Mindwarp (1992)

mindwarp_1Mindwarp (1992)
AKA Brain Slasher, Dream System

Starring Marta Martin, Bruce Campbell, Angus Scrimm, Elizabeth Kent, Mary Becker, Wendy Sandow, Brian Brill, Bekki Vallin

Directed by Steve Barnett

twostar


As a fan of Evil Dead, one goes into a Bruce Campbell movie with certain expectations. Chiefly, that you will have your Bruce Campbell jones satiated at least a small bit. I don’t mean to say that Bruce must always be the over-the-top Ash type, but I do expect him to bring something of his inherent swagger to a role. You can probably see this coming, but Mindwarp contains none of that. So if you do venture down this path in your Bruce Campbell fandom, you will now do so well informed. I was not so lucky. Had Mindwarp filled this void with something engaging or interesting, we might have a good movie anyway. Instead we’re left with a rather boring movie that features a lot of good ideas and great, gory KNB FX work. It could definitely be worse!

In a post-apocalyptic future, economic inequality is at its most extreme. The rich live out their days in clean future-huts, hooked to Infini-Synth machines that allow them to dream their lives away in virtual reality. Meanwhile, the rest of the population is forced to survive the harsh desert climate of the radioactive wastelands. Oh, and most of them are hideously deformed cannibal mutants called Crawlers who live in a network of underground caves! But Mindwarp begins on the cheery side of things, introducing us to Judy, a dreamer who desires actual and more tangible stimulation than what VR can provide. Things soon turn sour, as in Judy’s attempt to rebel she mistakenly kills her dreaming mother and is promptly banished to the wastelands. Be careful what you wish for, Judy!

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Evil Dead II (1987)

EvilDead2_1Evil Dead II (1987)
AKA Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn

Starring Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks, Kassie Wesley DePaiva, Ted Raimi, Denise Bixler, Richard Domeier, John Peakes, Lou Hancock

Directed by Sam Raimi

Expectations: One of my favorites.

fourstar


The Evil Dead is one of the few perfect films in my eyes. Sure, it’s low-budget and it definitely shows, but the experience is second to none and it’s a total blast from start to finish. The prospect of making a sequel must have been daunting to Sam Raimi and company, but the choice to go in a completely different, yet similar direction was every bit the right one. To simply retread the same ground would be useless and boring, so why not let everyone in on how much Raimi loves The Three Stooges? It’s as inspired a horror film sequel idea as there ever was.

But by going in this direction, I do think that Evil Dead 2 isn’t as good a film as the first. Evil Dead 2 doesn’t feel quite as tight, but it more than makes up for this with laughs and a ridiculous amount of madcap energy. Even though this was always my favorite film of the series, I think age has led me to appreciate just how impressive the low-budget success of The Evil Dead was. But when it comes down to it, these petty discussions of one film being better than the other are ultimately pointless, because both of them are pure, unbridled awesome.

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The Evil Dead (1981)

EvilDead_1Starring Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Richard DeManincor, Betsy Baker, Theresa Tilly

Directed by Sam Raimi

Expectations: One of my all-time favorites.

fourstar


The Evil Dead. It’s hard to believe that this movie is 33 years old. It still elicits scares and laughs just as much as it did the first time I saw it all those years ago. But this re-watch was something extra special: I saw it on the big screen. This was a pleasure I had never experienced before, only discovering the film on VHS in the ’90s when a friend let me borrow it. While it’s cliché to say that the big screen made the film a much better experience, that’s exactly the case here. I’ve seen this movie more times than I could ever hope to count, but the theater experience still revealed to me things I had never taken the time to notice or care about specifically.

The first of these is the sound design. While the original soundtrack is only mono — and a fairly abrasive mono with all the shrieking and such — the sound design that accompanies the coming evil of the woods is paramount to the film’s success. The wonderfully inventive camerawork that Raimi uses to realize this spirit flying through the woods is impressive enough, but coupled with the sounds of voices and brooding synths it makes for something that you’ll never forget. I’ve always loved how alive the forest around the cabin in The Evil Dead felt, and I have to credit a lot of that atmosphere and staying power to the ever-present, excellent sound design.

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Escape from L.A. (1996)

escape_from_la_poster1Starring Kurt Russell, Georges Corraface, Steve Buscemi, A.J. Langer, Stacy Keach, Michelle Forbes, Cliff Robertson, Peter Fonda, , Valeria Golino, Pam Grier, Bruce Campbell

Directed by John Carpenter

Expectations: Moderate. I remember not liking and liking this one.

twohalfstar


I’ve never watched the two Escape films in such close proximity before, and I think this is why I never really got what Escape from L.A. was going for. I always found it a chaotic, spastic piece of fun, but all of its nuances were completely lost on me. Coming at it with a full head of Escape from New York definitely helped the film, and it made for a much more enjoyable experience than I remember it being the last time, but it still doesn’t make up for all the flaws that this one holds. It’s unfortunate in this way, because when this film is good, it’s really good fun.

1998
In the late 20th Century, hostile forces inside the United States grow strong. The city of Los Angeles is ravaged by crime and immorality. To protect and defend its citizens, the United States Police Force is formed. A presidential candidate predicts a millennium earthquake will destroy L.A. in divine retribution.

“Like the mighty fist of God, Armageddon will descend upon the city of Los Angeles, the city of sin, the city of Gomorrah, the city of Sodom, and waters will arise and separate this sinful, sinful city from out country.”

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Intruder (1989)

Intruder (1989)

Starring Elizabeth Cox, Renée Estevez, Dan Hicks, David Byrnes, Sam Raimi, Eugene Robert Glazer, Billy Marti, Burr Steers, Craig Stark, Ted Raimi, Alvy Moore, Tom Lester, Emil Sitka, Bruce Campbell, Lawrence Bender, Scott Spiegel

Directed by Scott Spiegel

Expectations: Moderate. I expect the film to be awful, but the FX to be awesome.


 

Two years after co-writing Evil Dead 2 with Sam Raimi, Scott Spiegel got his chance at his own full-length feature film. Based on an earlier short of his, Intruder is quite modest in its budget and aspirations, but achieves true terror and suspense. I’m sad that I never happened upon this film before, as it would have easily been a favorite for many years. Up front it’s important to be aware of a couple of things though. On the DVD boxart, Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi’s names are prominently displayed. Red flags should come up at this, as low-budget trash horror has a knack for playing up the small cameos of big names to trick people into buying or renting. Thankfully, I knew beforehand that Bruce Campbell was only in the final thirty seconds, as this could have been a very different experience if I went in blind.

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Weekend of Horrors Day 2

Saturday had a little more going for it than the previous day, both in terms of size and content. It looked more like an actual convention instead of senior’s bingo night at the Elk’s lodge. The halls were a lot more crowded and all of the freaky motherfuckers came out of the woodwork, displaying some pretty impressive amateur makeup FX skillz… Kind of awesome unless you’re in urgent need of some restroom relief while caught behind a guy in a zombie mask hauling fake body parts in a wheelbarrow down the hall at a snail’s pace.

Will and I spent most of the day checking out some very interesting panels. Greg Nicotero kicked off the day’s festivities with a look at his recent work from the upcoming Walking Dead TV series. Having read some of the books, I still had only very limited interest in the series as I’m not much of a TV watcher. After seeing a few screened clips however, I am willing to give it a shot, as Greg’s work looks pretty impressive here. AMC is obviously giving him a little more leeway than would normally be allowed for a television series in terms of gore.

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Uncle Jasper reviews: Maniac Cop (1988)

Maniac Cop (1988)

Starring Bruce Campbell, Tom Atkins, Laurene Landon, Richard Roundtree, William Smith, Robert Z’Dar

Directed By William Lustig


 

As the 1980’s were drawing to a close, video store horror aisles were beginning to lose some of that blood-splattered luster and morbid creativity that spurred a whole generation of gleefully degenerate filmmakers. Both the Friday the 13th and the Halloween series had been putting the slasher formula through its paces and although it never gets old watching a half-naked camp counselor run through the woods only to be beheaded by some machete wielding nutjob, horror fans were begging for a breath of fresh air.

Rather than resting on their laurels and being quite content with cranking out yet another by-the-numbers slasher film, William Lustig and famed B-grade writer Larry Cohen took a few of your typical genre conventions and stood them on their heads. Trading in the usual spooky woods for the dark alleys of New York City and the typical abused child turned homicidal psychopath for a warped civil servant, Lustig and Cohen were able to escape the standard ho-hum frills of the genre and bring a little something extra to the table. As a result, Maniac Cop offers not only a fresh take on a tried and true formula but also offers a unique look at police brutality taken to its nastiest and most horrendous extremes.

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