Sunday, May 12, 2013

Horror Short: The Devils Walks Among You (2011)

Written and directed by Ryan M. Andrews
Staring Robert Nolan, Sandra DaCosta, and Katie Uhlmann
Director of Photography Fraser Brown

Alluring and mysterious Lilith Mastema tells of tales in her live spoken word show, showcasing a classic old jazz style to her stage. Tonight's tale is of a late night diner that receives an elliptic customer after closing, whom later reveals himself to be the Devil. The Devil Walks Among You is a short, 8 min run time, thriller that doesn't dwell on literal horror. Unlike you expect the Devil doesn't enter the dinner and upon doing so raises 'hell' but rather in an subtle yet haunting etiquette chills you to the bone with his simple message of walking among us. Often fit with short films is the grab or rather the shock and awe moment, but Andrews script and direction risks for a tame story that flows fealty into its disquieting end. Basically, don't expect an abundance of blood but anticipate a quiet thriller that's more about the essence of horror rather than the incarnation of it.

Robert Nolan again comes in as the sly but ever so charming Devil, another expo in the actors unbound talent. Sandra DaCosta is stunning, a fitting portrait for her cool lounge character as her voice narrates the story with a chilled ease. Ryan M. Andrews direction is crisp and there's little pitfalls in his overall well made short. I may like the style of the film the most though, with the interweave of the 1950's diner and early 1930's lounge den. As a lot of the shots, especially those showing DaCosta, are up close it limits the view of the sets making the photography key in conveying the tone. The detailed design of the diner is accurate in its depiction and the mood lighting in both sets captures the feel. The diner under gray florescent sets you off balance and the lounge is dimmed to tense and focus the mood. Although I rarely do I'd also like to note the costume department who I think dressed their cast appropriately, letting way to more of the characters personalities. The Devil Walks Among You was an enjoyable, well made horror short, that I'd recommend to most for its appreciated style and familiar concept.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Evil Dead (2013)

WARNING: Contains Spoilers

The Book of the Dead rises again when a brother and sister visit their family cabin, their friends and them becoming subjects to possession. Mia, a dissipating drug addict, invites her brother, his girlfriend and their two childhood friends to stay a weekend up at their old family cabin to help her come clean of drugs. Agitation heads early on when Mia's temperament is a rising slope, escalating with every irritation from withdrawal. Its Mia's heavy complaint of a fowl smell coming from the basement though when the friends uncover a collection of dead animals and none other than the Book of the Dead. Eventual curiosity on one of their parts leads to the book being read from and soon enough Mia becomes possessed, her weakened state and soul an attractant to the entity. Violent, vulgar, and lethal her new attitude lands her a spot in the cellar where she tempts and tries to over take each friend. According to the book it needs five souls to collect in order to let the skies rain red with blood and raise the Abomination. And as the book begins taking the friends one by one it's up to Mia's brother David to purify his sister's soul and stop the Abomination from ascending.

Evil Dead isn't a remake nor is it quite a sequel, as such should it be treated. On its own the film is a little dull with a refreshing change in location motive (no underage parties here, this weekend vacation is strictly for emotional purposes) but with run of the mill characters, maybe the exception of Mia. As a sequel most Evil Dead fans will likely hate it, however as I'm not really a die hard Evil Dead fan I'm not here to hold it accountable for it's off centered placement in the franchise. Oddly though as a remake I believe it works the best. The film
has mastered that ability to play homage to the prior films without direct ripping off, as is my general irk with remakes. Instead of copy and pasting iconic scenes from the first film they take the essence of the scene and alter it to be original but yet still apparent as to what they are referencing too. Original writing credits attribute to Diablo Cody and despite that she didn't get credited in the film I believe her original script served as sturdy backbone to the film; without it wouldn't be able to stand on its own. There's humor in the film, but its no horror comedy, and despite it being an fair homage to the first don't think Raimi's roguery or homemade scares are in here, its a far different film.

Initially I was excited to see Shiloh Fernandez as a lead character as I loved him in Deadgirl, but he actually disappointed me a little. There was no bad acting but overall uninspired, as was Fernandez's David. He didn't embrace that last man standing like in the first film, but rather took the very typical approach of being a skeptic and then went about stumbling through the rest. Jane Levy is at the top of the pack with her performance of Mia but its also a given with her character being the only one with an arch. Again, as I said none of these young actors are bad, by any means, but their characters lacked depth and they didn't bring any further dimension on their own. Therefore leaving Mia with the most back story and more meat to her character. Levy was steady as the withdrawing drug addict but delightfully wicked as demon Mia, another testament to Raimi's original piece. Before the films release the filmmakers made an adamant statement that there will be no CGI in the film, and it pays off as it looks absolutely stunning. Between the special effects, relying on old school makeup, and the dense mood lighting the production of the film alone is worth seeing.

It's a fair statement to say that if it hadn't been for the second go at the ending I would not have cared for the film as much. The initial hour is entertaining, the blood and antics being the only glue to hold you to the film, but it's pallid and offers little else. It's SPOILER Mia's Resurrection or exorcism, what have you, and her final face off towards the Abomination that actually puts this into Evil Dead category. The final sequence is immensely gory, offers the only real suspense moment in the film, and has the style of Bruce Campbell. From that I really liked the ending and wished the rest of the film had been in more of that style than the approach they decided to take. However, I don't want to hate on the filmmakers, as I do believe they tired to make an original concept and a high production horror film. There's no illusions that this was partially made to make profit off a very successful horror series, but in that they didn't just throw away craft to produce a film. They actually tried and that's what counts. Don't take it for anything other than what it is as Evil Dead isn't a masterpiece but it's fabulously entertaining and I'd say see it. In theaters or at home.