Reviewed by Kryten Syxx
Starring Bruce Campbell, Betsy Baker, Ellen Sandweiss, Theresa Tilly, Richard DeManincor and Ted Raimi’s legs
Directed by Sam Raimi
Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment
There’s no need for us to dive into what makes Evil Dead a fun and classic horror film. So many reviews have been written here and all around that have done the movie itself justice. Instead, our focus will be on what makes this latest DVD release of Sam Raimi’s breakout feature worth the attention of our wallets.
Over the past few years there have been many editions of Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness released on the DVD format. Some added features, others added different cases such as the Book of the Dead versions. After all that, what else can there be to warrant another release? Anchor Bay found something, and it isn’t cheap or gimmicky either. This time around we get a three-disc Ultimate Edition that really blows previous entries away due to the sheer number of special features.
Some may yell “Rehash!” but that really isn’t the case here. The commentaries with Bruce, Sam, and Robert are the same from years ago; but that is pretty much where the recycling ends. Can you blame anyone for that though? How many commentaries can you record saying the same old thing when the first one did the job right the first time? Moving on.
Instead of fancy cases or included items like key chains and such, we get 14 special features including the commentary tracks. The remaining 12 are mostly all video featurettes we haven’t seen before with the exception of one that looks to have had additional footage added to it. So let’s head on down the line and take a look at what each one is.
Disc One features the Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert commentary we’ve heard before and includes the widescreen version of The Evil Dead. Also nestled on this disc is the 54-minute featurette called One By One We Will Get You: The Untold Saga of The Evil Dead. This is the only feature I take issue with. Not because of its quality, but due to the reason I cannot make out if I’ve seen this before. Some of the interviews within appear older while ones with Eli Roth and Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright and the women of the film have a crisper quality to the video. Either way, this isn’t a bad way to spend almost an hour. We get to look back on the hilarious and hellacious time the crew had making the film and the impact it had on those up and coming in the horror movie biz.
Sadly, that’s all for the first DVD, so on to Disc Two. Here we’ve got the full frame cut of the film with the familiar and funny comments made by star Bruce Campbell. Like before there’s only one other special feature, and that’s the 58-minute long reel of behind-the-scenes and blooper footage called The Evil Dead: Treasures from the Cutting Room Floor. While I don’t remember seeing this, that doesn’t mean it’s all new. Watching the cast fall over, get hurt and undertake the stress of shooting such a wild movie like The Evil Dead in such horrible conditions has a perversely fun effect. But … all of that really pales in comparison to what’s lurking on the final disc of this Ultimate Edition.
The final disc of this set is all special features. Instead of just jumbling all of them into a paragraph or two, we’ll hit most of them on a one-by-one basis so you can get a better idea as to what it’s all about.
Life After Dead: The Ladies of The Evil Dead
Betsy Baker, Ellen Sandweiss and Theresa Tilly come together after 20+ years of shying away from the parts they played in The Evil Dead to wax about fans, the film’s effect on them and how all it took was a sense of humor to overcome being raped by a tree. Surprisingly, these ladies didn’t really know the film had such big following and had achieved cult status until recently. It was this revelation that got the trio to form the Ladies of The Evil Dead idea and tour conventions. They also helped in getting the cast reunion off the ground.
Footage in this featurette includes the ladies meeting fans, posing with Alice Cooper and reenacting the film at the Pickwick Theatre in Chicago in 2002. Bruce and Richard DeManincor were there, too! Not a bad way to kick off a disc full of features.
The Ladies of The Evil Dead Meet Bruce Campbell
Betsy, Ellen and Theresa sit down with Bruce for a half hour to reminisce about their time together in the late Seventies filming Evil Dead. Much like the previous special feature, the cast sit and chat things up about how some had worked together on previous Raimi projects and the sheer horror involved in making Sam’s classic film. A few of these packets of production info were shown on Disc One’s featuerette, but here the cast isn’t getting cut off to make room for others to talk. Bruce, as you’d expect, is the scene stealer here. Even when telling the most basic story that shouldn’t draw laughs, he manages to somehow do it. The dude is golden.
Betsy, Ellen, Theresa, Bruce, Richard and Ted Raimi take time out during a convention to talk about what it is like making the rounds at the horror shows and have a laugh at the time they spent together back in 1979. The cast’s stories about fans and signing things are very entertaining. Ted and Bruce really sell this one. Don’t pass it up if you enjoy comedy.
At the Drive-In
The Evil Dead cast and crew, including Ted, make an appearance at the Chicago Land Drive-In Theatre to hand out DVDs of the movie. That’s really it. Honest. That is all they do. Kind of hard to comment on this one given the meat of it.
The ED crew team up at the Flashback Weekend horror convention (2005) in Chicago for a panel. Bruce is his usual self, making the audience laugh at the expense of the fans asking questions. There’s talk of thigh signing, insults and a little bit of an awkward feeling throughout the affair. It is entertaining, no doubt, but much of the questions asked were answered on all the other special features in this collection.
Discovering The Evil Dead
Make-up tests, TV spots, trailers and image galleries are all well and good, but odds are you’ve seen this stuff before.
What really bites here is that the original film used to raise money for Evil Dead’s production, Within the Woods, is still not included in this set. On top of that Sam Raimi is almost nowhere to be seen aside from behind-the-scenes video. You’d think that he would take some time out of Spider-Man to appear with the people who helped further his career.
Those tiny gripes aside, this is an incredible release that packs in as much as possible. Sure there’s stuff we’ve seen before, but for those that held off for just the right time — this is it. Join us!
5 out of 5
5 out of 5
Desolation Review: Campers + Lunatic = Simplicity, But Not Always a Better Product
Starring Jaimi Page, Alyshia Ochse, Toby Nichols
Directed by Sam Patton
I’m usually all in when it comes to a psycho in the woods flick, but there was just something about Sam Patton’s Desolation that seemed a bit distant for me…distance…desolation – I’m sure there’s a connection in there somewhere. Either that or I’m suffering from a minor case of sleep-deprivation. Either way, make sure you’ve got your backpack stuffed, cause we’re hitting the timber-lands for this one.
The film focuses on mother and son tandem Abby and Sam, and the tragic notion that Abby’s love and father to her son, has passed away. The absence has been a crippling one, and Abby’s idea of closure is to take her adolescent offspring to the woods where her husband used to love to run and scatter his ashes as a memorial tribute. Abby invites her best friend Jenn along as emotional support, and together all three are planning on making this trip a fitting and dedicatory experience…until the mystery man shows up. Looking like a member of the Ted Kaczynski clan (The Unabomber himself), this creepy fellow seems content to simply watch the threesome, and when he ultimately decides to close the distance, it’ll be a jaunt in the forest that this close-knit group will never forget.
So there you have it – doesn’t beg a long, descriptive, bled-out dissertation – Patton tosses all of his cards on the table in plain view for the audience to scan at their leisure. While the tension is palpable at times, it’s the equivalent of watching someone stumble towards the edge of a cliff, and NEVER tumble over…for a long time – you literally watch them do the drunken two-step near the lip for what seems like an eternity. What I’m getting at is that the movie has the bells and whistles to give white-knucklers something to get amped about, yet it never all seems to come into complete focus, or allow itself to spread out in such a way that you can feel satisfied after the credits roll. If I may harp on the performance-aspect for a few, it basically broke down this way for me: both Abby and Jenn’s characters were well-displayed, making you feel as if you really were watching long-time besties at play. Sam’s character was a bit tough to swallow, as he was the sadder-than-sad kid due to his father’s absence, but JEEZ this kid was a friggin malcontented little jerk – all I can say is “role well-played, young man.”
As we get to our leading transient, kook, outsider – whatever you want to call him: he simply shaved down into a hum-drum personality – no sizzle here, folks. Truly a disappointment for someone who was hoping for an enigmatic nutbag to terrorize our not-so-merry band of backpackers – oh well, Santa isn’t always listening, I guess. Simplicity has its place and time when displaying the picture-perfect lunatic, and before everyone gets a wild hair across their ass because of what I’m saying, all this is was the wish to have THIS PARTICULAR psycho be a bit more colorful – I can still appreciate face-biters like Hannibal Lecter and those of the restrained lunacy set. Overall, Desolation is one of those films that had all the pieces meticulously set in place, like a house of cards…until that drunk friend stumbled into the table, sending everything crumbling down. A one-timer if you can’t find anything else readily available to watch.
Looking for a little direction way out in the woods? Look elsewhere, because this guide doesn’t have a whole lot to offer.
Children of the Fall Review – This Israeli Slasher Gets Political
Starring Noa Maiman, Aki Avni, Yafit Shalev, Iftach Ophir, Michael Ironside
Directed by Eitan Gafny
Reviewed out of Utopia 2017
Slashers are a subgenre of horror that are often looked down upon. After all, what can a movie about a killer slaughtering multiple people have to say about, well…anything. Those of us in the community know full well that this is nonsense and that any kind of horror movie can be a jabbing (no pun intended) commentary on society, culture, politics, art, etc… And that’s precisely what Eitan Gafny aims to do with Children of the Fall, one of the few Israeli slashers ever created.
Set on the eve of the Yom Kippur war, the film follows Rachel (Maiman), a young American woman who comes to Israel to join a kibbutz after suffering some serious personal tragedies. Her goal to make aliyah (the return of Jews to Israel) is however hampered by some rather unpleasant encounters with local IDF soldiers and members of the kibbutz. Pushing through, she makes friends with others in the commune and her Zionistic views are only strengthened, although they do not go untested. Once Yom Kippur, one of the holiest holidays in Jewish culture, begins, a killer begins picking off the kibbutz workers one by one in violent and gruesome ways.
Let’s start with what Children of the Fall gets right, okay? As slashers go, it’s actually quite beautiful. There are wonderfully expansive shots that make use of the size and diversity of the kibbutz. The film opens with a beautiful shot of a cow stable, barn, water towers, and miscellaneous outbuildings, all set against a dark and stormy night. The lighting of this scene, and throughout the film, is also very good. I found myself darting my eyes across the screen multiple times throughout the film thinking I’d seen something lurking in the shadows.
The kills, while unoriginal, are very satisfying. Each death is meaty, bloody, and doesn’t feel rushed. In fact, the camera has no problems lingering during each kill, allowing us to appreciate the practical FX and copious amounts of blood used. And if you believe that a slasher needs to have nudity, you won’t be disappointed.
The acting is middle of the road. Maiman is serviceable as Rachel but the real star of the film is Aki Avni as “Yaron”. His range of emotion is fantastic, from warm and welcoming to Rachel when she arrives to emoting grief and pain during his Yom Kippur announcement where we learn that he was a child in a concentration camp. The rest of the cast are perfectly acceptable as fodder for the killer.
So where does Children of the Fall stray? Let’s start with the most obvious part: the runtime. Clocking in at nearly two hours, that’s about 30 minutes too much. The film could easily have gone through some hefty editing without affecting the final product. Instead, we have a movie that feels elongated when unnecessary.
Additionally, the societal and political commentary is very in-your-face but the film can’t seem to make up its mind as to what it’s trying to get across. Natalia, a Belarussian kibbutz worker, raises the concept of Israeli racism, misogyny, and xenophobia, her hostility unabashedly pouring out in the midst of IDF soldiers, locals, other kibbutz members, and more. Is there validity to what she’s saying? Undoubtedly. But there is also validity to Rachel’s retorts, which include calling this woman out on her own vitriolic views. This back-and-forth mentality frustratingly prevails throughout the film, as though Gafny was unwilling to just commit.
The dialogue is also quite painful at times, although I attribute this to difficulties with translating from Hebrew to English. Even the best English speakers in Israel don’t get everything perfect and the little quirks here and there, while charming, are quite detracting. Also, why is this movie trying to tell me that Robert Smith of The Cure is a character here? While amusing, it makes absolutely no sense nor does it fit in Smith’s own timeline.
Had this film gone through a couple rounds of editing, I feel like we’d have gotten something really great. Eitan Gafny is definitely someone that we need to be watching very closely.
While Children of the Fall has a lot going for it, it has just as much working against it. Overly long, you’ll get a really great slasher that is bogged down by uneven social and political commentary.
Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club Review – A Charming, Quirky Dark Drama
Starring Keren Mor, Yiftach Klein, Hana Laslo, Ania Bukstein
Directed by Guilhad Emilio Schenker
Reviewed out of Utopia 2017
One of the great joys I have in being a horror fan is seeing horror films from around the world. I view these films as a chance to learn about the fears, folklore, mythology, and lore of varied cultures. Films like Inugami, Frontier(s), [REC], and the like transport me across oceans and into places I might never get the chance to visit otherwise. Hence my interest in the Israeli dark drama Madam Yankeolva’s Fine Literature Club, the feature debut of director Guilhad Emilio Schenker.
The film follows Sophie (Mor), a member of a strange, female-only reading club – who believes that love is a lie – that we soon realize brings men into its midst only to have them killed. The woman who brings the most fitting man is awarded a trophy for her fine taste. When a member reaches 100 trophies, they get to enter a coveted and highly esteemed upper echelon of the reading club’s society, one that includes lavish surroundings and an almost regal lifestyle. Sophie starts the film earning her 99th trophy but her plans towards the all-important 100th trophy are thrown askew when she ends up developing feelings for her latest victim. She must now decide if the mission that has been so dear to her for so many years is something she wishes to see through or if she’s ready to take a huge risk and fall in love.
Now, if this seems like a strange story for a horror website, I don’t disagree. Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club is certainly not your traditional horror film. In fact, I’d liken it far more to the more playful works of Tim Burton and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s The City of Lost Children than something more grotesque and violent. It’s very playful and quite charming, although there are times when the presentation feels amateurish and certain moments when things become wildly unbelievable. That being said, the film aims to be a dark fairy tale come to life, so a healthy amount of “I’m okay letting that go” will not go unappreciated.
The film is shot in such a way that it’s very soft around the edges, almost like we’re constantly in a dream. This is aided by composer Tal Yardeni’s score, which obviously takes inspiration from Danny Elfman, playfully weaving its way through each scene.
While there’s a lot to love about Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club, it’s certainly not a flawless film. As mentioned previously, there are times when it feels quite amateurish, as though no one thought to look at how a scene is being filmed and say, “People, this isn’t how things would go down. We can have fun but this just doesn’t sit right.” Additionally, the story moves very quickly. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard of love at first sight. But that’s not how this story plays out, so the wildly strong feelings that develop between Sophie and Yosef (Klein) seem strangely out of place.
All things being what they are, Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club is a charming film that can definitely appeal to horror fans if they’re willing to stretch their boundaries to include films that have absolutely no scares or gore but imply quite a horrific situation.
Charming, quirky, but not without its faults, Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club is a dark drama for fans of Tim Burton and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Don’t go in expecting any scares or gore. Rather, anticipate a fairy tale that might be just a bit too gruesome in tone for young children.
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