots. The practical effects are generally good, especially with the makeup effects. There’s also some solid production design, and I liked the looks of the castles, skeletons and monsters. Even the effects that look dated today add some sort of charm.  

While I admit that I prefer the more horror focussed Evil Dead movies, Army of Darkness is still really fun to watch. It’s a campy, quotable and highly entertaining action comedy, helped by Sam Raimi’s direction and Bruce Campbell’s career defining performance as Ash Williams, and is an absolute blast to watch from beginning to end.

Evil Dead II (1987) Review

Time: 84 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence
Bruce Campbell as Ash Williams
Sarah Berry as Annie Knowby
Dan Hicks as Jake
Kassie Wesley as Bobby Joe
Richard Domeier as Professor Ed Getley
Director: Sam Raimi

The second of three films in the Evil Dead series is part horror, part comedy, with Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) once again battling horrifying demons at a secluded cabin in the woods. After discovering an audiotape left by a college professor that contains voices reading from the Book of the Dead, Ash’s girlfriend Linda (Denise Bixler) becomes possessed by evil spirits that are awakened by the voices on the tape. Ash soon discovers there is no escaping the woods.

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With the latest film in the franchise releasing relatively soon, I decided to rewatch the previous Evil Dead movies in the lead up to it. The Evil Dead released back in 1981 ended up being something of a low budget horror classic, especially with the creative direction and impressive practical effects despite the budget constraints. 6 years later, director Sam Raimi directed a sequel which many have regarded as the best of the franchise, myself included.

The opening 10 minutes might confuse people who recently watched the previous film. While Evil Dead II is indeed a sequel to the original, Raimi didn’t really own the rights to his original film and so couldn’t use any of the previous footage from The Evil Dead. So he reshot his own recap of the first movie and due to constraints, they opted to only feature lead character Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) and his girlfriend Linda instead of all 5 characters in the original movie. While you could very well just jump into Evil Dead II completely blind, I’d still recommend watching the original. The plot is very similar to the first movie; Ash is still at the cabin dealing with the undead, and you could say that it’s just a rehash of Evil Dead but with a bigger budget. However, it works better for me in just about every way, and I found it to be really entertaining. The first Evil Dead was a crazy movie and had some over the top moments which bordered on hilarity especially with the blood and gore, but on the whole it was straight faced horror movie aiming to be intense and scary. Its sequel however opts to play more as a horror comedy, and delivers on both aspects. The issues of the first movie are conquered by the more absurd approach in its sequel, as is self aware and embraces the silliness. Horror comedies are pretty hard to pull off, but Raimi delivers on that. The dark and slapstick humour is pretty much pitch perfect and makes the movie so much fun to watch. I liked the first movie, but it does take its time to escalate to craziness, even though I do appreciate that. Evil Dead II takes the deranged insanity of the original’s last 30 minutes and sustains it for the entire runtime of the movie. It is a far more exciting movie and is absolute madness from beginning to end. It also concludes with an insane ending, which would lead into the third entry of the Evil Dead franchise, Army of Darkness.

Bruce Campbell gave a decent and commendable horror performance in the first Evil Dead. However, he gets taken to a whole other level in the sequel, and it would be the start of his character of Ash Williams becoming a pop culture icon, who would become fully realised in Army of Darkness. On top of Campbell’s acting just being better, Ash isn’t only a normal guy put through the wringer, but is also pushed to far beyond insanity. His performance is completely manic and unhinged, to the point where he resembles a cartoon character. Bruce Campbell chews the scenary delightfully and also has a likable charm to him, and he especially delivers on the physical comedy. The supporting cast aren’t particularly huge, but the acting was at least a little better than the cast of the first movie.

Sam Raimi returned to make a sequel to the 1981 original and this time he is working with a considerably larger budget. However it doesn’t lose the creative vision behind the first movie, if anything Raimi’s style is more fully realised here and his direction is fully confident. At its heart, it is still a low budget horror that takes advantage of the increased production value. There’s a lot of creative and unique choices and familiar trademarks, from the use of stop motion, snap zooms and POV shots. It’s a better looking movie, from the cinematography to the production design. They also again use some practical makeup and effects from the deadites to the violence and gore, which still look rather impressive and hold up well today.

Evil Dead II is not only an improvement over the first movie in just about every way, but also horror classic in its own right. It is a very fun and absurdly over the top horror, made excellent by Sam Raimi’s still creative but more refined direction and style, and an incredibly entertaining lead performance from Bruce Campbell.

Skinamarink (2023) Review

Time: 100 Minutes
Lucas Paul as Kevin
Dali Rose Tetreault as Kaylee
Ross Paul as Kevin and Kaylee’s father
Jaime Hill as Kevin and Kaylee’s mother
Director: Kyle Edward Bell

Two children wake up in the middle of the night to find their father is missing, and all the windows and doors in their home have vanished.

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I had been hearing about Skinamarink for a little. It was a much talked about new horror movie with a unique directing style, which has received mixed responses from audiences. I definitely like the movie but I’m not quite loving it. 

There’s a lot with the movie which will prevent people from really getting into it. The plot is relatively small and simple; two young children find that they are in the house alone without their parents and there may be some sort of presence inside the house. That’s it. That being said, the approach to the storytelling isn’t for everyone. First of all, much of the movie largely consists of static and minimalist shots of mostly nothing happening. It’s very abstract and there’s not much setup or resolution to the plot. The pacing is very slow, and the movie demands your complete patience and immersion. If you find yourself wanting to tap out in the first 15 minutes, the rest of the movie will be a chore for you. However, I do think much of the movie is effective. It really taps into the fear of the unknown and preys on that really well, putting you in the perspectives of the main characters. After watching the movie, I looked up some other reactions, and people have found some deeper interpretations (deeper than the initial premise would suggest anyways). I found that there might be some more to it than I thought at first, suggesting something more sinister with some unsettling implications, especially about the main characters’ family life. However, the movie doesn’t entirely work for me. Skinamarink is a fairly short movie at an hour and 40 minutes long, and yet I think that runtime was too long for the film. As unique, creative and unsettling as the movie is, the novelty of its style does wear thin, and much of it gets repetitive and samey. It is also very slowly paced, and I was on board with it until a certain point. While it sets the tone at the beginning and it does have some stand out moments near the end, I think it’s the middle act where it really drags the most. So when it arrived at the end of the first hour, it felt like it was wearing out its welcome. The tension that I felt went away as I was just waiting for the movie to wrap up. A much shorter runtime would’ve held the tension and kept me locked in from beginning to end. I looked at the director’s previous work and he has made some short films, many of which are recreating people’s nightmares, which ranged from 5 minutes to half an hour in length. I haven’t watched them, but they seem to have the same approach and approach as his feature film debut. Again, I admire this, but it definitely lends itself to a runtime no longer than an hour.

This is Kyle Edward Ball’s feature film debut, and he definitely showed himself as a unique and creative director. The low budget adds a lot to the feel of the movie. The cinematography mostly consists of changing shots between different places around the house, mostly of nothingness or darkness that’s hard to interpret. I liked the look of it, it’s very grainy, dark and distorted, and has lots of shots of dark hallways which keep you on edge. There is some creepy and ambiguous imagery too. The audio is very unsettling, and never allows a moment for you to feel comfortable. The technical elements all come together to make a movie that feels cursed, unsettling and reminiscent of a nightmare that you would have. It really captures the feeling of being a child and looking into the darkness of your house and seeing things that may or may not be there. The effectiveness of the movie really depends on how immersed you are; you need to watch this in a dark room, a movie theatre would be best.

Skinamarink is an experimental, atmospheric and unnerving horror movie that’s uniquely directed, even if it’s a bit overlong and loses its effect after the first hour. I respect and appreciate the movie more than I liked it. It’s not for everyone but if you like horror movies and keep your expectations in check, I recommend trying it out.