Next week sees the beginning of the 2014 Spanish Film Festival. The festival will be touring around the country, with screenings at Palace Cinemas in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra, Perth and Byron Bay. The festival features 30 films, bringing a whole new chapter of exposure to Spanish cinema, one of the strongest national cinemas in film.
Below are five highlights of the festival for you to look out for, in no particular order:
- Living is Easy with Eyes Closed: The opening night film of this year’s festival is the only one I happen to have seen. It cleaned up at the 2014 Goya Awards taking out Best Picture, Best Director, Best Leading Actor and Best New Actress amongst many others. The film itself is a really light road-trip, as one man aims to fulfil his dream of meeting John Lennon and picks up a couple of young hitchhikers along the way. It is really life affirming stuff and a film I really loved. Make sure you check it out if you get the chance.
- Zip & Zap and the Marble Gang: I mean really, how can you not want to see a film with that title. Based on Spanish comic book characters, this looks like a rollicking bit of family fun amongst the festivals more serious fare.
- The Longest Distance: A Spain/Venezuela co-production, this film promises a slow paced road movie with plenty of incredible scenery. The film sees a young boy, who has lost his mother, set off on an arduous journey to meet his grandmother for the first time, not knowing that the woman is terminally ill. If the scenery is matched by a quality script, this could be a very special watch.
- The Amazing Catfish: Whilst the festival focuses on films from Spain, it does also include Latin American Spanish language films. This Mexican film with an intriguing title looks like the pick of them to me. Once again dealing with terminal illness and the effect it has on young people close to it, the film has played at a bunch of big festivals worldwide and won the critics award at Toronto in 2013.
- Festival guest Alex Gonzalez: I haven’t seen either of the films Gonzalez stars in at this year’s festival (Scorpion in Love and Combustion), but in my experience getting the chance to hear those involved in films talking about them is pretty much always worth making the effort for. Alex will be doing Q & A sessions following screenings of Scorpion in Love in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane. The film also stars Javier Bardem in a drama involving neo-Nazis, boxing and attempted new beginnings.
You can check out the entire program for the festival here.
Thanks to the Spanish Film Festival, I have three double passes to give away for Aussie residents. Please check out the official website here, to see when the festival will be in your city. There are two ways to enter. You can like the post on my facebook page which links to this article. Or you can favourite or retweet the tweet from my twitter account that links to it. Feel free to enter more than once. The competition will be drawn at 5pm on 29 April and tickets will be posted the next day.
I thought this focus on horror cinema was a good chance to wrap up some of the horror flicks that have been released this year. Here are five that fit the bill, nicely capturing a fair range of horror tropes – vampires, monsters, horror-comedy, alien abduction, home invasions. In order to keep your reading time somewhat manageable, I have tried to restrict myself to 300 words per film which is pretty short for a rambler like me. Speaking of rambling, I went on a fair rant earlier in the fortnight in terms of the state of distribution here in Australia when I was sharing the Patrick (2013) trailer with you. Well here is some more evidence for you about how rubbish the system has become here. Three of these films (including the two which blew me away and got top marks) did not even get a cinema release. Another film I considered reviewing as well was The Evil Dead (2013) which only managed to play in a single cinema in the entire country. Anyways enough ranting, onto the reviews!
Let’s get the bad out of the way first of all shall we? The Guillermo Del Toro produced Mama (2013) is all kinds of bad. The film starts promisingly enough, with an atmospheric opening and the really high production values shining through (however it does feel a little too glossy). I was a big fan of the first appearance from the titular Mama as well and quite like the change-up when films reveal the monster early, like in The Host (2006) for example. The premise is classical, but not without promise – two young children are found after surviving a number of years in the forest, watched over by a spirit of some description.
But the overall experience of Mama is one that does not entirely flow. The creepy-arse kids give good performances but I did not love their characters. Unfortunately Jessica Chastain, one of my favourite actors, is not very good in this at all. I am all for breaking down typecasting and exploring new genres, but here as a tattooed rocker chick, she does not seem to be feeling the role which results in one of her lesser performances. Not only is the performance bad, her character is entirely unsympathetic too. Narratively the film is both derivative (the ol’ long shut-down nearby mental asylum plays a major role here) and on more than one occasion pretty nonsensical too. Not only that, but for long stretches of the film, nothing at all really happens.
Mama was a flat experience for me that only managed to provoke annoyance rather than anything approaching a satisfying horror experience. Poor casting and a tepid, confusing narrative round out a ride that is nothing but a disappointment.
Verdict: Schooner of Tooheys New
From the terrible to the really good and more importantly in this case the absurdly fun Grabbers (2012), which went straight to DVD/blu-ray out here. Horror-comedy films are so hit and miss. When they are good, they are exceptional, when they are bad they are truly terrible.
Most of the best horror-comedies in my experience tend to focus on the horror aspect more than the comedy. Grabbers is an exception to this rule though, as it is really quite hilarious, in an Irish kind of way. Much of that Irish kind of way is down to booze. Hilariously, one (scientifically proven) way to survive the terror that is afflicting all these folk, is to lock themselves inside the pub and get pissed all night. But it is underpinned by the horror elements and the fact it is a seriously well made film. It is beautifully shot, the performances are all good and when it wants to, the film creates tension of the highest order. The two lead performances, from the hilarious Richard Coyle who I know best from the TV show Coupling and Ruth Bradley as his sassy cop offsider are really wonderful. And one of the best aspects of all are the effects. For what I assume is a pretty low budget outing, the creatures look amazing. Everyone loves a good creature feature, and the sea monster/alien hybrids that are the focus of Grabbers look amazing and act really logically too.
I cannot emphasise enough how fun this film is. A hilarious script with leads who have wonderful comedic chemistry and effective monsters wreaking havoc on a sleepy coastal town are a great start. Any film that manages to successfully combine the adventure, comedy, crime, horror and love story genres as well as this is more than alright in my book. Destined for cult classicdom, so jump on the bandwagon early.
Verdict: Longneck of Melbourne Bitter
I can’t really remember the last alien abduction style flick I saw, so checking out Dark Skies (2013) was an interesting experience for me. Particularly because against expectations, this film scared the utter shit out of me more than any other film in this wrap-up and actually more than any other film this fortnight.
The story is set in arch suburbia where a young family begins to be plagued by increasingly strange goings on. Every night, something happens in their house, ranging from the playful to the sinister. The early going sets up the rhythm of the film – blandly scripted and poorly acted (with one exception) daytime scenes and really moody, chilling and original night time scenes. I am rarely scared by horror films, but the night time set half of this scared the pants off me. I was watching it late one night, sitting up by myself, and I actually had to turn it off and regroup the next arvo. And the conclusion wrecked me, the director wisely holding most (but not all) of his cards close to his chest for a really frightening, alien filled finale. I’m getting flashbacks to those creepy silhouettes now. It is a shame then that the rest of the film, the characterisation and progression of the family narrative, is so weak in comparison. Mad props must go to Keri Russell who plays the mother though. She is a really good actress and stands out in comparison to those around her.
I liked Dark Skies, but the overwhelming feeling I am left with is that there is almost unlimited wasted potential here. The real meat of a horror film, the scares, are so exceptionally done here. But everything else is midday movie standard… and not even good midday movie standard at that.
Verdict: Stubby of Reschs
One of the most beloved horror releases of the year, along with The Conjuring (2013), is the home invasion slasher You’re Next (2011). It even managed to get a release in cinemas out here, though I am not sure how much the casting of Aussie actress Sharni Vinson helped with that.
The arc of Vinson’s heroine is probably the most interesting aspect of the film actually. The new girlfriend who appears to be a highly trained expert in handling any horror film situations, preferably in slow-mo. This is a really well told story, the setup of Vinson’s Erin as an outsider to the well-off family is succinctly and well handled. Actually a good sense of character is quickly established for all the main players in the film. You’re Next does not waste too much time though and ramps up both the blood and the action relatively quickly as the family members are picked off one by one. Whilst there is a hell of a lot to like about this film, the big twist was a fairly big letdown for me. Not only that, but I feel like it sucked a lot of the tension and fraught atmosphere out of the goings on. Sometimes simpler is better and I think this is an example of that. Plus, knowing who was behind those freakyarse masks made them less horrifying. Having said that though, the very end of the film is I think handled very strongly and makes up for the lag.
Managing to be both really original and to incorporate elements of numerous classic slasher films, it is easy to see why You’re Next has so many fans. And despite my issues, I definitely count myself amongst them. A brilliant Home Alone (1990) reference and a very black sense of humour help.
Verdict: Stubby of Reschs
I so wish I had more than 300 words to profess my love of Neil Jordan’s Byzantium (2013) to you. This is a surreally good film, a classic vampire narrative that reminds you just how artistic and adult a truly great horror film can be.
To put it in exceedingly simple terms, Byzantium deals with the eternal limbo of vampires. It is a very classical notion and it is brought to life by some classically beautiful photography. Gemma Arteton and Saorise Ronan play the mother and daughter vampires respectively. Ronan’s character is the focus and so much of the film’s success is down to the fact that she gives a stunning performance. I was actually quite taken aback by how good she was, because I have actually not been a fan of hers in anything else I have watched. If, like me, you are always disgruntled at the manner in which vampire mythology is treated in horror films, you will love this one. It examines, interprets and showcases so many classical ideas but manages to mix them with the contemporary as well. The manner in which the two of them feed is just one really good example of this. As well as doing all of these things, the film manages to throw in a teenage love story that actually enhances the whole film. This subplot gives us the third really excellent performance of the film from Caleb Landry Jones, who I have not come across before.
Bloodthirsty, pretty, classical, intense, contemporary, adult, frightening, romantic, chilling, rich intelligent, moody, atmospheric, dark, weighty and steadfastly refusing to deal with events or people in black and white terms, Byzantium is seriously a great film. One of the best I have seen in all of 2013.
Verdict: Longneck of Melbourne Bitter
Popping the DVD of Hell (2011) on, I was pretty apprehensive. Not my usual apprehension putting a horror film on. Rather the apprehension came from the fact the cover of the disc heavily promotes the fact that Roland Emmerich was heavily involved in the film as producer.
Whilst thankfully Hell manages to avoid being a piece of Emmerichian dross, I did have my issues with the end product. Set in 2016, the film is a sci-fi/horror hybrid that for the most part leans toward the first of those two genres. Setting it in the (very) near future worked well I thought, giving it an immediacy that is lacking in so many sci-fi flicks. The earth has been scorched by the sun for whatever reason, presumably global warming, that has seen the temperature skyrocket. What is left is a dystopian wasteland where very few have managed to survive. The film has a similar atmosphere to The Book of Eli (2010) and this connection is reinforced by the sun drenched visuals. The daytime exterior shots with the extreme, over the top lighting to convey the blaze of the sun look really great, and it is a visual tick that I think should have been utilised more throughout the film. A small group of young people are making there way through this environment, scratching together water where they can and petrol for their car. A lot of the early going sets up the dynamic between the various parties, which includes a set of sisters. When the younger of the two is kidnapped, the action turns into a tense attempt to first find then rescue her. Eventually the elder sister finds her way to a commune/farm where she appears to find comfort and security, as well as hopefully help with rescuing her younger sibling. It is a flat start in many ways. The film meanders along a little, with little tension and not too much audience connection with the characters being built up.
Now my major issue with Hell (and I am going to veer into spoiler territory here) is that it is all set up and not enough meat. It is eventually revealed that the friendly farm folk that take in the main protagonist have actually resorted to cannibalism because there is nothing to eat. That is an awesome combo of sci-fi and horror in my book. But the reveal comes too late. So that all of the really cool narrative that comes after that is over far too quickly as precious screen time has been wasted building up too much detail that is ultimately just cast off in any case. The twist in the tale improves everything. The film automatically becomes more intense and atmospheric, you care more and interesting characters, such as a cannibal matriarch, start having a real effect on the action. It also does a good job of drawing out that age-old hypothetical of what, if anything, could lead you to eat your fellow man.
Overall Hell suffers from being too slow and also being unbalanced. It spends a majority of the time on the least interesting aspect of the narrative, in turn short-changing us on the cannibalistic tastiness. Competently, though rarely inspiringly made, this film definitely fell short of what it could have been for me.
Verdict: Schooner of Carlton Draught
It is relatively common for films with a blistering first half to be totally let down by their tepid second half. Less common is a film that manages to recover from an abysmal first half with an exhilarating second that makes the whole experience worthwhile. The low budget British effort Hush (2009) is one such film that fits firmly into the latter category.
The reason this is so uncommon is because a terrible first half means all the setup that gets the audience hooked has fallen flat. Halfway through Hush that is exactly how I felt and I genuinely believed there was no way the film could recover. The big moments of the film up to that point had more or less been bungled. The first, when a man driving along the highway sees (or thinks he sees) a woman tied up in the back of a truck, was let down by shoddy shaky-cam that made the whole thing too obscure. Whilst in the second, the man’s girlfriend (or rather ex as she has literally just broken up with him at a servo) is abducted, presumably by the man in the truck, was meaningless because it totally lacked any emotional resonance. At this point I felt that it was going to be a slog getting through the remainder of the film. I was so wrong though. From this point on, the film kicks into gear and is a relentless and thrilling ride. The entire film flips on a scene in a security office and from then on is as good a low budget 45 minute chase thriller as you are ever likely to see. All of a sudden instead of being a little bored, I was totally on edge and invested in what was happening. Seemingly from nowhere the film had shown an original streak and more importantly an ability to take me out of my comfort zone. It is rare that I feel my nerves are totally shredded by a film, but Hush achieved that in spades, deploying a balanced mix of gore and tension to get the job done.
Just like the plot, pretty much everything about Hush is a really mixed bag. The acting for the most part is pretty bad. But the performance from William Ash, as the main character Zakes, is actually very good as his character becomes more and more frazzled. The script however is pretty average and I suspect contributes to the shortcomings on the performance side of things. The dialogue especially feels very forced throughout. Having said that, where the script does succeed is in terms of pacing. The second half does a really good job of building the tension up to an unbearable level, then taking it down a notch before bringing it right up to fever pitch again. I guess the film’s shortcomings stand out through the first half but are not as noticeable in the second. It does have that kind of cheap, really digital look to it. When the film gets going in the second half though, you really don’t care because you are sitting on the edge of your seat wracked with nerves. The promise shown in the second half makes me hopeful that I am able to see many more films from young writer director Mark Tonderai going forward.
If only Hush had gotten the first half right it would have been something special. Especially as it should really contain a couple of the film’s turning points. As it stands, the film is uneven, but ends so well it is worth persevering through the decidedly average first 45 minutes to get to the tasty bits.
Verdict: Stubby of Reschs
Just a quick update on the prize for A Fortnight of Terror. Thus far I have just been advertising the prize as an unnamed, but awesome, horror DVD from Madman Entertainment.
Well I finally have the details, and awesomely, it is not one but two films courtesy of Madman. Up for grabs are copies of Hell (2011) and Hush (2009) All the details of how to amass some entries can be found here, so be sure to get involved.
I will aim to get reviews of both of these films up over the next couple of days. But for now, here are a couple of trailers to whet your appetite.
In the world of books, novelisation is kind of a dirty word. Perhaps it is the fact that, even more than film, literature is the ultimate auteur art form. Indeed whilst the director is the creative focus of the analysis of film, their vision is filtered through and enhanced by collaboration with others. Literature is a solitary art form though. With a novelisation, the author is essentially a bringing someone else’s vision to the page. That may be why the novelisation is derided somewhat as an art form.
I cannot even remember the last novelisation that I read, I know I definitely read some as a kid. So I thought I would take a look at Tim Lebbon’s novelisation of the fantastic Whedon/Goddard horror film The Cabin in the Woods (2012). With its meta approach and visceral, visually arresting finale, the film is one that perhaps does not lend itself totally to the written form. It is a credit to Lebbon then that he is done a pretty darn good, if pulpy, job of bringing it to life. Anyone who has seen the film will know that it is essentially a film split in two. On one hand are the ‘puppet masters’, pulling the strings from an industrial lab style setting. Then there is the titular cabin in the woods, where what is essentially a standard slasher in the woods narrative takes place. This part of proceedings hews very close to The Evil Dead (1981) actually.
Initially the book is a little jarring to read. Most of this is down to a relatively clumsy method used to insert more narrative voice into the book (generally incorporating narrative voice is an issue going from page to screen, but I wouldn’t have thought it necessary when doing the opposite). These italicised insertions are bothersome, but once you get into a rhythm of the book, they become less noticeable. As a writer, Lebbon is best at establishing place. The early run down servo is an especially good (and bloody creepy) example, but both the cabin and the puppeteers’ compound are also starkly brought to life. Whilst I would definitely not argue the book is better than the film, it does do some things exceptionally well. It fleshes out some of the underlying themes and ideas, possibly even better than the film does. The notions of surveillance and nanny states, as well as the toying with ideas of free will are all thrown around in a really interesting way, which makes them much more than just superficial. I guess to balance that, the final explosive passage of the narrative (which I think is one of the most mind-blowing sequences I have experienced on film for a long while) is hurt by not being as searingly visual as it is in the film. But that is not to bag Lebbon. I’m not sure that any writer could bring it to life as well as the film does.
Whilst not always blisteringly written, this is an enjoyable experience and I very happily flicked the pages over at a rapid pace. Like its filmic source, the novel does a good job of engaging with and subverting horror/slasher film conventions without becoming too wink wink about it.
Verdict: Stubby of Reschs
Over this fortnight, you have the chance to win an as yet unconfirmed (but definitely choice) prize courtesy of Madman Entertainment, so be sure to get liking and commenting to go into the draw.
Given the disappointment of not being able to catch Patrick (2013) during this terrifying fortnight, I thought I should check out a little classic Aussie horror action. Enter Long Weekend (1978).
I always try and keep expectations low when chucking a DVD on. But when the DVD in question has the tagline “their crime was against nature… nature found them guilty” it is quite hard to stop expectations from skyrocketing. Thankfully, Long Weekend more than lived up to the expectation created. The story focuses on Peter and Marcia who escape for a long weekend in the hope of repairing their relationship which has fallen on rocky times. The film begins by contrasting the urban and wilderness landscapes as the couple leaves the city for the weekend. Camping is in some way the intersection between those two worlds, a soft entry into the wild world, so it is notable that is what Peter and Marcia are doing. The fact they cannot leave their city slicker life behind and adjust to the wilderness leads them down some dark paths. Their mistreatment of the environment is an awesomely unsubtle allegory for the treatment of our world, one that still rings as true (truer) now as it did 30 years ago. This is a couple who think nothing of tossing cigarette butts out the window, littering, shooting animals for sport and chopping down trees simply because they have the power. They perpetrate wanton destruction as they focus on themselves and nothing else.
Much of this really fantastic film is not what you would call straight horror. One side of it is an intriguing psychological relationship drama full of secrets, hinted at deception and attempts at controlling behaviour. Then on the other side there are the creepy goings on, with animal attacks, spear guns firing seemingly of their own volition and so on. Both of these would make really taut and fun movies. But combine them, and you have something pretty special I think. The film looks really pretty. The cinematography is first class and the whole visual side of proceedings is helped no end by the fact that the action takes place in some pristine Australian wilderness. Long Weekend is also a delightfully Australian film. As well as looking real pretty, the location serves to create a whole lot of atmosphere. Forests that look stunning lit up in the daytime, take on a positively chilling air at night, lit only by headlights. Then there is the wildlife. Numerous birds, a tassie devil, kangaroos, even a fricking dugong make appearances. It says a lot about the quality of the film’s construction that all of these animals have a menacing presence, yet the film is not particularly over the top or camp. Topical and ahead of its time, this would be an ‘issues film’ if it was not so damn fun to watch.
Before checking it out, I had only ever heard Long Weekend hinted at. But I now consider it to be a bit of a minor Aussie classic. Do your best to track it down if you can (it is distributed on DVD by Umbrella here in Aus) and hopefully you will enjoy it as much as me. A film as atmospheric and taut as this, from a country that supposedly doesn’t make genre films, should be seen by plenty more people.
Verdict: Pint of Kilkenny
Over this fortnight, you have the chance to win an as yet unconfirmed (but definitely choice) prize courtesy of Madman Entertainment, so be sure to get liking and commenting to go into the draw.
Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead (1981) is one hell of a beloved horror flick. Judging from blogs I follow and other things I read, I would venture that it is probably more beloved than any other horror film ever made. Which makes me worry how many people will be a bit bummed with this review, cause I did not particularly like this film at all.
There is no doubt Raimi and friends did a pretty exceptional job on the production front. You can tell this film was made on the cheap, but that never stops the creativity shining through. The creativity does not always work, the whirling camera first person shots for example, but it is an aspect of the film that you have to respect. And perhaps watching this for the first time in 2013 means that I am not able to appreciate just how big a deal the film was when it hit. But other classic horror films, such as Halloween (1978) and Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) that I feared might have lost some of their impact when viewed for the first time in the 2010s, still worked exceptionally well for me. The set up is pretty archetypical cabin in the woods stuff. Think Cabin in the Woods (2012). One issue is that, unlike Whedon’s film and the best of the genre, I think this film skimps a lot on the establishment of the characters. For whatever reason the film is in too much of a rush and I think that hurts the film later on. For me to care about the characters being killed, I need to have gotten to know them or connect with them… or at the very least be slightly intrigued by them. But here I wasn’t, so I was not particularly fussed when they started to be knocked off. Even just establishing them as clichés would have increased the effectiveness of the film a great deal. I think this rushed beginning also means that the creepy isolated house in the woods atmosphere that the filmmakers were aiming for was not entirely there.
There are a couple of other key areas where The Evil Dead falls down for me. Firstly, aside from the easy charisma of Bruce Campbell, I thought the acting ranges from the pretty stilted to the pretty terrible overall. I don’t think that is helped by a script that I definitely consider to be pretty weak. Another aspect of the film that I think pales in comparison with classic slashers (I am thinking particularly of Halloween here) is the soundtrack. In films such as Carpenter’s, the soundtrack plays a major role in enhancing and elevating what is occurring onscreen and is a major player in the setting of tone and more importantly atmosphere of the experience. I found the sparse soundtrack here to be more annoying that anything else, failing to really add anything and actually reducing the tension at times. I am sounding pretty negative, but The Evil Dead is not without its upsides. There are a couple of quite cool ‘bump in the night’ moments and for a fair section of the middle part of the film, it is really quite frightening as well. But I think as the action really ramps up in the film’s final act, at times relying on some terrible effects shots, the really frightening impact is lost. I did really like some of the stuff with the Book of the Dead and the tape recording though, and thought that was much more atmospheric than what the rest of the film was able to achieve.
As a personal view, I found The Evil Dead to be dated, much more so than other classic horror films of its vintage. I thought the pacing and manner in which the film ‘builds’ (or doesn’t) meant it was a bit of a let down for me. A slasher/horror film does not need to have stunningly nuanced characters. But the undercooked teen characters onscreen here really let the rest of the film down. I know a bunch of you guys absolutely love this film. So let me know (civilly of course) in the comments below what I am missing with it.
Verdict: Schooner of Carlton Draught
One thing I love about having theme weeks (or fortnights in this case) is that it gives me the chance to showcase voices other than mine on the site. Lucky for all of us, Chris from the fantastic Terry Malloy’s Pigeon Coop has joined in on the fun this time, with this comparison of two stone cold horror classics. Perfect timing too, as I will be reviewing one of these films myself tomorrow.
I first watched The Thing (1982) quite a few years ago. Since then I have watched the original Evil Dead (1981) for the first time and, having watched The Thing again, it shocked me just how similar the two are; sure, a lot of horror films stick by certain rules and display particular tropes, but the comparison between these two films seemed more similar than most others. The Evil Dead might be more supernatural horror compared to the alien/monster horror of The Thing, but the parallels are definitely there. Spoilers ahead, naturally…
Both The Evil Dead and The Thing have pretty strong male leads who have become somewhat iconic in the horror genre. The Evil Dead has Ash, played by the legendary Bruce Campbell, who although doesn’t really stand out for the first third or so of the film, by the end is undoubtedly the hero of the group, stepping up to take care of business when needed. Campbell then become the central figure for both Evil Dead sequels, cementing his role as a cult figure.
The Thing has a similarly strong male lead in Kurt Russell’s Mac. Like Ash in The Evil Dead, Mac takes charge of the situation and has to do the unpleasant thing of putting people out of their misery. This is still one of Russell’s most iconic roles and arguably rivals Campbell’s Ash as one of the most recognisable leading men in horror films.
The Evil Dead’s fabled cabin in the woods is one of the most referenced and copied features of the film. It virtually invented the trope and it has rarely been used to such great effect. The cabin’s location is a forest in the Tennessee hills and, thanks to Sam Raimi’s direction, manages to create a simultaneous feeling of isolation and claustrophobia. It really feels like there is nothing for miles around, nowhere to escape from the evil forces within the cabin.
The Thing is set in the Antarctic at an American research station. Just like the cabin it feels truly isolated; there’s little to no chance anyone could escape without dying in some way, yet the inside of the research station feels scarily confined. The darkness of the Antarctic stretches on forever and the research station might as well be the last place left on Earth.
Upon playing a recording of incantations from the book of the dead, the group start to become possessed by evil spirits. The result is almost mutant-like possession, grotesque and horrifying, exemplified by the budget make up and visual effects. This is ever so slightly comical but nonetheless disturbing.
The mutant possession in The Thing is on somewhat of a larger scale, with more obvious mutations, but it’s still a similar process. The alien parasite takes over each of its hosts one by one, turning each against the rest of the group. Again, some of the effects might seem comical to some, but the practical effects rather than CGI give it a more authentic feel.
They have to kill their own
As each of the cabin’s inhabitants becomes possessed by the evil force, Ash has no choice but to get his hands dirty and deal with those who were once his friends. He does so through pretty much any means possible, be it lopping them to bits with an axe or gouging their eyes out with his thumbs.
Likewise, in The Thing the group have no choice but to end their friends and colleagues once the alien parasite grabs hold of them. Their methods are equally brutal, often involving fire, which lead to some really rather gruesome deaths.
Someone’s held prisoner
One of the lasting images of The Evil Dead is of a possessed Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss) locked in the cellar. This is similar to the previous point of the group having to kill their own in that they’re having to take drastic action against one of their friends. It’s an image so important to the film, that it’s also become one of the key images of the 2013 remake.
With The Thing, we also have someone kept prisoner in Blair (Wilford Brimley). He’s locked up by the others after being caught destroying equipment and killing the group’s sled dogs. Unlike The Evil Dead, this character is not kept captive after transforming, but it is Blair who becomes one of the most famous monsters in the film, another similarity to Sam Raimi’s film.
It was their own doing
As is the case with most horror films, most of the bad things that happen result from bad decisions made by the characters. In the case of The Evil Dead, the whole debacle could have been avoided if they had just left the Book of the Dead and the cassette recorder alone. hey could have avoided the whole sticky, blood-curdling situation. Although it probably wouldn’t have made a very compelling film that way.
The Antarctic researchers in The Thing aren’t quite as culpable as the idiots in the cabin, but it still could be classed as their own doing. They take in an infected dog into their research station, sling it in with the rest of the dogs where it transforms into one of the horrific creatures and attacks the rest of its canine buddies. Although they weren’t to know, it was the taking the dog with them that started it all. Arguable but I’m running with it.
If I haven’t spoilt the films enough for you already, then this is where I well and truly kill them off. With the ending of The Evil Dead, it appears that Ash has seen off the evil spirits by tossing the book on the fire. However, just before the credits role, we take the POV of something slaloming through the woods towards the cabin. Ash then turns around in horror as whatever it is, seems to attack him. Cut to black.
The ending of The Thing is similarly ambiguous. The last remaining monster has apparently been destroyed, along with much of the research station, and only Mac and Childs (Keith David) are left, sharing a bottle of scotch as they lie there with the camp burning around them. There is much debate as to whether the the Thing had indeed been eradicated, whether it was still alive somewhere, laying dormant or whether Mac or Childs were actually infected by it. We’re left to make up our own minds as to what the outcome is.
So there we have it: my comparison of The Evil Dead and The Thing. I might be reading far too much into their similarities, and feel free to tell me if you think I am. Also, if you can think of any other horror films that fit this structure, then let me know.
I thought I would throw a couple of live tweet reviews in this Fortnight of Terror to mix things up a bit. After The IPC suggested it would be “greatness” if I did a live tweet review of All The Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006), I thought that was a pretty good place to start. Here is how it turned out. Share your thoughts on the film in the comments section below.