Summer Moviethon: The Heat, Evil Dead (2013)

July 23: #42, The Heat

Don’t worry, you can show up an hour late to this one

I pride myself at being good at avoiding turds. Some moviegoers can’t seem to do this, and others (like my friend Lee) are actually attracted to them- this is a guy who willingly went to see Garfield

Therefore, I feel like I have to defend myself here, as well as for a few future turds that I will undoubtedly be subjecting myself to. First of all, I think it’s good to watch a shitty movie or two now and then if you’re reviewing films. It helps you to keep your scale calibrated. If all that you watch are great movies, you start to take them for granted. You feel like a professor at Random Online University, just giving out A’s and B’s left and right, whether or not anyone actually deserves one.

Also, this movie was showing in my tiny town’s little theater, which has become my favorite place to see movies. I’ll see just about anything that comes through here (they get one movie a week) if I get the chance and it’s not based on a book written by Nicholas Sparks. Finally, I hadn’t even seen a trailer for this and had no idea it even existed.

I did read some reviews by regular old people online before I went to see The Heat, and they were all pretty much written by middle-aged women who are probably Sandra Bullock fans and didn’t expect to see a movie with almost as many f-bombs as Casino. “The language was DISGUSTING!” one boring menopausal woman with seven cats claimed. Yes, Grumpy Puritanical Lady. The word “fuck” is literally disgusting. Now go watch some Murder, She Wrote and shut the fuck up.

The Heat is basically a female take on the buddy cop film, although it is so untethered to reality in favor of laughs that it’s more comparable to The Other Guys than Lethal Weapon. Also, you should know that it is a giant, stinky turd for about the first hour and represents a very rare counterpoint to the usually dependable rule that comedies are always at their funniest before the plot kicks in.

I didn’t dislike The Heat because of the rampant f-bombs by co-star Melissa McCarthy (This is 40, The Hangover Part III). I disliked it mostly because McCarthy wasn’t funny. Here’s the deal: McCarthy plays Mullins, a Boston undercover cop who doesn’t play by any rules BUT HER OWN and is forced to pair up with an uptight, egotistical FBI agent, Ashburn (Sandra Bullock).

So, much of the film, especially in the first half, is about McCarthy being put into presumably funny situations where we are expected to laugh because a) she’s fat, and b) she says naughty words with a straight face. The problem is that her deadpan style doesn’t work for me, and neither does her Judd Apatow-ian riffs, most of which seem unscripted but almost none of which pair actual humor with their spontaneity.

I should be honest, though: a lot of the people in the theater were laughing. It just didn’t work for me. Now, I have to also add that later on in the film, there are a few legitimately funny scenes, and at least one that features a decent payoff for all of the cussing Mullins has been doing throughout the movie. But I found the first half of the movie either a) boring, b) aggressively, groan-inducingly bad, or c) both at any given time, so it was too little, too late…at least for me. Your mileage may vary.

As for Bullock, she was okay. She plays the straight-laced role well and once the plot gets moving, her and McCarthy have decent chemistry. But why does she all of a sudden look like the late Michael Jackson?

Bony, thin nose? Check. Straight, dark hair? Check. Pale complexion and butt-chin? Double-check. I'm a terrible person.

Humor is a pretty subjective thing. The action elements here are pretty much forgettable, as is everything else, including the entire supportive cast. Therefore, your enjoyment, or lack thereof, will depend on how funny you think McCarthy is here. It was a lot more “miss” than “hit” for me. Grade: D

July 23: #43, Evil Dead (2013)

Awesome, gross, not-altogether-scary fun

I’m used to being in the minority (or, as used to it as you can be while being a straight, white male). I’m one of an apparent very few that do not find “possession” movies all that scary. I know I’m in the minority because people say all the time that The Exorcist is the scariest movie ever made, and the industry keeps pumping out films where people are possessed by demons.


Fortunately, I don’t have to be scared by a horror movie to have a good time with it. I say “fortunately” because neither the 1981 version of The Evil Dead or its 2013 remake are very scary. Do they depict awful situations that would be horrifying in real life? Sure. But lots of things would be scary in real life that aren’t scary on screen. Like murderous turkeys, for example.

That’s not to say that Evil Dead isn’t creepy. There are plenty of unsettling things happening onscreen, and thanks to a plot that doesn’t require a ton of setup, the tension builds pretty nicely even though it takes no time at all for things to escalate.

In a lot of ways, Evil Dead is a victim not only of its predecessor but all of the films that the original inspired. It makes it very hard for anything here to appear new, because quite literally, almost none of it is new. Maybe that’s why it’s not very scary…I knew what was going to happen and whether with the original version or the films it has inspired, we’ve been to this cabin in the woods quite a few times now.

Of course, there are some new wrinkles here, including a large part of the plot itself. The cabin is not new to the kids in the film, which presents some logical issues (they didn’t know about the cellar?) but the setup of using the secluded location to help one of the girls (Jane Levy) kick a drug addiction also helps things make sense. Once she starts sensing things are not quite right, freaks out and wants to leave, her friends simply think she’s suffering from withdrawals and ignore her pleadings.

Like a lot of other previous remakes, most notably the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street, this one copies a couple of iconic scenes. Also like the Elm Street remake, when Evil Dead recreates these scenes, it largely falls short (I’m referencing the infamous scene in the woods that starts it all), though not nearly to the degree that the Elm Street remake’s soulless rip-offs did.

Having said that, this is a great piece of horror filmmaking. The special effects are fantastic, the acting is actually very good (with Levy in particular taking on a demanding role and giving one of the better performances I’ve seen in a horror film in quite some time), and the movie has lots of gross-out moments that are hard to watch but add to the fun if you’re watching with like-minded horror fans.

I’m not a fan at all of “torture porn”, which is entirely different than saying I can't stand gore in horror films. See, even though some pretty disgusting stuff happens here, it doesn’t come off like torture porn for a couple of reasons. For one, unlike movies like Hostel, there’s a supernatural force at work, rather than just regular human beings acting like dicks. That’s important. Also, while the actors play it straight, the film has an undeniably campy undertone that keeps a level of disbelief intact to make some of the nastier stuff more palatable to watch. As with a lot of horror movies since the 80s, this one is as much about seeing your friends’ reaction to gross stuff as it is reacting to it yourself.

And there’s plenty to react to. The Book of the Dead features scrawled references to “RIVERS OF BLOOD”, and that’s pretty accurate here. Blood sprays, drips, and is vomited on people, and that’s just for starters. In terms of characters, there’s only one person that I really want to punch in the face, and that’s pretty good for a contemporary horror flick. “Hey, I’m the one that unleashed all this shit, but I’m gonna be a smug prick about it even though it’s all my fault!” Yeah, screw you, judgmental, humorless hipster guy.

The post-credits “scene”, which lasts all of three seconds, makes me wonder where on Earth they’re going with this. It certainly stands out like a sore thumb from the rest of the film, and my initial reaction is to be kind of bummed that they didn’t let the remake stand on its own. For now, they’ve at least done a good job reviving the franchise. Grade: B+

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