This slice of late '80s horror offers blood, gore, and capitalist critique! Dig in.
Season 2, Episode 5: “The Gift of the Magi”
Directed by Jeffrey Reiner
Written by Ben Nedivi and Matt Wolpert
* For a review of the previous episode, “Fear and Trembling” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Rhinoceros” – click here
The beginning of this episode begins with an excellent voice-over. I’ve awaited this moment. A bus flies by with REAGAN across it, all the while there’s Bruce Campbell giving a speech as the ole Gipper. Brief, but amazing.
Then, out in the middle of nowhere, Joe Bulo (Brad Garrett) and Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine), alongside the Kitchen Brothers and a bunch of other men. Are they going out hunting? Looks like it. But hunting what? Bulo and a hunting guide of sorts head out to hunt, shoot skeet, whatever.
More of the excellent editing here. The splitscreen technique takes us between Reagan, back on, speaking to a crowd including Lou and Betsy Solverson (Patrick Wilson/Cristin Milioti), Constance (Elizabeth Marvel) and a ton of others – to Hanzee Dent (Zahn McClarnon) driving back to the Gerhardt Ranch. There, he gives Rye’s belt buckle back to the clan. Dodd (Jeffrey Donovan) and Bear (Angus Sampson) are not happy, neither is Mama Floyd (Jean Smart). Naturally.
Out in the woods, a massive shitstorm comes crashing down on Bulo. There are guns firing. People are shot, chaos descends. The Kitchen Brothers come out blazing, too. Then out of nowhere comes Hanzee – he annihilates the two shotgun wielding brothers with a huge knife. Incredibly wild. Especially afterwards, once Bulo comes shambling out of the woods to find Hanzee waiting for him by the cars. All the while we’re still hearing Campbell’s Reagan giving a speech. There are some parallels between Reagan and the sort of stuff happening in the small little Minnesota town. I expect the whole Reagan angle to make a nice overarching theme once the season is done.
Then we’re back to the troubles of Ed and Peggy Blumquist (Jesse Plemons/Kirsten Dunst). Poor Ed is having nightmares of Rye, the night of his death, all that. Even worse, Peggy is trying to convince her husband to take off. Lou really put the spook in her last episode. But Ed doesn’t want any part of that. He wanted such a normal, quaint life, and with Peggy’s mistakes – her massive blunders – it’s really all her that’s put them in such a terrifying position. I feel bad for Peggy, I mean, she’s sympathetic. Yet Ed is where my sympathies truly lie.
The Gerhardt youngsters are each their own type of fucked up. First there’s Charlie (Allan Dobrescu) who wants to pull the trigger, to avenge Rye, as he believes it has to be a Gerhardt to do the job on the butcher. To which Dodd agrees.
And then there’s Simone (Rachel Keller). She takes off from her father, out to see Milligan. Surprisingly, one Kitchen Brother remains; I thought he was also dead (“I see Thing 1, where’s Thing 2?” asks Simone). Things get damn tense. Milligan has a box with the head of Joe Bulo in it. He’s not completely convinced of Simone and her allegiance, whether it still lies with her family or with him, as her new lover: “If you want me to take you seriously, you have to be a serious person.” And he essentially gives her an ultimatum, to tell him everything before the Gerhardts even move on a plan, or else she can “die with the rest of ’em“.
Lou Solverson’s new contact in Fargo P.D., Bed Schmidt (Keir O’Donnell), gives him a call over the radio. He’s got the mess in the woods to deal with, the Bulo situation and all those puzzle pieces. Looks as if those two are going to have their hands full. Another trip to the Gerhardt Ranch is on the schedule. Can’t wait.
Noreen: “Camus says knowin’ we’re all gonna die makes life a joke”
Ed: “So what, you just give up?”
Noreen: “You could just kill yerself. Get it over with.”
Ed: “C’mon ya gotta try”
Ed: “You go to school, you get a job, start a family.”
Noreen: “You die”
One of Fargo‘s incredible strengths comes through how the tension plays out, the suspense and the technique of drawing it out. Great sequence here where Charlie heads into the butcher shop in order to kill the butcher. There’s a very tense lead up, then a funny little exchange between Charlie and Noreen concerning the Camus book she’s reading, which really breaks the tension. Yet still, this tension switches back once Ed shows up through the door from out back – we get a split-second view, from Charlie’s P.O.V, as Ed looks mean and full of blood. Then it snaps to the natural, friendly Ed. So, as we all predicated, Charlie only walks away with some cuts of beef. No dead Ed.
At the Blomquist home, it appears Peggy has plain ideas about what she wants to do. She’s packing suitcases, though, it looks as if they’re only her own. Cut to: Peggy leaving a bus, suitcases in hand. She’s headed to the garage for the car. Awkwardly, she gets it back and fumbles through a conversation with the mechanic. This is the problem with Peggy: she is fundamentally a person without sense. She never does anything with a plan. But to my huge surprise, silly Peg goes to the garage instead of running. She takes a cold $700 from the mechanic for the car, seemingly intent on putting that towards buying the butcher shop. Is this a good thing? Will this help bring her and Ed closer back together, at least on the same page again? Hopefully so.
Bear: “How’d it go this mornin’?”
Hanzee: “Killed a few, lost a few.”
There’s a ton of further tension in the Gerhardt family. We see a brief encounter between Bear and Hanzee. Then a worse one between Dodd and Bear – the latter is proud to serve with his mother as the head of their racket, the former has no time for “taking orders from a woman“. We’re going to see some serious fallout between the brothers, I think. First, there’s the fact of this confrontation. Then there’s also Dodd sending Charlie out to do a terrible thing; even though he didn’t do it, a good uncle would never involve a nephew like that.
Great meeting between State Trooper Solverson and Ronald Reagan in a washroom. Over a piss, Reagan relates a (partial) tale of some war picture he’d been in. Afterwards, Lou babbles on about the “sickness of this world” possibly being inside his wife, giving her cancer, as if he brought some of it back from serving in a nasty war. I feel for him. No doubt he has his demons. Although, Reagan isn’t anyone to try and assuage any fears. His only response once Lou asks an important question is to squeeze Lou’s shoulders, smile, then head off. Amazing, Campbell is such a perfect vision of Reagan that it baffles me. I couldn’t see how it was going to work when I first heard the casting news ages ago. Now, I kick myself to have thought anything other than: fucking awesome.
Lots of family relationships, good ones, in this show. Between the different Gerhardt dynamics – Dodd/Bear, Dodd/Charlie, Dodd/Simone, & Dodd/Floyd (a pattern emerges) – and the Solversons, I’m loving every minute of the scenes involving any of their characters.
Particularly, I love Hank Larsson (Ted Danson) and his daughter Betsy Solverson. They’re great together. I’m not usually even a fan of Danson’s, but there is a finesse and subtlety with which he plays the role I can’t deny. Especially in this episode, as he tries consoling his terminally ill daughter; there’s a point you could almost cry, he’s so tender and gentle and silly. Great few moments here.
Then we fall back to Charlie. He wants to go back to school, trying to call his father on the phone. But the man who Dodd sent with the boy wants to settle things. Thanks to Noreen, Charlie misses Ed. Then a massive fight breaks out between the Gerhardt henchman and Ed, a fire ignites after Charlie pumps a shot in the wrong direction.
Yet Ed proves to be almost superhero-like. He whacks the guy with a meat cleaver, plants a butcher’s knife in the henchman’s head, then gets Noreen + Charlie out to safety (even though the young Gerhardt took a bullet – maybe just a stray grazing or something). Then, instead of sticking around, Ed takes off. No doubt to make sure Peggy is okay. Or is he now convinced leaving town is best?
Dodd: “Bein’ grown’s got a price”
Ed flies back in the door trying to tell Peggy they need to pack and leave. Worst timing ever, right? They’re destined to never be on the same page. She’s already sold the car, changed her mind. Now, everything has changed in the blink of an eye. The shop burned up, anyways. MAN, OH, MAN! I feel so terrible for the Blumquists. There’s a nasty irony to everything happening in their lives. Tragedy lurks around each and every corner they come to.
The shit really hits the fan spinning when Ed and Peggy hear sirens, the reds and blues flashing around outside their door. Harsh and darkly comedic moment, as they both stare out towards the front door, seeing it all. We return to Billy Thorpe’s “Children of the Sun”, which played in an earlier episode – it plays as the credits roll. Quality finish to a solid episode.
Excited to see/review “Rhinoceros”. Stay tuned for the next episode’s rundown!
Evil Dead. 2013. Written & Directed by Fede Alvarez; based on the screenplay by Sam Raimi.
Starring Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore, Phoenix Connolly, Jim McLarty, Stephen Butterworth, Karl Willetts, Randal Wilson, and Rupert Degas.
Rated 18A. 91 minutes.
So, to start, I want to just say that I love the original Evil Dead. I don’t think the remake is better, not at all. However, I think that as far as remakes go this one does a pretty good job at updating things and changing perspective just enough so that it isn’t a carbon copy of the original from Sam Raimi.
Of course there are obvious similarities and there are things which feel identical, but Fede Alvarez has really brought a script that tweaks Raimi’s original to make it his own while simultaneously remaining a remake of the beloved horror classic.
While this Evil Dead is stripped of the comedic element Raimi infused the film with – or should I say the man, the one and only Bruce Campbell really executed that aspect – this incarnation has replaced the comedy with absolute fear.
Now, before we go any further – this is how I feel about being scared by a horror movie.
When I say that a horror creeps me out, that it’s disturbing or scary, unsettling, any of these descriptors, I don’t mean that I’m sitting there in the dark cowering, that I can’t sleep at night. I’ve not been that scared in a long, long time. But I’m still scared by things in horror films. For me, there’s disturbing and creepy things going on in Evil Dead and it doesn’t mean that I’m up all night, terrified to turn out the lights; just means I’m unsettled by certain elements.
So when I say that this film replaces that comedic essence of the original with an air of terror, don’t try and say that I don’t understand what is scary or what is not. We all have our things. This remake comes with a lot of heart, good performances, and a ton of big fat horror balls.
Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead remake begins with David (Shiloh Fernandez) meeting with his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) at a cabin in the woods. Their friends, Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) and Olivia (Jessica Lucas) are also there. Everyone’s gathered to help David’s sister Mia (Jane Levy) do a homemade rehab, like a willing intervention or the second half of one anyways; she is a recovering heroin addict. Unfortunately, for more than one reason this won’t be near as easy as they’d imagined it would be.
A smell keeps bothering Mia, as if something is dead. Eventually they discover a door in the floor, leading to a room full of strange artifacts, dead animals, and other weird things. One of which is Necronomicon.
In a terrible decision, Eric keeps picking at the book, determined to look inside and read things he’s found. He releases something from its vile and wicked pages. Soon enough, the things Mia does to try and get out of her rehabilitation become more and more violent, more heinous, as if she’s not only jonesing for heroin: she is possessed.
But the possession doesn’t stop there. It won’t stop. Not until they’ve all been deal with.
I’m not exactly a huge fan of remakes. There are some I do enjoy – Alexandre Aja’s The Hills Have Eyes, that’s one I’m a particular fan of, and even though some hate it I thought Rob Zombie did a fun and disturbing job with Halloween. However, a lot of the remakes we get are sad, glossy jobs, then again much of those are the Michael Bay produced trashjobs like the jeans commercial that was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre starring Jessica Biel’s ass, the pitiful Friday the 13th reboot, as well as the downright shameful remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street.
But to my mind, I think that the Evil Dead remake does justice to the original. It isn’t better, though, I can’t say that it’s any less fun. To me, anyways.
Because the premise of the film is the same – people get possessed and terrorized by a host of demonic presences at a cabin in the woods. Still, Fede Alvarez changes things a little. Now we’ve got a new reason for these people being in the woods; not a massive game-changing move, but it’s enough in the script to make this his own, a remake yet fresh in a way. Evil Dead was awesome the first time around. This time, we get a bit of a different spin. Because even as things get creepy for the friends, before it all gets out of hand, there’s still an element in their minds which says “Mia is just tripping and getting crazy from withdrawals”. Of course, that changes, and then some! I just thought it was a good twist. Alvarez could’ve simply just updated things enough to feel like the 2010s, but he chose to bring something different and make the characters a little less similar to the first movie.
We get lots of awesome reminders to harken back to the original, I just feel that Alvarez did a nice job with adapting things and switching some stuff up. That’s what a remake should do. Yet people still want to trash it and say it’s garbage, yadda yadda. Whatever, man.
Love how the little electric meat cutter is first seen slicing up some quite raw – pork, I think it is. Can’t be sure. Either way, I thought it was great when you can juxtapose how viciously the electric kitchen accessory comes into play later. Not that this is anything super innovative concerning horror movies, I just love when a film does that in an effective manner. Alvarez could’ve just used the thing as a gimmick, thrown it in there wildly, but instead he takes the time to set this up early on so that you either remember it and enjoy seeing it come back into the movie in such a brutish way, or you’re just surprised; that works, too. I like that Alvarez makes specific use of the tool early within 15-20 minutes, especially watching it cut through some meat. Later, as it does some real cutting, it’s that much better.
There are some great effects all around – the face slicing, that whole part, I really loved. Even when Eric tries to back away, he slips and cranks his back on the toilet seat. That was just perfect. I love when horror doesn’t try to be perfect with its choreography; in horrific, terrifying moments there would definitely be so much clumsiness and ineffective escape. This was a classic moment like that.
A favourite line of mine from the movie I thought was darkly comedic yet a good piece of writing – the script recognizes horror movie tropes and how characters often don’t question each other enough. David is trying to rationalize what has been happening, saying it could be a virus, to which Eric replies:
“What kind of virus makes someone cut off their face with a piece of glass?”
I thought that Jane Levy was superb as Mia. From start to finish. There’s one scene particularly, the look in her eyes as she talks with her brother David – right after the forest has come alive and raped her – it is classic horror cinema acting, right there. If you say different, fine, but you’re blind. I liked Levy in the first season of Shameless, after which she was replaced/left. Here, I got to see her do some excellent work. Once she becomes Abomination Mia, it is really something.
What I love most about the Mia character is once the Abomination has hold of her, the make-up effects are beyond incredible. Excellent, gruesome stuff. Plus, the voice is creepy as all hell. I love when a film can go for great practical effects. Sure, there are pieces of CGI mixed in there no doubt, but so much is done practically with make-up special effects.
That part with the electric meat cutter is savage! I thought that was just pure gritty gore horror. So much in this movie, definitely once the last half hour starts to roll, is balls-to-the-wall gory horror fun. It is supremely nasty at times, in the best sense of the word when it comes to scary movies.
And I mean, the original Evil Dead was meant to be a wild horror. A bit of comedy mixed in, but mainly horror. That’s what we get here: in droves. It keeps coming and coming, over, over, until the last scene finishes. There’s a ton of blood, lots of pain and torture and death. It is what horror is all about, in the end. If people disagree, I understand. Well – I don’t. I’ll just agree to disagree.
I loved this remake. It’s one of those I’ll put on the list of remakes I truly enjoy because it deserves to be on there. For me, this is a 4 out of 5 star horror. I think a lot of diehard fans of the original are big time upset because Bruce Campbell isn’t Ash and Ash isn’t the big hero – instead we get a female hero, a recovering drug addict who overcomes the insanity of the demons pressing down on her, her friends, and that cabin out in the woods.
There are for sure a couple points I didn’t like, mainly those had to do with dialogue; some of it certainly could’ve been tweaked. Yet overall, I love the script because I thought Fede Alvarez did a wonderful bit of work adapting Sam Raimi’s original into something a little more today and a bit different. Because if a movie being remade simply goes for everything the original did – same story and effects and twists and characters – what is the point then? Why even do it? I’ve never understood shot-by-shot remakes, like Gus Van Sant’s Psycho (even though I dig it simply because it’s an update with new actors while most hate it and I love Van Sant regardless). At the end of the day, it’s useless to remake something that way, even if it’s enjoyable; you’re not bringing anything new to the table. Even enjoying something like Van Sant’s exact duplicate of Alfred Hitchcock, I can’t say it’s a good movie because Hitchcock did it already, exactly the same.
So basically, Alvarez here with Evil Dead impressed me by not having to copy everything completely identical, even if so much of it is familiar and obviously derivative of the first. It doesn’t matter that it’s a remake because Alvarez has given it enough heart and effort to say that this is a worthy effort. One of my favourite remakes out there, and will continue to be, no matter what other reviews might try and have me believe. This is a lot of fun, a LOT of gore to the point of absolute savagery at times, and a solid central performance from Jane Levy.