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“Deathgasm” (2015) REVIEW

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Horror and comedy have been partners in crime since Abbott and Costello were being chased around by the Universal Monsters way back in the 1940s. But no decade helped solidify this magical marriage of genres better than the ’80s. A deluge of funny and scary flicks saturated the market and pretty much perfected the art during this time: The Evil Dead, An American Werewolf in London, Gremlins, The Toxic Avenger, The Return of the Living Dead, Night of the Creeps, The Monster Squad, HouseKiller Klowns from Outer SpaceBeetlejuice. And that’s barely a third of them. I mean, just absolutely everywhere. And while Gremlins may have been the only massive blockbuster among the group, there is no doubt in any horror fans mind the importance of all the aforementioned titles to the history of the genre.

When the ’90s rolled around, however, horror comedies were a little harder to come by. And by the ’00s they barely made a blip on anyone’s radar, save for the crud that was the Scary Movie franchise. Sure, there are some hits buried in that first decade — Club Dread, Shaun of the Dead, Slither, Zombieland — but I still only need a hand and a half to count the passible releases from those 10 long years.

The good news is: horror comedies have slowly been making a comeback! Beginning with 2012’s sleeper meta hit The Cabin in the Woods, horror comedies have been steadily gaining traction once again — which brings us to 2015’s Deathgasm, the latest and greatest the genre has to offer.

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The movie follows Brodie (Milo Cawthorne), a gawky teenaged metalhead who has to go live with his ultra-conservative aunt and uncle after his mom is institutionalized. He also has to attend a new school where he immediately falls for a flaxen-haired dreamgirl named Medina (Kimberly Crossman). To help integrate himself, he starts a metal band with a few classmates and a local badass, Zakk (James Blake). Meanwhile, he’s continually picked on at home and at school by his cousin David (Nick Hoskins-Smith).

Soon, Brodie and Zakk come into possession of some mysterious sheet music written in Latin, and decide to translate it and have their band cover it. In doing so, they (somewhat) unknowingly open the gates of Hell — turning many people into horrific demons and ultimately summoning the D-man himself (I’m talkin’ about Satan, you sapheads.) Now it’s up to the timid Brodie, his crush Medina, and their motley crew of metalheads to stop the demons.

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I’d seen a few mixed reviews from friends online, so I was a little leery about watching it, but let me just say: I loved this movie. It’s the perfect love letter to splatstick flicks like Raimi’s The Evil Dead and Peter Jackson’s Braindead. Plus, it has a cinematic prowess that recalls the techniques of Raimi, and even Edgar Wright: lots of kinetic cuts, lots of fluid edits, and director Jason Lei Howden makes sure that every shot counts. This last part — the way it was shot and edited — may be the most important aspect of all, above the rampant blood and guts. It’s always a terrible idea when horror movies let creative direction take a backseat to whatever story they’re trying to tell, since most horror films rarely have anything new to say. In fact, I’d argue the way a horror film is shot is possibly the most important aspect above anything else. Recent indie faves like It Follows, The Babadook, The Boy, Spring, The Canal — all lauded, yet each story couldn’t be more different from the next. The one thing they have in common? They’re all gorgeously lensed. And that really, really matters.

Ultimately, Deathgasm is just a really fun film that doesn’t take itself — or anything else, for that matter — seriously. The jokes are sharp and they never linger on a punchline too long. Plus: the gore is gore-geous! Split heads, torn limbs, intestines, and blood-puking that makes the cherry pit scene from The Witches of Eastwick look positively tame. I mean, how can you go wrong with a movie about a group of metalheads in corpse paint trying to save their town from demonic hellspawn? You can’t.

Deathgasm is currently on VOD and I say CHECK IT OUT!

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Drive-In Double Feature: Scream 4 & Evil Dead (2013)!

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Anthony is a friend from Chicago whom I have had many talks about horror with; the ones that immediately come to mind seem to circle around Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects if memory serves correctly — but there’s a very good chance it doesn’t.

Now Anthony claims he had never written anything for a site before, but he did such a stellar job with this write up that I think he may have just been pulling my leg. He knocked this one out of the park! And I’m not afraid to pay him the compliment, even if he is a fan of modern horror remakes. But enough of my yammerin’: take it away, Anthony!

I have a confession to make, and it’s something which will probably take away any sort of credit I may ever hope to have as a horror fan: I absolutely love remakes of classic horror movies.  Whether it’s 2004’s Dawn of the Dead, Rob Zombie’s Halloween, or the modern takes on Friday the 13th and Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a remake done with input by the original creators, hoping to realize their vision more clearly after a few decades of technology improvements or if it’s a remake by an entirely new crew, attempting to put a new spin on a beloved movie.  I just really like seeing brand new takes on a movie that I already know and love, for better or for worse!

With this in mind, there’s a very specific sub-section of remakes that holds a special place in my heart, and one that I think would make a really fun focus for a drive-in double feature.  That is, of course, the remakequel.  A movie which manages to both retell key elements of the original film, but also takes place in a universe where the original story did, in fact, happen!  It’s an interesting slice of movie-making which can serve to magnify the themes of the original film, while also paying due respects by not wiping the old story out of continuity to make room for the new story.

My two favorite remakequels in recent memory are Scream 4, from 2011, and Evil Dead from 2013.  Both of these films simultaneously serve as the fourth movie in their respective series, while also acting as a remake/reboot of the original film.  It’s hard to talk about these two movies without first going a bit into the original versions!  Both of these film franchises are widely known and loved, and for similar reasons.  Throughout the ‘80s and early ‘90s, Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy managed to combine over-the-top campy gore with slapstick comedy, to create a unique blend of horror and dark comedy.  This combination resonated throughout the horror film industry, and the influences can be seen in countless movies released afterwards.  Similarly, the Wes Craven created Scream films took a more light-hearted approach that managed to bring campy slasher flicks back from the dead in the mid-to- late ‘90s.  While I think many people going to see this double feature would be familiar with the original franchises, I don’t think that quite as many people went and saw the fourth movies in these series, and that is why I would love to attend a double-feature playing both films!

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The first movie played would have to be Scream 4, as that movie not only came out first, but thematically sets up the idea of a remakequel in the classic self-aware style which made the first movie so entertaining!  Taking place 15 years to the day after the original Scream film, this movie sees the town of Woodsboro dealing with what appears to be a copycat killer, mirroring the acts of the infamous Ghostface.  The two main characters that this film looks at are Neve Campbell, reprising her role as Sidney from the first three films, and newcomer Emma Roberts playing Sidney’s younger cousin, Jill.  In examining the relationship between the “final girl” from the original film, and her family member who is set up to fill that archetype in this one, Scream 4 provides a really fun and twist-filled analysis of the slasher film sub-genre, and of the craze of remaking classic horror films in general.  The movie plays with our expectations by giving the audience a mix of exactly what they expect in some instances and exactly the opposite of what they expect in others, keeping this tension high and never letting the viewer have a moment to feel comfortable!  Scream 4 serves as both a great example of a remakequel done right, and also as a fourth-wall breaking explanation of exactly what it means to have a reboot take place in the same universe as the original films.  Opening with Scream 4 will surely delight the crowd attending this double feature, and will also help set the scene for the second movie.

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Next up, we have Evil Dead!  This movie is a bit vaguer in its relationship to the original trilogy than Scream was, but if you pay attention it definitely can be viewed as “Evil Dead 4.”  I think this is awesome, because Evil Dead 2 was actually one of the earliest examples of a remakequel!  Taking place some 20 years after the original, this Evil Dead introduces us to a brand new set of 20-somethings who end up spending the week in the exact same cabin in the woods featured in the original trilogy.  Our two main characters are Jane Levy and Shiloh Fernandez as Mia and David Allen.  The brother-and-sister duo breaks the audience’s perception on how this remake is going to run, both immediately and in unexpected ways throughout the film!  At first, it appears that David might be this movie’s “Ash.”  They wear practically the same outfit, and both are accompanied by a sister, a girlfriend, and a few other friends.  But as the film goes on, we start to see elements of Ash appear in nearly every main character, but mostly Mia.  This switch-up serves to remind us that, despite the events being very similar to the first movie, this is more than just a remake.  Furthering this idea, it’s worth noting that the theme of cycles being both broken and re-entered runs throughout the entire film.  From the main purpose of the trip being Mia trying to break her drug habit, to the climactic reveal that (despite what we were shown previously in the series) the Necronomicon won’t go away just because it’s been set on fire.  This movie manages to pay homage to the best parts of the original Evil Dead trilogy, without ever feeling like a rehash!  Also, by going a bit lighter on the comedy and a bit heavier on the atmosphere, at times it manages to do something that the originals themselves never really did: scare the audience.  The use of practical effects and having a full cast of really believable actors, this film accomplishes everything that an Evil Dead movie should accomplish, and is a must-see for any fans of the series.

With that, the double feature will end, hopefully giving anyone who sat through the whole thing a lot to think about, and a couple of modern remakes that aren’t so bad after all.  Scream 4 and Evil Dead are two of my favorite modern horror films, and movies that I fear many people skipped due to the concern of them being creatively bankrupt unoriginal rehashes of old movies.  Were these two movies to ever actually get shown together, my biggest hope would be to show the world of horror fans that you can do a reboot right!  Some stories are so good that they’re worth telling again.

Anthony is void of any major forms of social media or public blogs, but any praise and/or criticisms can be left here and I’ll be glad to pass it along to him!

INTERVIEW: Tom Sullivan!

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While the name might not instantly ring a bell, Tom Sullivan’s work definitely will: ever heard of a little film franchise called Evil Dead?  All the crazy special effects that essentially made the Evil Dead films watchable cult hits were created by none other than Mr. Sullivan himself.  The terrifying Cheryl-zombie in the basement, the campy Harryhausen inspired skeleton battles, and the unforgettable Book of the Dead are just a few of the awesome effects supplemented by Tom.  But he isn’t a one-trick pony, no no no.  He’s kept himself plenty busy with all his other endeavors.  In preparation for Chicago’s own Terror in the Aisles 2, Dr. Jose was able to get Mr. Sullivan to talk about what he’s been up to lately and if there is any possibility of another Evil Dead film. Continue reading INTERVIEW: Tom Sullivan!