Icon Of Horror: Ash Williams

With a chin that could kill, a vast array of one-liners and weapons and an attitude that would make the fairest of maidens swoon, cult favourite Ashley ‘Ash’ J Williams is the man for the job when it comes to battling demons and monsters…no matter what time period it’s in.

ash 1

The 1981 film The Evil Dead introduced us to a character, who at first doesn’t come across as the type to be battling monsters and demons from beyond the grave. But as the film, and franchise, progressed it was obvious that there was much more to this S-Mart employee, than a blue shirt and a 1973 oldsmobile.

Ash’s story begins in a remote cabin in the middle of the woods; a setting which would inspire many horror films to come. Him, his girlfriend Linda and a group of their friends have decided to take a trip away to the cabin and let off some steam. But after discovering a weird-looking book in the cellar, one of the group takes it upon himself to read an incantation. Unfortunately for the group it is the book of the dead, or the Necronomicon. A book that is bound in human flesh, written in human blood and has the power to raise demonic spirits into our world; and that’s just what happens. Ash is forced to fight off his friends and lover as they one by one become possessed by the entities, although he survives the night his nightmare has only just begun.

Among the many things that The Evil Dead is famous for – a major one involving a possessed tree – the character of Ash Williams is probably the most important. His suave and cool demeanour are what keeps the low-budget horror film together. What makes the groovy monster-fighter even better is the fact that the actor who portrays him, Bruce Campbell, is exactly the same in real life. So for every Evil Dead film you know that Campbell is going to give you the Ash Williams that you love because he is just being himself, with a bit more groovyness.

Bruce Campbell’s cult status continued to grow as The Evil Dead franchise added a sequel; Evil Dead 2 in 1987. However it wasn’t until the trilogy was complete in 1992 with Army Of Darkness that Bruce Campbell and Ash both became cult legends. Whereas The Evil Dead was primarily a horror film, Evil Dead 2 had some comedy elements to it. But Army of Darkness combined horror and slapstick comedy together to create a film that should be in every horror fans DVD collection. When you think about a horror film that has slapstick comedy in it, it is hard to imagine how anyone could make it work, but with Army Of Darkness it does. The reason is, other than the mind of Sam Raimi, because of Ash Williams; his witty one-liners such as ‘gimme some sugar baby’ and his cool rough-tough guy appearance keep us hooked. As we witness him being a complete bad-ass killing demons, and then comically running around with another head attached to him.

As I said before his true cult identity came through with Army Of Darkness, ask any Ash Williams fan and they will tell you that his appearance consists of a chainsaw for a hand and a shotgun strapped to his back (or his Boom-stick). That appearance is definitely one that stands up there with the likes of Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees in horrors best icons.

One of the main reasons that Ash is such a loved character could be because he is just like us, with added wit and looks. If you think about all the action heroes in cinema: Bruce Willis, Wesley Snipes, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Their characters are usually incredibly buff hard men who kick the crap out of the antagonists. But Ash is just a simple person like us who is lost in a world of horrors, and eventually lost in a different time-zone.

ash

For fans yearning after a bit more Ash Williams now that The Evil Dead trilogy has finished, a lot of Sam Raimi’s films have Bruce Campbell making a cameo appearance, including his Spider-man trilogy. Or check out the post-credits part of the 2012 remake of Evil Dead for a snippet of the handsome hero reciting one of his most famous catchphrases.

Remember, the next time you are attacked by a demon and they fall to the floor as if to have been killed. Don’t fall for it, it’s a trick…get an axe.

Original Film Tag Line: The Ultimate Experience In Grueling Terror.

Film Franchise List:

The Evil Dead – 1981

Evil Dead – 1987

Army Of Darkness – 1992

Evil Dead – 2012

 

Oculus: A Review

With the Oculus Rift making horror games so much scarier, it was only a matter of time before a film would be named after the Latin word for an eye-shaped opening.

oculus

An original story-line in horror goes a long way these days, as the vast majority of films are just re-workings of existing plots, remakes, sequels or prequels. To be honest, from the trailer it seemed as though Oculus was going to fit right in as one of those films. But thankfully the trailer didn’t reveal much in terms of the story-line; so you had no idea what to expect. That unexpected feeling stays with you throughout the entire picture.

Oculus starts with a flash of the past, which depicts Tim (Brenton Thwaites) and Kaylie (Karen Gillan, best known for Doctor Who) who are two young children, and are in a desperate attempt to escape from a man with a gun and what appears to be some form of supernatural being. Fast forward 11 years and it appears that the man was their father (Rory Cochrane), and due to their family possessing a mirror called ‘The Lasser Glass’, he was unknowingly forced into killing their mother (Katee Sackhoff). The tale doesn’t end there though as now in present day, Kaylie decides that the mirror needs to be destroyed so that it can never cause anyone pain again. With the help of her recently released from incarceration brother Tim, they prepare themselves for a night of terror in the hope that by morning the mirror will be destroyed and they can put their horrible ordeal behind them. But as The Lasser Glass’ mind tricks begin to engulf them and their reality starts to sink back into what happened 11 years ago, the destruction of the mirror seems almost hopeless.

When a film is only 20 minutes in and you have already jumped out of your skin to man kicking a box then you are probably onto something. The creepy atmosphere that Oculus creates is what, among other things, really draws you in, it grabs hold and rattles about your every last nerve. The viewer begins to embody the characters themselves, their fears become yours, and Kaylie and Tim escaping this nightmare feels all that more vital as you are trying to escape it as well.

Director Mike Flanagan really did an excellent job of intertwining the realities, we are shown both the story from 11 years ago and the one in present day. When the older Kaylie and Tim begin to remember what happened to them, they are thrust back into reliving those horrific days when The Lasser Glass took over their family. Although at some points you may feel lost, as soon as a scare comes through you get your bearings back. You really have to otherwise you won’t be able to prepare yourself for the next jump.

When you look at films such as Signs, Halloween or The Thing, they are such landmark films that give us the shivers even to this day; and one of the main reasons is the music score. Some simple notes can add a lot of terror to a film, tunes that will stick with you even after the film has ended. Oculus is one of those films, its bassy long notes, which are uncovered when the cast are running frantically from the antagonists, almost resemble an air raid siren. Something audiences recently saw in 2012’s Evil Dead remake. When those sirens start-a-comin’, you better be-a-runnin’.

You are constantly guessing with Oculus, although you can follow the plot. What will mystify you is the mirror itself, as it isn’t so much a being, but more a force. We aren’t really indulged into its power until about half way through the film as well, so when the scares come, and they do, you really don’t know what to expect.

Tag Line: You See What It Wants You To See.

 

We Interrupt This Programme

I Spit On Your Grave 3

Most horror fans will know of the 1978 controversial film ‘I Spit On Your Grave’, and the 2010 remake which wasn’t a total disaster. You may have even seen the tedious sequel to the remake which was basically the first film all over again. Well to all those fans who are still, for some reason, eager for more, plans have been put in place for a ‘I Spit On Your Grave 3’ film. Don’t get me wrong I’m all for women empowerment and I loved the original and the remake – to an extent. But nothing new is being brought to the table, it is the exact same story being repeated again. When viewing the sequel, yes it was shocking, but all the way through you knew what was coming because it had just happened in the remake. Perhaps the film makers will make the story different from the first two, because they really need to be more focused on entertaining their audience rather than just shocking them. It is not yet known whether Steven R. Monroe – director of the first two – is returning to helm the third film.

spit

V/H/S 3

In my opinion the best found-footage franchise is definitely the REC films, but following not far behind is the V/H/S franchise. There is just something about the V/H/S films that really made me enjoy them, perhaps it is because I have a soft spot for hand-held cameras. But what really captures my enjoyment are the separate stories portrayed, it means you get to enjoy maybe four or five films in 2 hours. What V/H/S did wrong V/H/S 2 improved upon greatly, and left you eager for another. Thankfully the time has come for the next instalment with V/H/S Viral. A whole host of directors are on board to deliver this third helping of anthology terror, and as the title suggests, this time it goes viral. At the moment what we know is that, as the title suggests, it will centre more around videos on the internet rather than actual VHS tapes; perhaps to appeal to today’s audience more. From the trailer V/H/S Viral does not look set to disappoint, and will hopefully sit nicely as the best in the franchise. The anthology genre is not dead.

viral

 

Shocking Saturday: The Conjuring

The truth based story of the Warren’s most horrifying case makes for a thrilling film, that brought box office selling ghost stories to the big screen once again.

conjur

In 1971 the Perron family have moved into a new home in Rhode Island to make a fresh start, however after revealing the boarded up cellar, eerie occurrences begin to happen in the house. Such as: the dog barking wildly, unexplained smells and noises in the house and of course one of their daughters being dragged out of bed. The family seek the help of Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) – who are regarded as the most famous paranormal investigators in the world – to look at their home and deal with the problem. However once Lorraine, who is also a medium, enters the home she senses something much darker at play than just a normal haunting. The evil twisted past of this dilapidated house is beginning to come to life once more, and it plans to destroy the Perron family from the inside.

One of the first things you notice when watching The Conjuring is the money and ideas that have gone into it. Although they are basing on what happened in 1971, the scares and creepy atmosphere that the director James Wan, who is also famous for the Saw franchise and Insidious, creates is one that I have not witnessed from a horror in quite a while.

It’s not only the creepiness that won me over, but also the climax. A lot of horrors are able to create that feeling of unease in us, and they usually do it by not showing us the antagonist until the very end of the film. When we do see it, the CGI created beings usually ruin the rest of the film; for example in White Noise. However The Conjuring keeps you gripped to the screen throughout the entire running time, and at the conclusion you don’t want it to end.

You know how in a horror film there tends to be that one character that just gets on your nerves, it could be the typical dumb blond or the screaming child – although the War of the Worlds remake is not a horror, Dakota Fanning’s character was just unbearable. Well I could not find one fault in the portrayals in this film, yes there were parts were I was thinking ‘why are you looking in the cellar?’ But the actual characters were very likeable, even with 5 young children, and therefore you weren’t rooting for them to be killed, you actually wanted this family to survive the terrors. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga definitely stole the show, as the ghost hunters who were both fully in belief of the supernatural, but were also sceptical when going into a case. That characteristic alone made them one of the most enjoyable things about the film, as they didn’t go into an investigation instantly believing there was paranormal phenomenon involved.

The back story for this film is just so interesting – depending on what type of films you like. But I find it great when you can view a film and then look it up afterwards and discover new things about the story; and The Conjuring is one of those films. As it is based on Ed and Lorraine Warren – the two most famous paranormal investigators – it tries to put as many of their famous encounters into the film as possible, including the infamous ‘Annabelle’ doll case and the Amityville case. We get to take a look inside all of their hauntings and adventures when the film shows the room in their house where they keep all the cursed objects from their travels. If you research about the Warrens and watch the film again, you are bound to spot one or two familiar items. Things like this show that the writers – Chad and Carey Hayes – have thoroughly done their research for the film.

One of the best horrors I have seen in a while, not one that has just been churned out with the same story line. It’s got a great back story, impressive portrayals by Wilson and Farmiga, scares when you least expect them and the thing which always gets me going, an eerie feeling that grabs tight of you and just will not let go.

The Conjuring 2 is set for release in 2015 and a spin-off film about the haunting Annabelle doll titled ‘Annabelle’ is set to be released later this year.

Tag Line: Based On The True Case Files Of The Warrens.

Horror Rating: (:-O) (:-O) (:-O)

Star Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Shocking Saturday: Girls Against Boys

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and when there is two in the mix all hell will break loose.

We have all seen one of these types of films before such as The Last House on the Left and I Spit on Your Grave: some wrong is done to a woman – unfortunately it’s usually sexual assault – and they then go on a rampage to find, torture and kill the culprit. Girls Against Boys however puts a slight spin to the plot, by adding another revenge-fuelled woman into the mix.

girls

What started for Shae (Danielle Panabaker) as a well planned out weekend in the Hamptons with her boyfriend actually begins with an unexpected breakup, followed by a crazy night out that ends in her assault, meeting along the way a female work colleague named Lu (Nicole LaLiberte), who will forever change her life.

After said assault happens, Lu attempts to help Shae by taking her to the police station. But after no proper help is given and with revenge on Shae’s mind the duo decide to take matters into their own hands. By using various violent forms of negotiation Shae begins a mission to get back at every man who has wronged her; however she may have jumped into the killer lifestyle without asking herself if this is what she really wants to do…something which Lu confirmed to herself a long time ago.

As Shae and Lu indulge in their crusade to rid the world of the filth that is the male gender, they sort of come across as a modern-day Thelma and Louise, but with a lot more killing. Even as a man it is great to see a film about women’s empowerment against the people who think they are superior, mainly because the audience can envision any minority in today’s society and put them in that role. To see a minority – be that homosexuals, ethnic minorities, women – which is looked down upon on a daily basis give the powers that hold them down a taste of their own medicine really gets your blood pumping, as you are rooting for the violent protagonist.

There was a danger at one point of the film losing its moral point in the way that the ‘heroes’ may have just started killing men willy-nilly, but thankfully that does not happen in a way that would have ruined the film – and one that I can’t really explain as it would ruin part of the picture.

Panabaker and LaLiberte play off each other so well throughout the film; we first meet them as colleagues and friends turned murderers, but by the end of the film they become enemies with their different views on the acts they are committing. What was also great about these two talented actresses was how different both characters actually were, even though at one point in the film they both lusted after the same objective. Whereas Lu has always had this opinion on those that have done her wrong, Shae was simply thrust into it by a terrible event, and was blinded by Lu’s talks of retribution. As the film progresses we see both characters’ true colours, as Shae’s humanity begins to sink in, Lu’s insanity flourishes and we see how determined she really is.

I truly was impressed with Girls Against Boys; it took a typical film plot and added a slight twist that changed the entire notion of the film. Also both portrayals by the leading ladies pulled you in; whilst you were constantly rooting for Shae to get even, on the sidelines you were also enjoying hating her murdering mate.

Tag Line: Bad Girls Don’t Cry. They Get Even.

Horror Rating: (:-O) (:-O)

Star Rating:

 ☆☆☆☆

REC 4: Apocalypse Trailer

Without a doubt the Spanish REC franchise is one of the best that has been in the horror genre in recent years; and it seems ages since the slightly less enjoyable third installment, REC 3: Genesis, came out. So for those of you, like me, waiting on the news front for something on part 4, prepare to get excited because the official trailer for REC 4: Apocalypse has now been released.

rec4

Juame Balaguero (REC/REC 2) is back in the director’s chair again to helm the film, and the story line – to the joy of most fans – is going to stick more to what we saw in the first two films. The plot is set after the second, once again Manuela Velasco is reprising her role as the TV reporter Angela as she has just been evacuated out of the building where the first two films took place. From the trailer all we can really tell at the moment is that it is primarily based on a ship, and just when they thought the virus was contained, all hell breaks loose once again.

I for one am extremely excited for part 4, as the REC series ticks all of the boxes on my horror film list: hand-held camera, great effects, big scares and zombies (sort of). Hopefully with Balaguero back behind the lens REC 4: Apocalypse should be a great addition to the franchise.

REC 4: Apocalypse is set for cinema release on 31st October 2014 in Spain; the release date for the UK is not yet known.

Shocking Saturday: Grave Encounters

The found-footage 2011 cult horror by The Vicious Brothers lives up to the hype, and offers much more than your typical hand-held camera film.

grave

Lance Preston is the host of his own paranormal investigation series, and for the sixth episode of the first series him and his crew decide to visit the Riverview Mental Asylum, which is said to have been the source of many ghostly happenings. The team decide to have themselves locked inside the asylum all night until 6am when the caretaker will come let them out. The persona that the team play out on camera is much different to their actual take on the situation, as they believe that they aren’t going to get anything on film. However as the night goes on the asylum seems to come to life, along with its deceased detainees; and the crews persona eventually becomes one…fear. With ghouls and demons chasing them at every corner, they have much more to worry about than just surviving until 6am.

The first thing that I noticed about Grave Encounters was that, even before any of the scares had started, I was enjoying the film. It is a great success when a film from this genre can achieve that, without even needing to use any of their effects. As the film went on it just got better and better, the plot kept you guessing as you tried to work out what was going on just like the characters in the film. Plus, even though we aren’t able to get too in touch with the cast, you still relate to them because they are quite comical in the way they do certain things before they enter the asylum; although you aren’t dying for them to make it out, you certainly do sympathise with them.

The effects and prolonged creepiness are definitely what steal the show here. It’s the not knowing when something is going to pop up when the camera pans around, and the jump-scares that don’t happen when expected but still scare you any way that keep the film going. The casts witty and friendly characteristics force you to put yourself in their positions; imagine stumbling around an abandoned haunted prison in the pitch black on your own; doesn’t sound like something I would want to be doing.

What Grave Encounters really does well is how it keeps you interested in the film, and it does that by swaying from the typical scares and plot of a found-footage horror film. Along with the expected jump-scares that don’t happen, the documentary style photos which were found after the events and the imaginative story, the movie also does something which we barely ever see in horror films these days; and that is keeping the majority of the cast alive for over half of the film. By doing this the audience are able to continue to get in touch with the entire cast, and not, for example, get annoyed by a single cast member who might be the only one left alive.

grave 1

Although at some points the acting is slightly wooden, the film gets away with it because of the way that it keeps you watching, all the way up to the end.

A sequel to Grave Encounters was made in 2012 called ‘Grave Encounters 2’, and is about a fan who is so obsessed with the film that he wants to make his own version in the same place. Unfortunately for him it turns out that the film is actually real. The sequel was rather good, however it was let down in the fact that it makes the story too unrealistic. I know it is obviously made up, but where the first film played on your imagination so much and gave you a feeling of claustrophobia, the second tries to achieve this as well but goes so over the top with it.

One of the best found-footage films I have seen in a long time, with some great effects and an atmosphere that will stop you from ever wanted to go explore an abandoned Mental Asylum.

Tag Line: They Were Searching For Proof…They Found It.

Horror Rating: (:-O) (:-O) (:-O)

Star Rating: