Film Review: Ghostbusters: Afterlife

So finally, after several delays, Ghostbusters: Afterlife has been released. But the big question is, was it worth the wait? Well, that’s why I have written this article. An article that I’m going to split into various sections. A quick history lesson, a confession and then finally, a review. Now, I’m doing this review spoiler-free. While I will be touching on plot and story points, I’m not going into detail and if I do, I’m only covering things already seen in the trailers. So yeah, no spoilers here, just my honest opinion of a film that has taken over three decades to arrive.

GHOSTBUSTERS LOGO

The History

It’s been a long time coming, but we finally have a cinematic Ghostbusters III. Truth be told, a Ghostbusters III movie was on and off the cards a few times over the years. Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis had been working on a third film for years, but various obstacles prevented the film from being made… mainly Bill Murray being a bit of a dick about the whole project. As it was looking less and less likely that a third film would be made, Aykroyd and Ramis reworked the scripts they had been writing and changed used them in Ghostbusters: The Video Game from 2009 instead.

Often seen as the ‘third film’, the game was well-received by fans (I personally found it a tad tiresome and repetitive). But the success of the game led to talks of a proper Ghostbusters III film once more and once more, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis started to work on a script. Then, sadly Ramis died in 2014 and the hopes of a new Ghostbusters flick died with him.

EGON

All was not lost however, as a new Ghostbusters film was made. 2016 saw the release of a remake with an all-female ghostbusting team. Fan backlash aside, the new film was meant to be a springboard for a whole interconnecting Ghostbusters universe and a new production studio was created, Ghost Corps. The idea was to make multiple movies, TV shows and (possibly) even new video games all under this Ghost Corps label. However, the Ghostbusters remake tanked at the box office and almost killed off Ghost Corps before it even had a chance to live. However, Ghost Corps did have one thing up their sleeves that they were working on at the time.

A new Ghostbusters film was announced. It was nothing more than a teaser image and for a while, it was believed to be fake. A fan-made image just to mess with people. Then a very small teaser began to circulate around social media. It looked convincing… but again, it was being dismissed as a fan-made thing. Until Jason Reitman confirmed it was real. But who is this Jason Reitman fella? Only the son of Ivan Reitman, the director of the original Ghostbusters movie. Not only did we have confirmation that there was going to be a new flick and from the son of the original film’s director too… it was going to be set in the original film’s universe. Not a sequel to the underperforming remake from 2016, a sequel to the ‘proper’ Ghostbusters.

GHOSTBUSTERS AFTERLIFE TEASER

Fans went wild with anticipation, they waited for more news and info. After a while a title was announced, Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Then at the end of 2019, a trailer was released. Just from that short, out of context edited two minutes and forty-five seconds, the world saw a Ghostbusters film, more importantly it ‘felt’ a Ghostbusters film. At the end of the trailer, fans were told it was coming summer 2020, about a six or seven month wait. Then, of course, the coronavirus pandemic hit hard, cinemas closed over summer, which meant no films were released. Ghostbusters: Afterlife was delayed for a whole year until summer 2021. But the pandemic was still very much ongoing and doubts began to rise over the film seeing that delayed summer 2021 date. Other films were getting delayed or delayed even more (see the James Bond flick No Time To Die).

Ghostbusters fans were fit to burst. They had waited decades for a cinematic Ghostbusters III and they knew there was one all finished and ready to be watched, but that damn pandemic was casting a huge black cloud over the whole thing, another delay was looking very likely. Eventually, that delay was announced. Instead of a summer 2021 release, the film would have a November 2021 release. Long story short and finally, Ghostbusters: Afterlife hit the big screen, thirty-two years after the release of Ghostbusters II.

The Confession

When it comes to Ghostbusters, I’m not as big of a fan as so many others are. I do often think that the first film is over-hyped. Now, I’m not saying that Ghostbusters is a bad film, very far from it. I enjoy it, it’s great. I just think it’s a decent, goofy, throwback to classic comedy-horror flicks like Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff or Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man or Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy. Abbott and Costello did a lot of these types of flicks. I do like the film but I do think it is highly over-praised at the same time.

On the whole, the Ghostbusters franchise is pretty damn weak. As good as the first film is, it was followed up with a pretty ‘okay’ sequel. Ghostbusters II lacked so much of what the first film had. Bill Murray seemed to be totally bored, he said of the film in 2008 that:

“We did a sequel and it was sort of rather unsatisfying for me, because the first one to me was … the real thing. They’d written a whole different movie than the one [initially discussed]. And the special-effects guys got it. There were a few great scenes in it, but it wasn’t the same movie.”

Even the director, Ivan Reitman, admits they got it wrong:

“It didn’t all come together. We just sort of got off on the wrong foot story-wise on that film.”

Reviews at the time were not kind and while I think some of them may have been overly critical for the most part, they also made several great points. Ghostbusters II was a very lacklustre sequel to a really good film. Part of the reason it took so long to get another sequel off the ground was because everyone involved (except Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis) decided to wash their hands of the whole franchise after the sequel.

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Between the first and second film, there was the animated TV show The Real Ghostbusters (which is on YouTube via the official Ghostbusters channel with episodes uploaded weekly). In all honesty, the first two seasons are great, season three is pretty good too… and then season four started. The show was retitled to Slimer! and the Real Ghostbusters and it all went very wrong. I need to do a more detailed look at just why this show went downhill so much from season four onwards, just not here and now. Anyway, the show was really damn good and even tied into the movie, with the movie (supposedly) being a fictional take on the ‘real’ Ghostbusters of the show. They even go to watch the film within the cartoon show in the Take Two episode.

The cartoon show had its own sequel with Extreme Ghostbusters. But by the late-nineties, the Ghostbusters franchise was dormant. Aside from the 2009 Ghostbusters: The Video Game… errrrr video game, which was said to be a ‘proper sequel’ to the films at the time, the franchise was pretty much dead. Then we had the whole rebirth via the Ghost Corps production studio, the 2016 remake, etc. But overall, the Ghostbusters franchise is really rather weak all told. A very good first film, a very ‘meh’ sequel, a great animated show that went bad, a video game that was above average at best and a much-hated remake. As a whole franchise, it’s all very underwhelming. And that is my confession in a rather large nutshell. Ghostbusters (aside from the first film) is rather weak. Something I have always felt, to be honest.

Which makes watching this film and writing this review really very ‘interesting’ as I don’t really feel any compulsion to get the rose-tinted glasses on, while being blinded by nostalgia. I’m a fan of the first film, but not to the point of hysteria and I like to think that I can watch this sequel with a relatively open mind… while knowing the franchise is okay-ish.

The Review

If you have seen the trailers over the last few weeks, then you should already know the basics. Egon dies and he leaves his rundown shack of a farmhouse to his daughter. She moves in with her two children, Egon’s grandkids. One of those children, Phoebe, is a bit of a whizz-kid, very much science orientated like her grandfather. However, there’s more to the farmhouse than it just being a rundown shack. Egon discovered something, something his grandkids have to deal with.

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Really, and to no surprise to anyone, this is a passing of the torch movie. The old Ghostbusters making way for the new blood. I thought the kids really pulled it off too, to the point where I wasn’t even that bothered if the original cast turned up or not. The two main characters being Phoebe and Trevor (Mckenna Grace and Finn Wolfhard) really do carry this film and you can see a lot of Egon Spengler in Phoebe. Then there’s Podcast (Logan Kim), yes that is the character’s name… cos he’s a podcaster He was great fun and had quite a few funny lines and he felt stereotypical eighties side-kick, just in a 2021 film.

I did say I’m avoiding spoilers here but it’s really not a spoiler to say that Ray Stantz, Peter Venkman and Winston Zeddemore are all in the film, it’s been an open secret since the first trailer. I’m not going to tell you just how they are used… but it is pretty fitting. While they really are nothing more than glorified cameos, that is all that’s needed really. Of the three, it is Dan Aykroyd who gets the most screen time and that feels right too, he was always the one that delivered the exposition. Plus, Janine Melnitz is back too, even if her role really is only a minute or two.

GHOSTBUSTERS AFTERLIFE JANINE

The story most definitely works and it fits right in with the events of the original film. While this is being called the third Ghostbusters film, for me, it felt more like an alternate Ghostbusters II. From what I recall, I don’t even think the events of the sequel were mentioned in this one. The events of the first film are mentioned and referenced several times. Very, very, very slight spoilers here. There’s a bit in the film where the kids discover a prophecy, dictated by years. Various cataphoric events throughout history are linked to the years found. 1984 and the events ghost invasion of New York from the first film is one of those years… yet there’s zero mention of the events from Ghostbusters II. Ray does say a line of dialogue that kind of, in a roundabout way, very loosely, seemingly and quite possibly alludes to a small plot point in Ghostbusters II. That being that they went out of business because they did too good a job of cleaning up ghosts and they all went their separate ways. However, in Ghostbusters II, they get back together and the main plot kicks in. But here in Ghostbusters: Afterlife, they just split up according to Ray. So yeah, it seems this ignored the events of Ghostbusters II to work as a direct sequel to the first film. I may be wrong, but that was the impression I got.

GHOSTBUSTERS AFTERLIFE ECTO

One thing I really did love about Ghostbusters: Afterlife is something I really enjoyed about the remake and something sorely missing from the first film. You see the characters become Ghostbusters. In the original film, they just become Ghostbusters because the script says so. They get the firehouse, get the car and there you go, they’re Ghostbusters now. In the remake, you see the characters create and build their equipment, they test it out they evolve and become Ghostbusters. The same goes for this film too. the kids discover Egon’s old equipment and they tinker with it, they learn how to use it. They don’t find it and just become Ghostbusters, in fact, they don’t really become Ghostbusters proper until the last 15-20 minutes. And I really liked that, the characters grow and evolve, they become.

There were some negatives for me. The fan-service is off the charts and I do think the nods and references to the original were certainly a bit overdone even clumsy at times. From tiny little background details like vertically stacked books, which are fine, to more in your face and obvious ‘who ya gonna call’ dialogue or a close-up shot of a Twinkie that did make me groan a little. Of course, I knew going into this that the references would be there, I just feel that there should’ve been fewer of them. This really does work as a great sequel to the first film and can even be held up in its own right. It really didn’t need all the fan-service, to be honest and some of it just felt too forced and awkward. As if Jason Reitman thought he needed to tell the audience that they are watching a sequel to Ghostbusters every other scene.

GHOSTBUSTERS AFTERLIFE SCREEN

The third act is basically a remake of the first film too. That did disappoint me somewhat. Mainly as up until then, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is doing its own thing, it is standing on its own two feet and really impressed on its own merits. Then the climax arrives and you are just watching events from the first film, very slightly remixed. The same events happen to two side characters, the same lines from the first film are used, the same plot points, a lot of the same iconography, images and effects are reused. Yeah, that last third of the film is good… but just too familiar and with what happens up to that point, I’d rather that it did its own thing instead of rehashing the finale from the first film.

Then there’s the absolute ending. Without spoilers, something happens at the end that made me let out an audible sigh. It was something I feared the film would do when it was first announced, even more so when the title was revealed and it was something I knew for sure the film would do when I watched the opening. Even so, when it happened, for me, it was too much. It should’ve been more subtle, more suggestive. Instead, it was like, ‘hey look what we did everyone… it’s a Ghostbusters sequel remember!’. Yes I know some Ghostbusters fans will tear into me for this, but it really is just a tad on the cheesy side, it was too on the nose.

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Overall though, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a fun romp. It feels right, it feels very eighties. Imagine if The Goonies had walked onto the Ghostbusters set and you have Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Taking the action away from the big city and placing it in a small town really works, it feels more personal and more involved. While Harold Ramis died back in 2014 and Egon is no longer alive, the character is very central to the plot. For the most part, both character and actor are treated with respect.

There are a couple of credit scenes. The first one is nothing more than even more pointless fan-service. As great as it was to see these two actors together, the scene just felt desperate. It’s also a surprise that is ruined if you pay attention to the credits. The last scene after the credits is more fitting and is most definitely sequel-bait. But it is sequel-bait done well and a scene that really made me smile.

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For me, Ghostbusters: Afterlife really does work, for the most part. I loved the two main leads with both Mckenna Grace and Finn Wolfhard carrying the film well… even if it is Mckenna who does most of the carrying. But she is wonderful and picks up the Ghostbusters torch very well. I do maintain that some of the fan-service was a bit OTT and clunky and that final act was disappointing when compared to how well the rest of the film came across. But yeah, this is a great sequel that really does work. Ignore everything else, re-watch the first film before going to see this and you’re in for a treat.

The Evil Dead At 40: Movies Retrospective

The Evil Dead, one of the first horror films I ever saw as a kid and one that left a lasting impression on me. Seeing as the original film turns 40-years-old this October (15th)… and October being Halloween, I thought I would do a fitting movie retrospective. Pre-warning, this is going to be a big one.

Within the Woods

WITHIN THE WOODS TITLE

So, not technically an official Evil Dead film but Within the Woods could be seen more as a prototype to The Evil Dead. Released in 1978, this was written and directed by Sam Raimi, produced by Robert Tapert and starred Bruce Campbell. A trio of friends that would go on to create the entire Evil Dead franchise.

Within the Woods is a short 30-minute movie that tells the story of four teenagers spending the weekend in a cabin in the woods. An unseen evil force begins to stalk the teens as they settle into the cabin. Bruce (that’s his character’s name) tells his girlfriend that they’re actually staying on an ancient Indian burial ground, but assures her that things will be fine as long as they don’t disrespect the dead. Bruce then goes for a little exploration and finds a dagger that once belonged to the Indians. He decides to take the dagger, so completely ignoring his own advice about not disrespecting the dead.

Unsurprisingly, Bruce is later found dead when the others begin to worry that he has not returned and go looking for him. Of course, he returns from the dead, only now possessed. While hiding out in the cabin, the now possessed Bruce begins to terrorise his friends. He has his hand cut off, his body dismembered and possessed Bruce is finally stopped… but there’s a twist ending to show that it’s not quite over yet.

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When you watch Within the Woods, you can really see the origins of what would become The Evil Dead. The staples are there and quite a few of the early ideas from this film eventually ended up finding their way into the later movies (demonic possession, ancient dagger, Bruce having his hand cut off, etc). You’ll also definitely spot Sam Raimi’s direction style, even this early on. Bruce is the bad guy here and the film features some very basic but effective effects work. You can find the film fairly easily online with a quick interwebs search. But be warned, it is of very low quality. I don’t mean in terms of acting, etc (though that is true) more that the film quality itself is very poor. Honestly, it is barely watchable but still worth a look at just to see the origins of The Evil Dead.

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Within the Woods was actually shown in the cinema too. It was screened alongside The Rocky Horror Picture Show in a local theatre in Detroit, Michigan. Raimi persuaded the cinema owner to screen the film to show people what he could do and try to raise some funds to make a bigger and better film. It worked. The film created a small buzz locally and Raimi managed to raise some capital from local business owners to ‘remake’ Within the Woods with a lot of the same cast and crew. That ‘remake’ became The Evil Dead.

The Evil Dead

TRHE EVIL DEAD

I really don’t think that this film needs an introduction or any kind of a plot synopsis. The Evil Dead is one of the most (in)famous and important horror films ever made. I’m still going to do one though. Once more, the trio of Sam Raimi, Robert Tapert and Bruce Campbell team up to (basically) remake their earlier film, Within the Woods.

University students Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell), his girlfriend Linda (Betsy Baker), Ash’s sister Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss), friend Scott (Hal Delrich/Richard DeManincor) and Scott’s girlfriend, Shelly (Sarah York/Theresa Tilly) all head to a very remote cabin in the woods for a bit of fun. In the cabin, a cellar door is discovered and in that cellar, Ash and Scott find an ancient dagger, a tape recorder and a book… the Necronomicon, AKA the Book of the Dead. The tape recorder is played and on it is an incantation that calls forth a demonic entity.

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The entity begins to possess the youngsters one by one, except for Ash. Ash soon finds himself fighting for his life (and his sanity) as he has to kill his possessed friends to stay alive, doing anything he can to survive the night. Dawn comes and Ash is the only one of the five left alive. Relieved, he leaves the cabin beaten, bruised and tired but alive… for a while.

I really don’t think I can say anything about The Evil Dead that hasn’t already been said a thousand times over the last four decades. It’s a classic, one of the finest horror films made, not just of the late seventies (when this was actually made, not released until 1981) but ever. Even today, it still has an impact and a unique style to the filmmaking that has never been matched… not even by the sequels.

I was a young kid in the early eighties the first time I saw The Evil Dead. My dad used to have an old reel-to-reel film projector (before VHS became commonplace) and he’d hang a white bedsheet to the wall to watch films. What was amazing about seeing The Evil Dead back then was the fact that it was pretty much impossible to do so here in England. The film was massively controversial and even declared as being ‘obscene’ here in the UK, largely thanks to Mary Whitehouse (look her up) and the whole ‘video nasty’ movement (look it up). Anyway, if anyone was caught selling or renting The Evil Dead, they could be prosecuted. As explained by the BBFC themselves:

“Although the cinema version had been approved by the BBFC, there were concerns that the lack of an effective age rating system on video – and the easy availability of videos once they entered the home – would inevitably lead to underage viewing. The video version was therefore seized from a large number of shops around the UK and, in many cases, the shop owners simply pleaded guilty to supplying an obscene article rather than incur the added expenses of trying to defend the film.”

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Basically, the film was never banned here in the UK (as many people claim), but it was made illegal to sell and rent the film for the home market. So how my dad got hold of a copy, I have no idea. I was once told that Sam Raimi himself ‘accidentally’ leaked the film when he was over here in the UK having to defend the film in court and that was how my dad got a copy. I don’t know how true that story is though.

Anyway, from the first time I saw The Evil Dead to now, I have always loved it. It’s my favourite in the franchise. I love its rawness, its roughness, its bleakness. As Raimi himself said of the film… everything dies in it, even the music during the end credits. There never was supposed to be any sequels, everybody died at the end. Still, a sequel did happen and a franchise was born.

Evil Dead II

EVIL DEAD II TITLE

Sam Raimi, Robert Tapert and Bruce Campbell are back again for the sequel to a film that was never meant to have a sequel. Evil Dead II… or to give it its publicity title, Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn. Released in 1987, this one picks up right from where the last film ended. Now, there has often been debate over this sequel actually being a remake, it’s not. The debate is due to the fact that some events of the first film were retconned for the recap of this one.

I don’t want to get into it all right now, as I have a lot to get through. But the basic story is that, when it came to making this sequel, Sam Raimi wanted to recap the first film as it was very underground and not a huge hit (at the time). However, due to how the first film was financed, with Raimi raising funds from local businesses from his Within the Woods film, multiple people owned the rights to The Evil Dead. Those people all wanted money (lots of it) from Raimi to use footage from the film he made. Anyway, the budget for Evil Dead II was tight and Raimi couldn’t afford to pay to use footage from his own film (that legally was owned by others), so he just reshot a recap instead.

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If you listen to the commentary for this film, it is even said that they originally reshot the recap with all of the original characters. However, that proved to be too long for a recap, so it was condensed down to just Ash and Linda in the cabin, a few details were changed to keep the recap flowing and what we got was the 7-odd minute opening of The Evil Dead II to serve as a recap of The Evil Dead. Long story short, Evil Dead II isn’t a remake. I mean, one of the taglines for the film is: ‘The Sequel To The Ultimate Experience In Grueling Terror’… SEQUEL. Plus, you can (and fans have) edit the two films together by simply removing the recap of Evil Dead II and it flows as one long film, which would not be possible if it was a remake would it? This whole sequel vs remake debate has been going on for decades and still, some people refuse to accept Evil Dead II as a sequel… cos they’re fucking stupid.

Anyway, back to the film. So Ash didn’t die at the end (as originally planned). Instead, he was possessed by the evil force that smacked him in his chin at the end of the last film. The daybreak saves him from the possession taking him over fully. Back in the cabin and Ash’s hand is bitten by the head of his possessed girlfriend, Linda. Ash’s hand goes bad… so he lops it off with a chainsaw. Elsewhere, Annie, the daughter of the owner of the cabin, professor Knowby, returns from an expedition to find missing pages from the Necronomicon. Annie is with Ed and the two of them met you local yokels, Jake and Bobby Joe, who lead them to the cabin.

There, they find Ash and think he killed the professor and his wife, so they lock him in the cellar. Of course, everything goes wrong, the evil starts possessing people again. Ash has his own literal demons to deal with in terms of his own half-possession/Evil Ash, while also trying to clear out the cabin of Deadities again. Annie reads out an incantation from the missing Necronomicon pages and Ash is sent back in time (and space) to medieval England, along with his car.

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This seems to really be the fan favourite of the franchise. I can see why too. The quality is far superior all round. The acting is better, Sam Raimi has definitely grown as a director, the effects work is amazing, the story has a lot more meat on the bones and more. It is arguably a ‘better’ film than the first… not an argument I agree with though. I love Evil Dead II but I also strongly feel that The Evil Dead was just a much more effective as a movie.

Evil Dead II is ‘tamer’ as a horror film. It uses a much more comedic slant, which for me, lessens the impact. I think that Evil Dead II is a perfect blending of the horror and comedy genres though and as I said, I do love the film too. I just love the first one much more.

Army of Darkness

ARMY OF DARKNESS TITLE

The holy trinity of Raimi, Tapert and Campbell returned to the world of the Deadites for the third (fourth, if you want to count Within The Woods) time. Released in 1992 and it continues with Ash being sent to medieval England. As with Evil Dead II, this one retcons the recap… yet no one calls this a remake do they?

Ash is captured by Lord (pre-King) Arthur’s men and taken to his castle. Ash is suspected of being one of Duke Henry’s men, of whom, Arthur is at war with. Poor Ash gets thrown into a death-pit and is attacked by a Deadite, which he kills. Now seen as a hero, Ash sees Duke Henry freed, while the attractive maiden, Sheila catches his eye. Arthur’s wise man tells our hero that the only way he can get back home to his own time is to obtain the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis. After some very memorable one-liners, Ash sets out to retrieve the book.

There’s a haunted forest, a windmill, a broken mirror, Ash ‘grows’ an Evil Ash, kills and buries him. Soon, Ash finds the Necronomicon… well three of them actually. After some high jinx, Ash gets the right book… but flubs the magic words he was supposed to say that would allow him to remove the book safely. Hurrying back to the castle with his prize, unbeknownst that his shenanigans have unleashed the evil and raised the dead… including the evil version of himself. Back at the castle, Ash wants to get sent back to his own time ASAFP. Sheila gets abducted by a flying Deadite and Ash decides to stick around for a while to save Sheila and help Arthur and his men defeat the Deadite army. The Necronomicon is placed in a  secure tower… where professor Knowby will find it a great many years later and take it back to his cabin in the woods. Yes, it was Ash who helped get the book to Knowby that would then create all the shit that led to Ash being sent back in time.

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Anyway, Ash gets help from Duke Henry and his men, as well as his old university books that were in the back of his car. Doing an A-Team, Ash kits out his car to make it a death-machine to help kick some Deadite bum-cheeks. Evil Ash and the newly Deaditie-ed Sheila attack the castle with an Army of Darkness. Of course Ash wins, saves Sheila and (depending on which cut you watch) gets sent back home.

Truth be told, I’ve always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with this film. I’ll be the first in line to admit that it is pretty damn awesome… but it’s also so far removed from what I love that it never sits right with me. Much like Rocky IV, it’s great but pretty stupid. I’m honestly not a fan of Ash here, he’s a complete prick and just not the character I adore so much.

The horror elements are all but gone and replaced with full-on comedy, often very Three Stooges-like (Sam Raimi is a huge fan). Plus, I feel the studio interference really stopped Raimi from making the film he really wanted to make. Originally titled The Medieval Dead (a brilliant title) and supposed to be much more in line with the perfect blending of the horror and comedy genres that was Evil Dead II. The suits decided that they wanted to move away from the Evil Dead franchise (hence the name change) and make a film that would be more marketable, Evil Dead wasn’t even mentioned in the marketing for this film anywhere despite that fact this is a sequel. So the horror elements were dialled back on and the suits even told Raimi to change the original ending.

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See, originally, Army of Darkness ended with Ash being sent to a post-apocalyptic future (possibly) overrun with Deadites. As I said, this is the original ending and the one you’ll find on the director’s cut, etc. However, the studio felt it is too downbeat and got Sam Raimi to change it to the more often seen S-Mart ending with Ash going back to his own time killing Deadites and getting the girl. For me, the S-Mart ending just didn’t work. But the original post-apocalyptic really opened the doors to great potential. Just imagine Ash Williams as a Mad Max type in a desolate world taking out Deadites in his souped-up Oldsmobile Delta 88.

As entertaining as Army of Darkness is, I just can’t help but feel more than a little disappointed with it. Of the trilogy, I’ll always favour watching the original over any of the others, it’s one of the most ‘perfect’ horror films ever made. Evil Dead II is (as I have said) the perfect blending of the horror and comedy genres. It’s a fantastic watch and one of the most fun films you could ever see. As for Army of Darkness, it is great… just not great enough.

Evil Dead

EVIL DEAD TITLE

I guess it had to happen eventually… the dreaded horror remake. While Sam Raimi, Robert Tapert and Bruce Campbell were on board as producers, that was it. A whole host of new blood was brought in for the remake with Fede Álvarez taking the reigns as director and Evil Dead was released in 2013.

Plot-wise, this pretty much follows the original film. You’ve got five young adults meeting up at a cabin in the woods. An evil is released and one by one, they become possessed. One survivor, Mia, has to fight for her life. There’s really not much point in my dwelling on the plot as aside from some small changes, it is basically The Evil Dead.

I recall when I first heard tell of this remake. I’m not necessarily someone who gets upset over a beloved film being remade, but I really couldn’t muster any interest in seeing The Evil Dead updated for a modern audience. I didn’t so much go out of my way to avoid anything to do with the film, but more so that I just didn’t bother seeking it out. I didn’t watch the trailer and I didn’t read any articles covering the film. There was just no interest for me, even with Raimi, Tapert and Campbell as producers.

Then, one rainy April evening in 2013, the girlfriend said she wanted to go and watch a film. There really wasn’t much that took my fancy and of the slim pickings on offer, Evil Dead was the only thing that I was possibly even very slightly interested in seeing…so we did. Anyway, I came out of the cinema with a huge smile on my face. I mean, it was no The Evil Dead but Evil Dead was still pretty damn great. It was raw, bloody and (mostly) practical effects-driven. It wasn’t a good horror film for a remake, it was just a good horror film in its own right.

EVIL DEAD TITLE SCREEN 1

There were a lot of rumours of a sequel and even the idea of connecting the Ash and Mia universes. Thankfully that never happened as it was a shit idea and Evil Dead is (as of writing) a standalone film…as it should be. Truth be told, aside from seeing the film back in 2013, I’ve never re-watched it, until doing this retrospective. I still think it holds up well too. My heart will always be with the original, but this is a fine take on the classic and well worth watching. A film that mixes the old with the new, pays respects to its roots and creates a pretty effective horror film.


That was pretty much it for the Evil Dead franchise, though the evil did possess into other forms of media. I’ve already taken a look at the video games. But there was a series of comics that were quite popular too. Perhaps the most ‘interesting’ thing to spawn from The Evil Dead was the musical… oh yeah, there was a musical.

Evil Dead

EVIL DEAD MUSICAL TITLE

Originally performed in 2003 in Toronto, Ontario. Given full approval by both Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, Evil Dead (musical) was a huge success and has often been compared to The Rocky Horror Show. Which is wonderfully fitting seeing as that small film that started the franchise, Within the Woods, was shown with screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

The plot of the stage show is an amalgamation of all three films, but mostly taking place during the events of the first two films. After its initial run, Evil Dead became an off-Broadway production in 2006. Over the years, it has seen many different versions played all over the world. One of the most notable was the ‘ultimate 4D experience’ version that introduced the ‘splatter zone’. Here, audience members were put in direct line of fire of the blood and gore of the performance.

EVIL DEAD MUSICAL SCREEN 1

During the final performance of the shows run in Pensacola, Florida, the leading ladies from the original film (Ellen Sandweiss, Betsy Baker and Theresa Tilly) all appeared in cameo roles. Bruce Campbell has seen the show and loved it and even done a Q&A session after one show. The musical has really evolved over the years too. From a very low-budget and small production, to a much more lavish and grandiose stage show. Even more so… it’s still going today too with performances up to January 2022 (covid permitting). If it makes it to 2023 (and I hope it does), it’ll be running for two decades. That’s pretty damn impressive.

Now, I’ve never seen the show live myself, I’d love to. But I have seen recordings of it, you can find various ones pretty easily on the interwebs and honestly, it’s stupidly good fun. There’s also an interesting documentary looking at how the whole thing came about right here. Evil Dead as a musical shouldn’t work… but it really does in all honesty. It is campy, funny, bloody and really well performed.

Ash vs Evil Dead

ASH VS EVIL DEAD

For many years, there were rumours of a sequel film in the franchise for Ash Williams to return, even before the 2013 remake. An Army of Darkness 2 was eventually confirmed to be happening back in 2013 (by Bruce Campbell) after the success of the remake. But the film never saw the light of day. Instead, it evolved into Ash vs Evil Dead, a TV show that works as a direct sequel to the original films. With Sam Raimi, Robert Tapert and Bruce Campbell back as producers. Raimi even writing and directing the first episode too.

While the rights for Army of Darkness were (still are) tied up in all sorts of red tape, nothing from that film could be used directly, even though this show clearly takes place (many years) after the S-Mart ending of the film. Still, the rights for the first two films were much easier to clear, so there are more direct references and even footage from those films used in Ash vs Evil Dead. Running for three seasons from 2015 to 2018 with ten episodes per season. There was a lot more here than the proposed Army of Darkness 2 film that was never made. As there is so much to cover, I’m not going to go through every episode, but the basic plot has the evil return (due to Ash being an idiot… again) and Ash teaming up with some younger and new blood to save the day… again.

ASH VS EVIL DEAD SCREEN 1

While I did start watching Ash vs Evil Dead, I never made it through the entire show. There are several reasons why. First, as I said when talking about Army of Darkness, it’s my least favourite of the films. As this is a continuation of that style and premise, it just didn’t work for me. I like my Evil Dead to be raw. That’s why I adore the first film and most probably why I enjoyed the remake far more than I thought I would. Ash vs Evil Dead lacks what I love about the franchise. Second, there are just too many writers and directors. I know TV shows often use multiple writers and directors, but some of the better TV shows stick with a much smaller team. Often great TV shows stick with one or a very small team of writers and directors. With Ash vs Evil Dead every episode is a different writer and director from the last and there’s very little consistency. The first episode is great, co-written by Sam Raimi and his brother Ivan, directed by Sam Raimi too… then it all just goes off the boil after that and the show feels very uneven.

ASH VS EVIL DEAD SCREEN 2

Third, I really don’t like Ash as a character from Army of Darkness. Yeah, I know as an Evil Dead fan that saying you don’t like Ash is sacrilege, but I really don’t like him. Loved the character in the first film, very much enjoyed him in Evil Dead II. But in Army of Darkness, he’s just a prick and that ‘prickness’ is massively overdone here. I get that he’s supposed to be an outdated dinosaur in the show, but I still don’t like it and putting up with him for thirty episodes of a TV show was just too much for me.

Now, that is not to say I hate the show because I don’t. I just feel it was a little too much. Evil Dead is not a long and complicated plot, you really don’t need three seasons of ten episodes each to tell the story and in all honesty, I just got bored. Admittedly, the show has some great moments including going back to the cabin from the first film and meeting Ash’s dad. The show is crammed full of references and in-jokes that I did get a kick out of. But still, this was just too much to swallow. Ironically, I probably would’ve much preferred the Army of Darkness 2 film that the show derived from more than the TV show the film became, especially if Sam Raimi had been in full writing and directing control.

Ash vs Evil Dead is a perfectly fine show. I know that Army of Darkness fans love it but it just wasn’t my cup of tea. While I didn’t watch every episode to make it through to the finale, I did watch the final episode. It’s an ending that borrows quite heavily from the original ending to Army of Darkness and that just pissed me off even more because that’s the film I want to see. I want to see Ash being all Mad Max in a post-apocalyptic future, killing Deadites in his modified Delta 88. Twice this franchise has teased me and not followed through… twice!

ASH VS EVIL DEAD SCREEN 3

And well, that was it for Evil Dead as a franchise. Bruce Campbell announced he was retiring the Ash Williams character. Ash vs Evil Dead was cancelled, so I never did get to see the post-apocalyptic Deadite film I’ve always wanted. Of course, true evil can never end and there was the announcement of Evil Dead: The Game with Campbell back as Ash..the character he said he’s not going to play again. But there was more…

Evil Dead Rise

EVIL DEAD RISE TITLE

Sorry, no trailer for this one as it has not yet been released (as of writing). But yeah, there’s another film is coming next year. Sam Raimi, Robert Tapert and Bruce Campbell are back as producers once more and Campbell has said that he is not in the film, so no Ash Williams then. Details on Evil Dead Rise are very hard to find right now. Is it a film that takes place in the Ash Williams universe, a follow up to the 2013 remake or an all-new restart to the franchise? I did find a brief synopsis for the film:

“In Evil Dead Rise, a road-weary Beth pays an overdue visit to her older sister Ellie, who is raising three kids on her own in a cramped L.A apartment. The sisters’ reunion is cut short by the discovery of a mysterious book deep in the bowels of Ellie’s building, giving rise to flesh-possessing demons, and thrusting Beth into a primal battle for survival as she is faced with the most nightmarish version of motherhood imaginable.”

For starters, that’s a very different setting from the previous films in the franchise. An apartment in Los Angeles is a far cry from a remote cabin in the woods. This is a huge change that could either really work or fall flat on its face. The isolation of the original films is what made them worth watching and added a layer of desperation to the characters. If they are now in downtown LA… just get the police involved. Also, while Sam Raimi is producing, he’s not writing or directing. Lee Cronin is taking over both writing and directing duties. Cronin wrote and directed the 2019 film, The Hole in the Ground. I’ve not seen it (yet) so I have no idea of his style. Still, with such a drastic change of setting and a new writer/director at the helm, just how Evil Dead is this new film going to be?

Lee Cronin has been sharing a few details on the film over on his Twitter. I think principal photography on the film is done. Cronin did share this Tweet:
https://twitter.com/curleecronin/status/1424524511416930304

So if it was only ‘3 weeks to go’ in August when that was posted… it’s got to be finished now in October. I’m actually going to stay open-minded about this one. I originally didn’t think I was going to enjoy the 2013 remake, but I did. So yeah, I’m pretty optimistic for Evil Dead Rise. I’m interested to see how this fits in with all that has come before it, or even if it does fit in anywhere at all. If this film is going to tie in with the original trilogy and TV show, or the remake, or even be its own separate universe. Evil Dead Rise is a film that has definitely piqued my interest as a fan of the franchise and I’m looking forward to what Lee Cronin has in store for us. Now I’m off to check out his debut film, The Hole in the Ground, to get a feel for what kind of writer and director he is.

This is the second of my The Evil Dead At 40 article celebrations to mark four decades of one of my favourite horror films. I have one more coming up at the end of the month for Halloween.

Who I Think Will Play The Next James Bond…

So, the new Bond film, No Time To Die has finally been released after multiple and an almost two-year delay. It’s been well publicised that this is Daniel Craig’s final outing as Bond. Craig has often cited the fact that he’s getting too old to play the character now, that’s why he’s decided to hang up the Walther PPK after fifteen years and five films.

007 JAMES BOND

Fairplay to the man, he doesn’t want to do a Roger Moore and be pushing 60 while trying to play the character, I actually doff my cap to Craig for knowing when to pull the plug. However, what always happens when the current James Bond steps down is, the rumour mill starts turning and news outlets begin the long-standing tradition of bringing up suitable replacements to take on the James Bond role. So far, we’ve had names like Henry Cavill, Idris Elba, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hiddleston and more that have all been namechecked as the next James Bond.

However, after watching No Time to Die, I think I know what’s coming and who’ll play Bond next. Now, before I get into this, I have to pop up a very gargantuan SPOILER warning. Seriously, I’m about to reveal a few major plot points from No Time to Die that are huge and will ruin your enjoyment of the film if you’ve not yet seen it. So, please don’t read this article if you’ve not seen the film yet. Or read it if you don’t care about SPOILERS. Last chance coming up to click away from this one massive SPOILERS coming.

007 JAMES BOND 2

SPOILERS

So there are two major events in No Time to Die that change the entire landscape of the franchise from this point on. First, Bond has a daughter, Mathilde. Played by Lisa-Dorah Sonnet, Mathilde is the daughter of James Bond and Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) returning from Spectre. The second aspect is pretty ground-breaking (even if more than a little expected, to be honest), James Bond dies at the end. Now, this is not some subtle, off-screen death where you could possibly argue that Bond could come back. Oh no, Bond is dead for sure. He dies right there on-screen after being hit by a barrage of missiles that are launched at the villain’s hideout. Seriously, James Bond gets decimated. There is no possible way he survived, he’s deader than Felix Leiter. Oh yeah, Felix Leiter dies too. Hey, I did pre-warn about spoilers.

This changes things massively for the franchise. Producer, Barbara Broccoli, has recently been talking about the Bond character amidst suggestions that James Bond could become female. Broccoli has said that James Bond will always be male:

“James Bond is a male character. I hope that there will be many, many films made with women, for women, by women, about women. I don’t think we have to take a male character and have a woman portray him. So yes, I see him as male.”

JAMES BOND

So there you have it from the horse’s mouth, Bond is male and there is no intention to turn the character female. Of course, they could reboot the franchise and bring in a new male actor to play James Bond… but I don’t think that is what they have planned at all. I think the idea is to carry on in the Daniel Craig universe, even though James Bond is dead. See, Craig himself said something interesting recently on the very same subject of Bond becoming female:

“The answer to that is very simple. There should simply be better parts for women and actors of colour. Why should a woman play James Bond when there should be a part just as good as James Bond, but for a woman?”

In No Time to Die, James Bond isn’t 007 anymore. 007 is just a codename and anyone can be an agent with the famed 007 title. In the film, 007 is now Nomi, played by Lashana Lynch… who is both female and an actor of colour (as Craig suggested). Then you also have Barbara Broccoli suggesting that you don’t need to take the character and make him female too. Coincidence? I think not.

007 NOMI

For me, I think they will carry on in the Daniel Craig universe (all of his Bond films have been connected in some way). Nomi as 007 will be the next ‘James Bond’, so to speak. She will carry on the series as the main character, but still being connected to all the previous events. I fail to see, from a storytelling point of view, why the producers would set all of this up, a new 007 agent and Bond having a daughter, to do nothing with it.

The very final scene of No Time to Die, before the credits roll (my favourite scene by the way) has Madeleine Swann driving away with Mathilde and telling her about ‘a great man’ called Bond, James Bond, her father. Not only does that scene reference one of the most heartbreaking scenes in a Bond film ever (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), it’s also setting up for the future. They could have Nomi as the new 007 for the next 15 – 20 years, then have a now-grown Mathilde work for MI6 as a new agent, Mathilde Bond and follow in her dad’s footsteps. The films between could also show Mathilde growing up and working towards becoming a 00 agent. There’s a lot of scope to be had here.

COUPLE

The great thing about this idea is that, if it fails, the producers always have the reboot idea to fall back on. Say, the next (not) Bond film is released with Lashana Lynch playing Nomi as 007 and it flops, they could just bring James Bond back and restart the whole thing… again.

So yeah, I don’t think there will be a next James Bond, none of the names continually being brought up will work out as there is no Bond anymore, he’s dead and I think the plan is to leave him dead.

Movie Review: Going for Golden Eye -Double Bill

The mockumentary film genre is a tough one to pull off well. This Is Spinal Tap is one of my all-time favourite films and one of the greatest comedies ever made. For a mockumentary film to work, you need two things. First, a good topic to mock. Second, a writer/director that really knows what they are doing. Can writer/director, Jim Miskel, make the Nintendo 64 classic, GoldenEye 007, a good topic for the mockumentary film treatment?

Going For Golden Eye

GOING FOR GOLDENEYE

Released in 2017, Going for Golden Eye is a real fan project. Written and directed by Jim Miskel and starring David Burnip and Daniel Bruce. This really is a passion project born from Miskel’s deep love for the N64 classic, GoldenEye 007 game which he played a hell of a lot in his teenage years. The film tells the story of two characters, Ben (David Burnip) and Ethan (Daniel Bruce). Ethan is the 19 times Goldeneye 007 World Champion, he’s confident to the point of sheer arrogance. An egomaniac whose ‘fame’ as the greatest Goldeneye 007 player in the world has gone to his head.

“One day, when they make a Mount Rushmore of video games, Ethan will be right up there. Carved in stone, in between Mario and Lara Croft’s big pointy tits.”

Conversely, Ben is much more grounded. He’s very nerdy, still lives with his parents… despite being 33-years-old and is very unassuming. Ben and Ethan get ready to take part in the 20th Goldeneye 007 World Championships with Ben very excited to meet his hero, Ethan and take him on in a very David and Goliath type story, with Ben very much being the underdog. Only, people don’t actually care about Goldeneye 007 anymore. The world had moved on and with each successive year, the attendance for the Goldeneye 007 World Championships has dwindled. Going from a  huge event to a small gathering held in a pub in the North of England.

That’s about it for the basic plot. As previously mentioned, Going for Golden Eye is very much a mockumentary film. A film crew follows both Ben and Ethan as they prepare to take part in the 20th Goldeneye 007 World Championships. The crew interviews the two main characters and that acts as our window into their lives. The backstory of the championships is filled in via those most directly involved in it. Then there’s the family and friends of Ben, they also get a decent slice of the spotlight and provide some truly great laughs.

The humour here is very much English and very much ‘Northern’. Think something along the lines of Keith Lemon, only actually funny instead of shit. Going for Golden Eye is crammed full of footage from the game as well as countless Easter eggs, references and jokes. To the point where one viewing is just not enough, you’re probably going to need to watch this film a few times to really get the most out of it.

ETHAN

Clive Fingerley (Terence J Corbett) as the foul-mouthed organiser of the Goldeneye 007 World Championships is brilliant and I’d say that he even steals the whole film. The character’s bluntness and tendency to be, perhaps, just a little bit too detailed is, absolutely hilarious. The times he does appear in the film, you just can’t help but stop and pay attention to his utter crassness and laugh.

I’m not going to spoil the film’s plot for you here, other than to say it is very funny as well as even being more than a little heartwarming with an unexpected finale. The humour can be very cringy, very ‘Northern’ too and I mean that in a very respectful way. Jim Miskel knew exactly what kind of film he wanted to make and he made it. You can really tell that Going for Golden Eye was a labour of love, a film that took Miskel back to his teenage years playing on his N64 and dreaming big.

TOURNEY

“The annals of history only remember the winners. For example, we all know that Winston Churchill led the allies to victory in World War II. But I tell you what, I challenge anyone to tell me who led the Germans.”

If you’re a fan of Goldeneye 007, a fan of gaming in general and just want to have a good laugh, then I certainly have to recommend you give Going for Golden Eye a viewing. Maybe even more than one, to be honest. It’s a quick watch too, coming in at just under an hour-long, the film doesn’t feel too long or too short. You can find Going for Golden Eye on Steam and Vimeo to rent or buy. I actually rented it at first but soon realised that this is a film I’ll watch a few times, so I ended up buying it too.

Bringing Back Golden Eye

BRINGING BACK GOLDENEYE

Jim Miskel followed up on that first film with this ‘sequel’, released just a few weeks ago. Bringing Back Golden Eye is once more, made in the mockumentary style. I say sequel, but to be honest, this is more a follow-up film that takes place in the same universe over a direct sequel, in the traditional sense of the word. Jim Miskel steps down as director for this one, he’s still the writer and producer but Dan Guest is sitting in the director’s chair this time around.

There are quite a few returning characters from Going for Golden Eye but the focus shifts over to a new character called Glen (Gabriel Cagan) who is a huge fan of not just the game, but the whole Goldeneye 007 World Championships and the previous mockumentary film exists as a real documentary in this film… if that makes sense. However, after events in the first film, the championships are no more.

Ethan from the first film has disappeared after his loss at the last Goldeneye 007 World Championships, his fame dwindling. To find Ethan, Glen sets out to track down the others from the Going for Golden Eye documentary in order to try and not only find Ethan but also bring the Goldeneye 007 World Championships back. See, the title makes sense.

The first thing I need to cover is that the humour is back, and maybe just a little more ‘diluted’. The more crass swearing is gone and some of the jokes are definitely less adult-focused. That’s not to say that the jokes aren’t funny, they are and there are even jokes making fun of the toned-down language, especially with a character saying ‘flipping’ a lot. It’s just that it feels less ‘adult’ over the first film, though I still wouldn’t recommend watching this with the kids. In terms of the production, the quality has been vastly lifted the acting is far better than the previous films and there’s some clever use of Goldeneye 007 styled graphics that fill in parts of the backstory as well as being used for comedic effect.

BRINGING BACK GOLDENEYE SCREEN 1

“Oh my God Ethan, your nob looks really clean. I mean the control-stick, not your penis.”

The successor to Goldeneye 007, Perfect Dark, gets thrown into the plot and sparks a rivalry that personifies an argument between the two games that still exists to this day. Then there’s a pretty damn awesome cameo for fans of the development team of the games too. There are more in-jokes, more gaming and movie references (including a very well shot Star Wars: The Force Awakens one). You can certainly see a vast improvement all-round in terms of the production over the first film. The actual tournament is also pretty damn exciting to watch and feels like a genuine gaming contest.

The fact you can watch both films as a nice double feature in two and a half hours is worth doing. The two films feel very different to each other with Going for Golden Eye feeling rough and ready, while Bringing Back Golden Eye is much more polished with higher production values and better acting. Truth be told, this is actually something that bugged me slightly. If the first film is supposed to be a genuine documentary within the plot of the second film, which is supposed to be a fan-made film… then the documentary should be the one with more polish over the ‘fan-made’ film the second one is supposed to be. Still, that is just a slight personal niggle and nothing more. Between you and me, I liked Going for Golden Eye more than Bringing Back Golden Eye. I just prefered its rawness.

BRINGING BACK GOLDENEYE ETHAN

“In 1994, he punched a full-grown man and that man died… fourteen years later from diabetes.”

Still, the two films do work brilliantly together and for me, as a fan of Goldeneye 007, I think both films are most definitely worth watching. A wonderful love letter to one of the most celebrated video games ever. Anyway, Bringing Back Golden Eye is completely free on YouTube, give this link a click to watch. All Jim Miskel and the crew ask is that you give a donation to the Samaritans charity (which is probably why the swearing is watered down, as the point is to raise money for charity). So you get to watch a funny film for free and help out a worthy charity too.

But yeah, I recommend both films for some irrelevant, nonsensical very British humour.

Mick McGinty: Legend In Art

It popped up on my newsfeed that Mick McGinty passed away recently. No, don’t worry, I admit that I didn’t recognise the name either. Still, if you were a gamer in the nineties, the name may not have been familiar, but the work most definitely would be. Mick McGinty was behind some of the most iconic video game art in the 1990s.

Mick was an incredible artist as his personal fine art site can prove. But if landscapes and still life wasn’t your thing, his work in the gaming world most probably was. Perhaps Micks’ most famous gaming work would be his incredible Street Fighter II art. Whenever there was a new version of the massively popular beat ’em up (and there were a lot of them), Mick McGinty’s artwork was right there with them as he created some of the most recognisable game cover art ever.

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His chunky, muscly character style suited the beat ’em up genre perfectly and Mick’s art soon found its way onto many a game box. Mick McGinty was also the man behind the covers for several of the Streets of Rage games for Sega.

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Mick also did the cover art for games like Sierra’s Leisure Suit Larry franchise, Zoo Tycoon, Kid Chameleon and Shining Force to name just a few. Mick’s art was also used by Disney, Reebok, MTV, Universal Studios, McDonald’s and so many other big-name brands. You’ve most probably also seen Micks’ art on movie posters and not even realised it. He was the man behind the Jaws 2 poster and other Jaws artwork.

JAWS 2

The 1987 Dragnet movie, Curse of the Pink Panther, Harry and the Hendersons, Field of Dreams, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and so many more films. Mick McGinty’s art spans decades, genres and brands. You may not know it, but I can guarantee that you’ve admired at least one of his pieces over the years, whether it be gaming related, a movie poster or just a brand name that you’ve most probably bought into at some point in your life. Mick’s work was… is legendary and his talent will be greatly missed.

ROGER RABIT

“I’ve been an artist since age 5, when I remember drawing an airplane better than my older brother. It was a bi-wing with a propeller, and it was encouraging because up until then, it was the only thing I could remember doing better. I kept at it, and now nearly 50 years later I’m still trying to improve my creative process… Now I realize you never really get better than anyone else… just more unique to your own style, and you become the best painter you can be.”

– Mick McGinty