Sixty Years Of Bond… James Bond

2022 sees the James Bond film series reach the big six zero years old. It all began back in 1962 with Dr. No. Yeah, yeah, before the backlash of ‘actually’… begins. I do know that Dr. No wasn’t the first Bond film. Yes, I do know that Casino Royale from 1954 with Barry Nelson as Bond was technically the first. However, I’m talking about the start of the officially recognised franchise, the one that became a worldwide phenomenon and catapulted the James Bond character into the stratosphere.

BOND AT 60 IMAGE

Anyway, there are actually several other movie milestones within the Bond franchise that are worth looking at too and that’s exactly what this article is all about. Starting with that first official James Bond film from 1962, I’m going to do a quick celebratory look at all the Bond films reaching a worthy milestone in 2022.

Dr. No

DR NO

Released in 1962, making this inaugural film in the long-running, sixty years old franchise. The film didn’t just launch the James Bond movie franchise, it also turned its star, Sean Connery, into a film legend. Connery had a few small roles earlier in his career but becoming James Bond would be a career-defining role. It was also a role that Sean Connery ended up detesting.

Seeing Bond sent to Jamaica when an MI6 agent is murdered. The investigation leads Bond to discover the titular Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman ) and his nefarious plan involving a shuttle launch and a radio beam weapon… whatever that is. While this is the first ‘proper’ James Bond film, the novel it is based on was the sixth. Interestingly, the film makes several references to past and future Bond adventures. So this first appearance of Bond on film was treated as the character as already existing.

The intro to Dr. No set the standard that would be followed for six decades. The famed gunbarrel shot (though Bond was not played by Sean Connery but stuntman, Bob Simmons) the iconic Bond theme, the flashy and stylised graphics-heavy title sequence. It all began right here, though there was no dedicated James Bond song that became tradition after this film. Instead, what you do get is the Bond theme that mixes into a very Jamaican rendition of the Three Blind Mice nursery rhyme.

DR NO SCREEN

I’ve never really been a fan of this one, to be honest. I just found it all a bit ‘dull’ for a film that was billed as being such a huge action-adventure picture. Of course, you do have to give it credit for creating such a massive and much-loved franchise. Apparently, Bond creator, Ian Fleming, said of the film after seeing it that it was:

“Dreadful. Simply dreadful.”

I don’t think I’d go that far but Dr. No is hardly one of Bond’s best. The franchise had just begun and in fact, it wasn’t even thought of as becoming a franchise at the time. Even the production studio didn’t have a lot of faith in the film. When released, reviews were very mixed with film critics really not enjoying the film for the most part. Still, it was the general public that paid for cinema tickets that made it popular and once the studio saw the money that Dr. No was bringing in, a sequel was quickly greenlit. The beginning of Bond and a sixty-year franchise was born.

You Only Live Twice

YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE

This one came out in 1967 and is fifty-five years old this year. Now in 2022, this film is becoming infamous for the whole Japanese disguise thing where Sean Connery is ‘magically’ transformed into someone of a different race. The snowflakes of today like to find offence in things decades out of date. Still, I thought transitioning into something you are not was quite a popular thing these days…

Anyway, this flick has Bond sent to Japan to investigate the disappearance of American and Soviet spacecraft, which each nation blaming the other. You Only Live Twice is the first Bond film to show Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Donald Pleasence ) proper. He had been in previous films, but never seen or only partially seen. The screenplay for the film was also written by the awesome Roald Dahl. This was also the first Bond film to really have very little to do with the novel of the same name. Dhal threw out most of the novel’s plot, only keeping a few smaller references, and instead wrote an all-new story.

YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE SCREEN

At the time, this was reported as being Connery’s last time playing James Bond. It was too… for one film. Conery was enticed back Diamonds Are Forever in 1971 and the non-canonical Never Say Never Again in 1983. Just a little tit-bit for you. Do you know the last time Sean Connery officially played James Bond? It was for the From Russia with Love video game from 2005. Connery not only lent his likeness to the game but he also recorded all new dialogue as James Bond.

I actually really like this Bond outing. It may not be ‘politically correct’ these days and it’s a shame that it has been getting a lot of bad press due to the whole Japanese disguise thing. The film is much more than one outdated gadget from over half a century ago. Connery was well into the role by now and I may even go so far as to say that this was his best performance as James Bond.

The Spy Who Loved Me

SPY WHO LOVED ME

1977 was the year that this Bond film hit the big screen, making it forty-five years old. By now, Sean Connery was gone and Roger Moore had stepped into the famous tuxedo. This was Moore’s third outing as James Bond. The Spy Who Loved Me was the tenth book by Ian Fleming and was also the tenth film in the franchise.

Bond has to team up with KGB agent, Major Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach), to learn of the disappearance of a British and a Soviet ballistic-missile submarine. The duo learn that the subs have been stolen by Karl Stromberg (Curt Jürgens) and he plans on creating a new civilisation under the sea called Atlantis… cos it’s a James Bond film. This is the first film where Bond gets to cross paths with fan-favourite villain, Jaws (Richard Kiel).

SPY WHO LOVED ME SCREEN

To be honest, I’ve never been much of a fan of Roger Moore’s take on James Bond. It was a bit on the silly side and came across as more of a parody of the character. But that is not to say that Moore’s tenure as Bond and that era of films were bad, they are kind of iconic and enjoyable in their own way. While my favourite Moore/Bond film is Live and Let Die, there’s a lot to like here with The Spy Who Loved Me. The memorable opening with the ski-chase/skydive/Union Flag parachute. ‘Wet Nellie’, that’s the awesome Lotus Esprit S1 that turns into a submarine. The Nobody Does It Better song, the first of the Bond songs that’s doesn’t share its title with the film (though Dr. No didn’t have a dedicated song). I have always felt that this film was to Roger Moore what Goldfinger was to Sean Connery.

The Living Daylights

LIVING DAYLIGHTS

Thirty-five is how old this one is, being released in 1987. We are now onto our fourth official James Bond with Timothy Dalton now playing the part. I have to say this right here, Timothy Dalton was the best James Bond ever. He played the part much more closely as to how Ian Fleming wrote him, he actually looked like Fleming described him too.

For this adventure, Bond is assigned to help General Georgi Koskov (Jeroen Krabbé), a KGB agent, defect. Whilst on the mission, Bond crosses paths with Kara Milovy (Maryam d’Abo), Koskov’s girlfriend who is actually trying to kill Koskov. James Bond soon learns that the whole Georgi Koskov wanting to defect was a ruse for something far more sinister.

LIVING DAYLIGHTS SCREEN

The Living Daylights was not just a film with the best James Bond, it also brought back the iconic Aston Martin. Not seen in a Bond film since 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, as Lotus became the Bond car manufacturer of the Roger Moore years. Aston Martin’s V8 Volante was the car here and there’s just something about James Bond and Aston Martin that works.

Both of Timothy Dalton’s outings as Bond (this and Licence to Kill) have always been vastly overlooked, I feel. It really is a shame that Dalton didn’t have the chance to come back for more. Long story short and there were behind the scenes legal issues with the James Bond rights. It took several years to sort out and by then, Timothy Dalton was perhaps a bit too old and the producers wanted a new James Bond. A third film was written for Dalton and it was set to be released in 1991. I actually have a separate article looking at that film coming up later. Anyway, after the legal issues were resolved, a new actor stepped into the role, speaking of which…

Tomorrow Never Dies

TMORROW NEVER DIES

Released in 1997 and now a ripe twenty-five years old. The eighteenth James Bond film and the second to star Pierce Brosnan after GoldenEye. For me, Pierce Brosnan always felt like the Roger Moore of the nineties. Perhaps not quite as parody-like but certainly a James Bond that was a tad less serious than the predecessor.

This time around, Bond teams up with Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh), a Chinese agent. The two investigate the media mogul Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce) who, as it turns out, is hellbent on starting World War III via the use of his media empire… and some stolen missiles, of course. This was the first Bond film after the death of the franchise’s legendary producer, Albert R. Broccoli.

TMORROW NEVER DIES SCREEN

This really is not one of the best Bond outings, yet it has one of the best Bond girls with Michelle Yeoh. She’s awesome in this and I always wanted to see a Wai Lin spin-off film. She was going to return for 2002’s Die Another Day to help Bond when he was in Hong Kong. But the idea was scrapped and the character was replaced with Mr Chang (Ho Yi) instead. And on the subject of that film…

Die Another Day

DIE ANOTHER DAY

Originally released for the fortieth anniversary of the James Bond franchise in 2001, now twenty years old itself. Die Another Day was specially written to pay respects to the franchise turning forty and was the last outing for Pierce Brosnan as James Bond.

After over a year of imprisonment in North Korea  Bond’s freedom is exchanged for Zao (Rick Yune), the right hand-man of Korean dictator Colonel Moon (Will Yun Lee) … who Bond kind of accidentally killed. MI6 believe that Bond has been broken by the Koreans and leaked information. After escaping MI6, James Bond ends up in Cuba and meets NSA agent Giacinta ‘Jinx’ Johnson (Halle Berry). The two learn of a mysterious British businessman called Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens) and soon discover his naughty plan.

This was one of the few James Bond films I got to see at the cinema when I was a young twenty-something. Man, I was excited and I came out of the film one happy Bond fan. This film is packed with nods and references to all of the previous Bond films in the franchise. Lines of dialogue, background details, gadgets and more. Die Another Day is a feast for the eyes of a Bond fan.

DIE ANOTHER DAY SCREEN

I then re-watched the film a few months later on DVD… and it was utter pants. I think there’s something about watching a film at the cinema that gives the viewer a false sense of ‘wow, this is awesome’. This is not true of all films of course, but some. There’s just something about seeing a film with a crowd of people on a huge screen and an ear-bleeding sound system that can camouflage how good (or bad) a film really is.

Yes, taking in all the references was bliss for a Bond fan. But the story and characters of this film really are dull and I just didn’t notice how dull when in the cinema because I was too busy being a Bond fan and soaking up the references. I don’t outright hate this film, ‘hate’ is a very strong word and I very rarely use it. But Die Another Day is certainly a disappointment for what was supposed to be a big celebration… and it has Madonna in it too.

Skyfall

SKYFALL

The youngest film celebrating a milestone this year. Released in 2012, Skyfall is ten-years-old. This was our latest Bond, Daniel Craig’s third outing as James Bond. And if you are any good at maths, Skyfall was released on the fiftieth anniversary of the James Bond franchise. It has that awful theme song from Adele but don’t let that put you off Skyfall is great.

Here, James Bond has retired after accidentally being shot and presumed dead. When MI6’s headquarters are blown up, Bond comes out of retirement and offers to help. Back in service and sent to Shanghai, Bond learns of a man called Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem). Silva is an ex-MI6 agent who now has a penchant for cyberterrorism and he was the man behind the attack on MI6’s HQ. Silva is captured and brought back to England… which was actually part of his grand plan.

SKYFALL SCREEN

Skyfall is great, not my favourite Daniel Craig outing, that has to go to Casino Royale. But this film is awesome. There’s just something raw about it that makes it stand out. A very different Bond film but still familiar at the same time. I really do like Craig as Bond too. He’s very much like Timothy Dalton in how he is much more no-nonsense and far less jokey. Javier Bardem is a great villain, perhaps the best of the Daniel Craig era of films.


Well, this is it, my look back on sixty years of James Bond and at films that are sharing a milestone within those six decades. I’ll have a few more James Bond articles through the year to continue my James Bond at sixty celebrations.

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.

WITHIN THE WOODS SCREEN 1

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.

WITHIN THE WOODS SCREEN 2

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.

TRHE EVIL DEAD SCREEN 1

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.”

THE EVIL DEAD SCREEN 2

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.

EVIL DEAD II SCREEN 1

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.

EVIL DEAD II SCREEN 2

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.

ARMY OF DARKNESS SCREEN 1

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.

ARMY OF DARKNESS SCREEN 2

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.

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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.

Sin Never Dies: A Carrie Retrospective

Yes, it’s Halloween again, so time for my annual Halloween article(s). This year, I’m looking at a certain teenager with a pretty unusual talent.

Stephen King is arguably one of the greatest horror/supernatural writers of any generation. Celebrating his seventy-third birthday just last month, he’s still going strong too with his latest novel due out next year. Of course, as famed as Stephen is for his more macabre scribblings, using either his real name or the pseudonym of Richard Bachman, he’s also penned many non-horror novels and stories too, such as The Green Mile, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption and 11/22/63 to name a few. But I’m here to look at his very first published novel (fourth he wrote but first to be published), Carrie and it’s entire franchise.

CARRIE ART 2

The Novel

Originally published in 1974, after several years as a struggling writer, the world was finally introduced to Stephen King via his novel, Carrie. Telling to story of troubled teenager, Carrie White and her strained relationship with her deeply religious mother, Margaret. I think we all know the plot of this one by now. Still, I’ll quickly go over it regardless. Just another quick one, SPILOERS ahead, even if you know the film, the novel still has some differences and surprises, though I will just summarise the plot and not reveal everything.

Carietta ‘Carrie’ White, aged sixteen, is a socially awkward, overweight and unpopular outcast in her school. She is often verbally bulled for her frumpy looks, acne, being fat and outdated clothing. One day, after gym class and while showering, Carrie has her first period. Due to her mother’s religious beliefs and very despotic nature, she never taught Carrie about menstruation. Completely unware of what is happening to her, she begins to panic, believing she is bleeding to death. This is when her bully classmates take the opportunity to ridicule the distraught Carrie as much as they can. Led by the popular girl, Chris Hargensen, the other girls begin to throw tampons as Carrie as she becomes increasingly more upset and confused over what is happening, her anger boils over and a lightbulb in the shower room explodes. Gym teacher, Rita Desjardin enters the shower room and breaks up the disruption. She cleans Carrie up, explains all about menstruation and takes her to the principle. After the principle continually get’s her name wrong, the upset Carrie lashes out and an ashtray on the desk flips onto the floor. Carrie is excused from school for the day and goes home.

On her way home, Carrie is harassed by a local kid riding a bike. Her rage returns and the kid falls off the bike, this is when she realises that she caused it to happen and begins to question her powers. When she gets home, Carrie quizzes her mother, Margaret on why she was never told about menstruation. Margaret’s (unnatural) religious beliefs make her think her daughter is filled with sin, she loses it, beats Carrie while spouting scripture and then locks her in a closest for six hours of praying.

The next day at school and Mrs Desjardin punishes the girls who bullied Carrie in the shower with a week of detention. If they disobey the detention, then they will be excluded from the up and coming school prom. Main bully-girl, Chris, defies Mrs Desjardin and so, is told she can’t go to the prom. Chris tries to get her influential father to reverse the punishment, which is unsuccessful. A now very angry Chris decides to plan revenge on Carrie. Meanwhile, one of the other bullies Sue Snell begins to genuinely feel sorry for Carrie, she asks her boyfriend, Tommy Ross to take Carrie to the prom in a bid to help her begin to feel better about herself. After some distrust (and who can blame her?), Carrie agrees to the date.

Chris begins her plan for revenge by rigging the prom queen votes so Carrie wins, meaning she would be called up on stage. Another part of Chris’ revenge includes killing pigs and filling two buckets with their blood, with the help her boyfriend, Billy Nolan. Chris’ plan works, Carrie and Tommy are voted as prom queen and king, both being called up on to the stage. Tommy even begins to find Carrie attractive in her homemade prom dress. With the couple on stage, Chris, who is hiding, drops the two buckets of pigs blood on the couple, drenching them both. One of the buckets hits Tommy on the head and kills him. Carrie stands there in shock, covered in pigs blood as the crowd of watching teens begin to laugh at her. Humiliated, confused and ashamed, Carrie leaves the building as the torment continues.

Now outside of the school, Carrie decides to try her telekinetic powers. She seals everyone inside, using electricity, fire and just good old fashioned throwing people around to kill everyone. As Carrie’s rage builds, the bodies pile up. A fire spreads, leading to an explosion that destroys the school. Carrie makes her way back home, on the way she destroys gas stations, power lines and more. She also sends out a telepathic message which the townsfolk can hear, telling everyone that she is responsible for the carnage and deaths. Now back at home, Margaret believes her daughter has been possessed by the Devil himself and tries to kill Carrie. She is stabbed in the shoulder, our of anger, Carrie kills her mother by using her powers to stop her heart.

Bleeding heavily, Carrie leaves her house and sees bully-girl Chris and her boyfriend Billy, who ran away after the pigs blood thing, but before Carrie went telekinetic crazy and killed everyone. With Billy driving, he and Chris try to run Carrie over, but she takes control of the car and drives it into a wall, killing them both. Sue Snell, who heard Carrie’s previous telepathic message, finds Carrie bleeding to death from the previous stab wound. Carrie dies while crying out for her mother.


I think what is quite surprising about the book is how it is written and presented. It’s not a ‘normal’ book at all. Right from the opening few lines, you are told that Carrie has telekinetic powers, so it’s not a surprise (unlike the film for instance). Carrie herself does not realise until later, but you the reader are told right from the start. Plus, the book almost comes across as a documentary over a piece of usual novel-like storytelling. There are no chapters and it’s one long continual plot, but it is broken up with quotes and references from (fictional) newspaper/magazine articles and books covering the story of Margaret and Carrie White. There are investigations into the possibly of telekinetic powers from science books, interviews with people who knew Carrie and her mother, newspaper reports and the like. These a large section were one of the White’s old neighbours is interviewed about a strange occurrence that happened when Carrie was three years-old. These parts of the book all work to fill in backstory and flesh out the plot as you read. It’s kind of told as if the events in the book have already happened as you read them, an epistolary novel, one that feels more like a documentation than a story being told. For a first (published) novel, it’s a bold writing style, but it really works.

CARRIE NOVEL

I saw the film long before I ever read the novel. I did first read the book a good twenty years ago, but lost my copy. So I bought a new one just for this article and re-read it. Despite watching and knowing the film very well indeed, and despite already reading the book years ago, there are still some great surprises here and plot elements I had forgotten about. Really enjoyed reading this again for this article and very much recommend it, even if you know the film as well as I do, the novel still has the power to surprise and shock with sub-plots dealing with teenage pregnancy and more. Plus, if you’ve never read a Stephen King novel before, then this is a great place to start. It’s unusual, documentary-like presentation may take a while to get used to, but it really is worth it in the end.

The Movies

Carrie was never meant to be a franchise, but it eventually kind of became one. There was only one true sequel to the first film, but several different versions of the original.

Carrie

CARRIE 76 POSTER

Released in 1976 from director, Brian De Palma was the first ever Carrie film. I’m not really going to dwell on the plot as it’s pretty much the same as the novel, which I have already covered up there ^^^. There are a few changes here and there between the two versions. Pretty much all of the sub-plots from the novel are gone, the documentary style storytelling of the novel is also gone, and so too is any of the backstory about Carrie as a little girl, as the film offers more of a straight forward narrative. Oh and they spelled Stephen King’s name wrong in the trailer too.


For me, Sissy Spacek as Carrie, I think she is just perfect casting, her portrayal as the shy and scared teenager is utterly brilliant. She is very different from the book though, no longer overweight and covered in spots, but still bullied and ridiculed by the other girls. The way she goes from that introvert girl at the start, to learning about her unique talent to quite frankly, terrifying mass-murderess at the school prom is one of my all time favourite horror performances. That image of Carrie covered in pigs blood is one of the most iconic horror images ever.

CARRIE 76 BLOOD

Then there is Piper Laurie as Carrie’s over-controlling and deeply religious mother, Margaret. As much as I love Sissy Spacek in this flick (and I do), Piper Laurie is on a whole other level. She’s fucking crazy! The speech Margaret gives over how Carrie was conceived is both touching and terrifying. The way she abuses her daughter, for what she believes is the better, is heart-breaking… and then there is Margaret’s demise which is a wonderful resolve (different from the book), yet one Carrie regrets despite all the abuse. Both Sissy and Piper were nominated for Oscars (Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress respectively) for their roles in Carrie, neither won, but a multiple Oscar nonlimited horror film is a rarity, especially back in the seventies.

CARRIE 76 JOHN

Of course, Carrie also introduced the world to some young actor called John Travolta, who played Billy Nolan, the boyfriend to one of my all time favourite cinematic bullies.  Nancy Allen as Chris Hargensen is just such an evil and spiteful little bitch. Her hatred toward Carrie is a major driving-force and the catalyst to the entire massacre at film’s climax. Plus I have to give a mention to Amy Irving as Sue Snell, one of the few survivors of the film and a character that actually ends up wanting to help Carrie despite starting out as one of the bullies.

Simply put, Carrie is one of the all time great horror films and still very effective now, forty-four years later. Between the movie and the book, I feel this is one of the very rare occasions where the film is better… and the novel is great.

The Rage: Carrie 2

RAGE CARRIE 2 POSTER

Then just a short twenty-three years later, a sequel was made in 1999. The Rage: Carrie 2 sees Rachel Lang (Emily Bergl), a teenage girl living in a foster home after her mother suffers a schizophrenic episode, believing her daughter’s telekinetic powers are linked to the Satan himself. Rachel is a school outcast with only one real friend, Lisa. However, when Lisa commits suicide, Rachel soon learns why. Lisa was used for sex and then rejected by a popular school jock, Eric.

Taking the story to the police, Eric, who is eighteen years-old, could be arrested for statutory rape. Enter school guidance counsellor, Sue Snell (Amy Irving) from the original film who offers her support to help Rachel. Eric learns that it is Rachel behind the implications into Lisa’s death and turns up at her house to scare her into not talking to the police. Only it is Eric who gets scared when Rachel lets loose with her telekinetic powers. Meanwhile. Sue notices Rachel’s powers and begins an investigation of her own, one that drags up some personal history. Sue discovers that Rachel’s mother had an illicit affair with Ralph White, Carrie’s real father. Rachel is Carrie’s half-sister. Sue takes Rachel to the ruins of her old high school, the one Carrie destroyed in the first film, this is where Sue tells Rachel the story of Carrie and who they are related.

RAGE CARRIE 2

Long story short and Rachel is invited to a house party, under false pretences and things go very… well they go very Carrie when Rachel learns how she had been deceived. She unleashes her powers and goes on a killing spree.


I think the biggest problem with The Rage: Carrie 2 is that it’s just so very average. As a sequel to one of the finest horror films ever made, it doesn’t do anything worthy of note. It not only just re-treads the original film, pretty much beat for beat, it also falls into a typical nineties horror film category. There are no genuine surprises here and you can tell exactly where the film is going after the first ten minutes. If it wasn’t for the tenuous links to the original film, there would be no reason for this to be a sequel at all. It’s a very cheap re-hash of a classic piece of cinema and while I don’t really dislike The Rage: Carrie 2, I don’t particularly enjoy it either.

RAGE CARRIE 2 SUE

Emily Bergl gives a very one-note and uninspired performance as Rachel. She plays that ‘misunderstood’ teenage girl you’ve seen before, it’s just all very typical. Admittedly, it was nice to see Amy Irving back as Sue from the first film, but even that is just one of those pointless and tenuous links that really didn’t need to be there. The Rage: Carrie 2 is an utterly superfluous sequel. It’s not a bad film in of itself, just a pointless sequel that really does nothing interesting other than offer typical nineties horror-fare that’s a little bit like the original Carrie.

Carrie

CARRIE 02 POSTER

Then in 2002, the first remake or perhaps more apt would be re-adaption of Carrie was released. This one was a made for TV movie based more so on King’s novel than the original 1976 film. Again, It’s not really worth going into the plot as it’s pretty much the same as the original film and novel, with a few minor changes here and there. But is it any good?


No, not really. It all just feels very desperate and pointless. As superfluous as The Rage: Carrie 2 was, at least it was trying to add to the mythology of the story. This version doesn’t even do that. The whole thing feels very ‘cheap’ with poor effects work and a very poor adaption of King’s novel. In terms of it being closer to the book… yeah, I guess it kind of is.

This version does explore Carrie’s childhood and backstory, just like the novel did. The ending of this version is a bit more like the book, but also puts its own spin on it too. Sadly, it’s all just so very dull. The lack of budget as it’s a TV movie really shows, some of the effects are laughably bad, especially for the infamous stone shower scene from the novel. I’m not sure how a film from 2002 can look worse than one from 1976, but here it is.

CARRIE 02 BLOOD

Angela Bettis as Carrie is about the only enjoyable thing about the whole film. She’s hardly award worthy, but she’s a damn sight better than anyone else in the film. The worst crime this film commits is that it’s just not scary. It’s one of the least tense and frightening horror films ever made. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the sexual references and blood, you could show this version of Carrie to your kids. If this had a bigger budget and better talent both behind and in front of the camera, it could’ve been great. A really interesting adaption of King’s novel… but it’s just so flat.

Carrie

CARRIE 13 POSTER

Yes, there is yet another Carrie. This one is a full on, big budget remake, unlike the previous TV movie, so it should be good then right?  Released in 2013, directed by Kimberly Peirce. Starring Chloë Grace Moretz at Carrie with Julianne Moore as her mother, Margaret.


For me, this is pretty bad. I watched this at the cinema and remember coming out thinking it was okay. I re-watched it for this article and thought it was terrible. Again, there’s little point in covering the plot as it really doesn’t differ all that much from the novel or the 1976 film adaption. This version claims to be based more on the novel and not the first flick, I’m not 100% sure about that. There are some plot points from the novel that make their way into this version, though they are tweaked for a more modern audience. But I just felt this was a bog-standard remake of the 76 film more so than anything else.

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Chloë Grace Moretz as Carrie just does not work for me at all. The character is supposed to be this frumpy, out of place and awkward girl due to her looks. Have you seen Moretz? She’s a stunning looking girl. Now, I’m not saying they couldn’t cast a pretty young woman in the role… cos they already did that with the original. Sissy Spacek was very pretty, especially back in the mid-seventies when Carrie was being filmed…

SISSY SPACEK 70s

The thing is, they used a great wardrobe and make-up to make Spacek look more ‘Carrie’ in the film. That just does not come across in this remake. Aside from some outdated clothing, Chloë Grace Moretz looks just as pretty pre-school prom as Carrie as she does during the prom. There just seemed to be little to zero effort put in to make her look ‘out of place’, where as the original had that perfected. Then there’s the acting itself, again, going back to the original and Sissy Spacek nailed it (that’s why she was Oscar nominated). She felt awkward in her performance. I just never got that with Chloë Grace Moretz here. She does this one thing where she hunches her shoulders and looks down… that’s it. That’s the entire performance of Carrie until the prom massacre… and about that.

The grand finale of the film is its most famous scene and you’ve got to get it right. It’s the pay-off to all the bullying and abuse Carrie as suffered. While the effects work is good, it’s the acting that ruins that scene here. Moretz does this hand waving thing every time she uses her powers and it looks stupid. Go back and watch the original film, watch how Sissy Spacek conveys the rage and anger, the use of her powers just with the movement of her head, her eyes… that’s all she does, cos that’s all that was needed. Less dramatics, but a much more powerful performance. Here, Chloë Grace Moretz come across as a second rate magician at a seven year-old’s birthday party with all the hand gestures and arm waving. It just ruins the feeling of rage when you look like you’re trying to pass an audition on a shitty Simon Cowell talent show.

CARRIE 13 PROM

Then there’s Julianne Moore as Margaret. I love Moore, I think she’s a brilliant actress… I’ll even praise her performance in the Psycho remake. She should be amazing as the religious nut, Margret White, but she’s not. It’s just a very plain and subdued performance, almost phoned in. The few times she does snap and go crazy, it’s just all very ‘pantomime villain’. Piper Laurie in the original was sublime (again, Oscar nominated), she’s one of the great big screen villains, pure evil. Which considering she was playing a deeply religious character was wonderfully ironic. Where as Julianne Moore here is just very ‘meh’. But I don’t blame either actress for the missteps here, it’s  a directing issue. I honestly feel that Kimberly Peirce was just clueless of how to work with the material and actors she had.

This remake is just plain bad, woeful.


And that’s about it for the movies. Overall, the 1976 original is still a fantastic piece of cinema and well worth watching today. One of the finest horror films ever made. The sequel, The Rage: Carrie 2 is very mundane and middle of the road. The 2002 TV movie is a wasted opportunity. Then the 2013 remake is just terrible. Read the novel, watch the 76 flick… maybe take a look at The Rage: Carrie 2 if you’re curious. But, that’s the best of the lot.

Carrie

CARRIE MUSICAL

Okay, so there is one final thing worth looking at. A rather strange curiosity… a musical. Oh yeah, there was a Carrie musical. Originally performed in February on 1988 in Stratford-upon-Avon, it eventually made it’s way to Broadway later the same year. Now, the original 1988 performance is known as one of the worst stage shows ever. It even inspired a book, Ken Mandelbaum’s, Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops from 1992.

However, though the show was a complete flop, it has been revived several times over the years, with the most recent performance being in 2019. There have been several recordings of various performances of the musical over the years. Here’s the original 1988 one, another from 2013, and this one filmed in 2019.

I’ve not actually watched any of the musicals, cos I’m kind if a bit Carrie fatigued now to be honest. But that’s about it, the entire Carrie franchise covered. I do have one more article for Halloween…

A Boy’s Best Friend Is His Mother – Psycho: A Retrospective

So Psycho is sixty years old today, and as it’s one of my all time favourite films, I’m doing a huge celebration. I’ve already looked at the making of the film, and now, is time to look at the Psycho franchise… all of it. A quick, obligatory SPOILER warning right here, as I’m going to go through each film, including the endings and then offer my view. Plus I’m not just covering the films here, I’m doing the films, the TV shows, spin offs, and the books… everything. This is going to be a big one! Any and everything Psycho I can find will be covered in detail. So, you have been warned… SPOILERS ahead! I repeat, this is going to be a big one. You’d better go grab a glass of milk and sandwich.

First up, the movies…

Psycho

Psycho Poster

Originally released sixty years ago today on the 16th of June, 1960. The film tells the story of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), a young and attractive real-estate secretary from Arizona who steals $40,000 (over $350,000 in today’s money) from a client of her boss. Her aim is to use the money to start a new life with her lover, Sam Loomis (John Gavin) who lives in California. Marion sets out on the long twelve hour, seven-hundred and fifty mile drive from Arizona to California, stopping off to trade in her car with Arizona plates for a second-hand California plate car. Then gets back on the road for California and Sam.

During a heavy rain storm at night, Marion pulls into the Bates Motel with the idea to spend the night and leave to see Sam fresh-faced in the morning. At the motel, she meets proprietor, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). After Marion checks into the Motel, Norman offers to make a light meal for her up at his house behind the motel. But an argument kicks off between Norman and his mother, Norma, so Norman instead suggests they eat in the parlor at the back of the motel office. Here, Marion learns that Norman’s mother is mentally ill and how she can’t live without Norman’s help. The two chat and Marion begins to feel guilt over her stealing the money.

Now in her motel room, Marion decides to take the $40,000 back the next morning instead of running away with Sam. She hides the cash in a newspaper which she leaves on the nightstand before taking a shower. Que one of the most famous scenes in cinema history and Marion is stabbed to death in the shower by Norman’s enraged mother. Norman discovers the grisly crime scene and sets about cleaning it up to protect his mother. After carefully wrapping Marion’s body in the shower curtain, he puts the body in the trunk of Marion’s car. Ensuring Norman has covered everything, he also puts all of Marion’s possessions in the car… including the newspaper with the stolen $40,000 hidden in it (unbeknownst to him).

Marion Shower Scream

Norman then drives the car, body, money and all to a swamp at the back of the motel and pushes the car into it. Norman stands there nibbling away on candy corn as he watches the car and Marion’s body sink into the swamp. Everything has been taken care of and Norma Bates’ heinous crime has been covered up.

A week passes and Lila Crane (Vera Miles), Marion’s sister arrives at Sam’s place in California looking for her sibling. Sam, of course, has no idea where Marion has gone and he had no idea that she was on her way to come and see him a week ago. This is when private investigator, Milton Arbogast (Martin Balsam) turns up asking questions about Marion and the missing $40,000 to both Lila and Sam. After some local investigation, Milton learns that Marion checked into the Bates Motel last week… under a different name. He also learns that Norman has his elderly and ill mother staying in the house. So Milton gets on the phone to update Lila and Sam on what he has learned and says he will try to talk to Norman’s mother before heading back. Milton decides to let himself into the house and tries to talk to Mrs Bates for any info on what happened to Marion. As he is climbing the stairs and nearing the top, mother makes another appearance, and so does her knife as she stabs the private investigator and he falls down the stairs to his death.

Psycho 1960 Milton

After not hearing back from Milton Arbogast, Lila and Sam go to the local sheriff to tell him about all that has been going on. They tell the sheriff that Norman and his mother must have had something to do with the disappearance of Marion and possibly why Milton has not checked in with them. The sheriff is quick to dismiss their theory because Norman’s mother has been dead for the last decade. The sheriff suggests that Milton must have lied to Lila and Sam about Marion and that maybe he plans on chasing Marion to get hold of the stolen $40,000 himself. Neither Lila or Sam are convinced by the theory and decide to check out the motel themselves. While Sam distracts Norman, Lila sneaks up to the house wanting to talk to the said to be dead Norma Bates. Norman becomes suspicious, knocks Sam out and goes up to the house himself. Lila makes her way into the fruit cellar and discovers Norma Bates sitting in a chair… and yes, she is very much dead. Leading to one of the biggest twist endings ever, as it is revealed that Norman Bates dug up his dead mother, preserved her as best he could via taxidermy and developed a very disturbing relationship with her corpse. He would often dress up as his own mother, hold conversations with her and of course… kill as his own mother.

So Norman is arrested over the murders of Marion Crane and Milton Arbogast as well as the murders of two other women previously killed off screen. Now, ‘mother’ has taken over Norman completely as she sits there in her cell knowing people are watching her, as she decides to prove that she’s no killer by not harming a fly…

Psycho 1960 Norman

There really is very little that I can say about Psycho that hasn’t already been written a thousand times over. It’s one of the greatest films ever to be made. It’s writing is sharp, the pacing is terrific, the direction is astounding and the music is etched into my memory forever. Then of course, there is the acting. Janet Leigh is mesmerising as the young secretary who has a moment of weakness and steals $40,000. A stupid mistake that will lead to her bloody and brutal death. Then you have Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates, and an instant classic film character was born. His charm and personality really help to sell the sheltered and shy Norman. A troubled young man who’s life has been destroyed by the death of his mother. Alfred Hitchcock made some amazing pictures in his career, but none of them came close to the genius of Psycho. With how much he had to sacrifice to get the film made, you can really feel his passion on the screen.

Psycho II

Psycho II Poster

Released just a short twenty-three years after the original in 1983. Psycho II is set twenty-two years after the events of the first film in 1982. Norman Bates is released from the mental institution he has spent the last two decades in, now having being ‘cured’ of his insanity. He now accepts that his mother is dead. However, some people are not happy that Norman is being released, one such person is Lila Loomis, Marion’s sister who eventually married Sam Loomis, Marion’s boyfriend from the first film… and she thinks Norman is insane? With some help from his psychiatrist, Dr. Bill Raymond (Robert Loggia), Norman settles back into his home at Bates Motel.

The motel is now being managed by Warren Toomey (Dennis Franz), that’s one less thing for Norman to worry about. So he sets about getting back to a normal life, he lands himself a job at a local diner. An older lady, Emma Spool (Claudia Bryar) is one of the few people around who believes Norman is cured and should be forgiven, in fact it was Emma who landed Norman the job at the diner. After work, Norman meets waitress Mary Samuels (Meg Tilly) who is having boyfriend troubles. Mary has been thrown out of her boyfriend’s place and has no where to stay. So Norman offers up a room back at his motel, FOC… free of charge. Back at the motel, Norman learns that his new manager, Warren has been renting out rooms to drug users and prostitutes. An angered Norman sacks Warren and sets about getting Bates Motel back up to scratch by running it himself. A young and pretty female staying, Norman running the motel? History is beginning to repeat itself.

Soon after, Norman begins to receive phone calls and notes from mother, just as things were going so well for him too. After being sacked, an upset Warren Toomey picks a fight with Norman and he (Norman) suspects that it is Warren who has been making the calls and leaving the notes in order to try to drive Norman back to his old ways. However, as Warren is packing to leave the motel for good, he his stabbed and killed by a mysterious figure in a dress. It seems that mother is back. Sympathising with Norman, Mary decides to stay at the house in a guest room permanently and help Norman get the motel back into shape. As Norman starts renovating his motel, he begins to hear voices coming from the house and even sees mother standing in the window of her room. He goes up to the house to investigate, enters mother’s room and finds it untouched from twenty-two years ago, nothing out of place as if it’s still being used by her. Norman hears another noise that lures him up to the attic, and he is locked in. Meanwhile, downstairs, two teenagers break into Norman’s house and go into the fruit cellar to do what teenagers do… smoke dope and knock boots. Realising someone is in the house, the teenagers try to escape, only the boy is stabbed to death. The girl gets away and tells the police. Mary comes home to find Norman locked in the attic and lets him out, they go back to mother’s room to find it in a state of disuse, not like it was before. Norman begins to think he’s going insane. The sheriff arrives and questions both Norman and Mary about the killing of the boy, Mary says they were both out at the time for a walk. Norman begins to worry that it was him who killed the boy, that mother is starting to take over again. But Mary reminds him that he was locked in the attic, so he couldn’t have killed the boy. Someone did.

Psycho II Norman Phone

Mary calms Norman down and insists he is innocent, she then goes down to the motel to try to find a bottle of booze to make an Irish coffee. Waiting in the parlor of the motel is Lila Loomis and it turns out that Mary is her daughter. It was Lila and Mary who had been making the phone calls, leaving the notes and messing around with mother’s room, dressing as mother, etc. Between them they were trying to convince Norman he was going crazy again and force him to kill, in an attempt to get him re-committed to the mental institution. An act of vengeance on Lila’s part for the death of her sister. However, Mary has genuinely become friends with Norman and honestly believes he couldn’t have killed anyone, she thinks there is someone else involved, someone else who killed the the boy. Dr. Bill Raymond learns that Mary is Lila Lommis’ daughter and tells Norman all about it and their plan to try to drive him insane. Norman only half believes it and is convinced that someone else is involved. If Lila and Mary were only trying to goad Norman into killing but he never did… then who is the real killer? Norman suggests that it could be his ‘real mother’, whatever that means. Mary tells Norman that she wants nothing to do with the whole ruse anymore, that she wants to help Norman and not harm him. Lila however is a different story, she still wants Norman re-committed.

Lila Loomis is in the fruit cellar and she tries to retrieve her hidden mother costume that she has been using to fool Norman. But a mysterious figure steps out of the shadows and kills Lila, so she couldn’t have been the killer either. The police dredge the swamp at the back of the motel and find Warren Toomey’s car and his body inside it. Just how Norman hid the bodies in the first film. Mary tells Norman he should run away otherwise he’d be arrested and taken back to the mental institution. Just then, the phone rings and Norman answers it, it’s mother. Norman begins to talk to his mother, so Mary listens in on another phone and there is no other voice, but Norman keeps talking to mother regardless. Norman begins to debate with mother about killing Mary, so Mary runs off to the fruit cellar to get the mother disguise, complete with a large kitchen knife, to convince Norman that mother can’t be on the phone if she is standing in front of him. Dr. Raymond turns up and grabs Mary dressed as mother, believing she is the killer and trying to send Norman insane again. Mary and Dr. Raymond struggle and the good doctor is killed by Mary when she accidentally plunges the knife into his chest. In Norman’s unstable state, he sees Mary/mother standing over the dead body of Dr. Raymond and believes that she is back. Norman finally snaps and tries to kill Mary/mother to stop her once and for all. Mary runs away to the fruit cellar and finds the body of Lila. Now Mary thinks that it was Norman who killed Lila, so she raises the knife in self-defense. The police turn up, see Mary seemingly trying to kill Norman and assume she is the killer. Mary is shot dead by the police. So everything is wrapped up… except for the fact that neither Norman or Mary were the real killer of course.

Psycho II End

Later, the old lady from the diner, Emma Spool turns up at Norman’s home and Norman had been expecting ‘someone’ too. She tells Norman that she is his real mother, that Norma Bates was her sister. Emma says how she gave Norman to Norma as an infant because she had been institutionalised. It was Emma Spool who was the killer, she was upset that people were picking on and trying to harm her son. So in response, Norman smashes her over the head with a shovel and kills her. Norman then carries the body upstairs to mother’s room and begins talking to her and her to him, as she barks at Norman to open the motel. The whole cycle starts anew and mother has taken over Norman once more.

Psycho II End Shot

You know, for a sequel to an all time classic and released over two decades since the original, this really isn’t too bad. In fact, it has some truly great moments. The whole plot of trying to fool Norman that mother is back is really well done. The tricks both Lila and Mary play on him are cruel, but they work. There are some great throwbacks to the first film (the opening is fantastic). But the ending, the last fifteen minutes or so are a bit, well crap. The whole retconning of Norman’s back story to make this random old lady who is only in the film for thirty seconds his real mother really annoyed me and seemed pretty desperate. It’s also lazy rehash of the first film but in reverse. In Psycho, it’s Norman Bates who is the killer, while the audience are led to believe it’s an old lady. In Psycho II, it’s an old lady who is the killer, while the audience are led to believe it’s Norman Bates. A really good main plot, but just falls flat in the end. But from a directing point of view, this is a very competent film. With Hitchcock dying in 1980, that means he had nothing to do with this one. Still director, Richard Franklin does a damn good job and still maintains a lot of Hitch’s quirks. This feels like a Psycho sequel and not just a cheap cash-in (last few minutes aside). Plus the fact that both Vera Miles as Lila Loomis and Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates returned adds a level of genuineness. Oh yeah, despite his death, Hitchcock still has a cameo in the film too.

Psycho III

Psycho III Poster

So in 1986, the next film in the franchise was released. Yes Anthony Perkins is back as Norman Bates, but he also takes on the role of director too. This one takes place a month after the events of Psycho II in 1982. So Norman has got the motel up and running once more, his ‘real’ mother, Emma Spool from Psycho II has now taken the place of his adopted mother, Norma, from the original Psycho… that role being a corpse. Oh and Norman is bat-shit crazy again, talking to his dead mother (Emma) and her talking to him… which is really him talking to himself. So with that confusing recap out of the way, on with the plot…

Maureen Coyle (Diana Scarwid), a young and mentally unstable nun attempts to kill herself by jumping from the bell tower of the convent. Instead, she accidentally knocks one of her fellow nuns to her death, and so Maureen is kicked out of the convent and renounces her nunship. Out in the hot California sun, Maureen is offered a car ride by sleazy musician, Duane Duke (Jeff Fahey), who is very protective of his guitar. After pulling over to get some rest, Duane puts the moves on Maureen and she freaks out. Duane kicks her out of the car and leaves her to her own devices. Duane pulls into the Bates Motel and meets Norman. Only instead of staying as a guest, Duane is offered the job as Norman’s assistant to help run the motel. Meanwhile journalist, Tracy Venable (Roberta Maxwell) is writing an article on newly released serial killers. Tracy believes that Norman is killing again (he is) and wants to talk to him about his life and supposed rehabilitation. Tracy interviews Norman in the diner (from Psycho II), but he becomes distracted when Maureen walks in. She is young, blonde and pretty… very much like Marion Crane… oh and Maureen is also carrying a suitcase with her initials… MC. Norman has a flashback to him/mother murdering Marion in the shower. Maureen is looking for somewhere to stay and of course, the Bates Motel has vacancies.

Psycho III Maureen Duane

So Maureen ends up checking into the Bates Motel and crosses paths with sleazy Duane once more. Mother is angered that another young woman is staying in the hotel and goes off to kill her in the shower, just as with Marion Crane twenty-two years previously. Only Maureen has saved mother the job by slitting her own wrists. Norman is shocked out of the mother persona and attempts to save the dying girl, while the delirious Maureen mistakes the knife wielding mother as the Virgin Mary holding a crucifix. So Norman rushes Maureen to the hospital and says she can stay the the motel as long as she needs… FOC of course. The night and Duane picks up Red, a woman in a bar. The two head back to Bates Motel for a bit of the old mattress mambo. When Red says she wants more than just a one night stand, Duane kicks her out of his motel room. Leaving Red to make her own way home, she tries to call for a cab at a near by phone box… only for mother to stab her to death.

The next morning and a group of football fans, who are in town to watch the big game, check into Bates Motel. While elsewhere, Tracy still looking for information on Norman for her article and gains access into Emma Spool’s apartment, who by now in the timeline has been missing for several weeks. Digging around, Tracy finds a magazine with the phone number for Bates Motel written on it over and over and over again. So Tracy works out there must be a connection between the missing Emma Spool and the motel. Back the the motel, the football fans are getting a little rowdy from partying. But one guest, Patsy Boyle, the only sober one of the lot, is murdered by mother while trying to find a toilet to use. Norman soon discovers the body and hides it in the motel’s ice machine outside of the office. 

Psycho III Norman Sheriff

The next morning and the sheriff turns up to ask Norman about the missing girl, Patsy, from last night… while trying to cool down with some ice from the ice machine that hides her body. Tracy tells Maureen all about Norman’s disturbing past. A very scared Maureen decides to not stay at the motel, but instead stay with Father Brian who looked over her at the hospital. At the house, Norman learns that his mother’s body is missing. He finds a note from Duane saying that she is in cabin twelve, so Norman heads out to get his mother back. Duane tries to blackmail Norman into giving him money, otherwise he’ll go to the police and tell them all about the whole dead mother thing. Norman and Duane get into a fight, which Norman wins by beating Duane unconscious with his own guitar. Norman puts both the bodies of Pasty and the unconscious Duane into Duane’s car and uses his tried and tested method of disposing of them in the swamp. However, Duane regains consciousness and attacks Norman while he’s driving. The car ends up in the swamp as Norman escapes, but Duane is not so lucky and drowns. Tracy talks to the owner of the diner and learns that Emma Spool used to work there for the previous owner. So Tracy tracks the now very elderly ex-owner down to an assisted living facility and learns that Emma was institutionalised for murder.

Maureen manages to convince herself that Norman is no harm to her and hurries back to the motel to declare her love for him. As the two share a tender moment together at the top of the stairs, Norman hears mother shout at him about having a girl in the house. This startles Norman who, accidentally, knocks Maureen off balance and she falls down the stairs, killing her. An enraged Norman says he will get mother for this. This is when Tracy enters the house and finds Maureen dead and sees Norman dressed as mother holding a large knife. She tries to reason with Norman and explains what she has learned about Emma Spool. It turns out that Emma actually his aunt and in love with his father, but he decided to marry her sister, Norma instead. As an act of revenge and when Norman was just a baby, Emma kidnapped him and killed his father. After being caught, Norman was returned to his real mother, Norma while Emma was institutionalised for killing Norman’s father. Normans seems to listen and break free form the mother persona. Tracy finds Emma Spool’s corpse in mother’s bedroom and as Norman takes of the mother dress, he hears her order him to kill Tracy. Norman raises the knife, but instead of attacking Tracy, he stabs and cuts up Emma Spools body instead. Norman is most definitely insane and the sheriff turns up to arrest Norman. After the sheriff tells Norman they will lock him up forever, he replies, “But I’ll be free…I’ll finally be free.”, as Norman is taken away.

Psycho III end

This one is very typical eighties slasher movie territory. It lacks the suspense and taughtness of the previous two flicks and favors simple jump scares and blood instead. Of course Anthony Perkins is still great as Norman Bates, a character he was seemingly born to play. His role as director is pretty decent too and he throws in quite a few nods and references to the other films, but his direction lacks the subtly of the previous two flicks. The story is just a bit bland and uninspired, well it is the third flick. There are no real surprises, we know from the off that Norman is crazy again, we know mother is controlling him once more, so there’s no real mystery as to who is doing the killing. Yet when the murders do happen, they are disguised as if to try and hide who’s behind them, the face is hidden in shadows or you only see the hand holding the knife… but we already now it’s Norman. It’s all a bit pointless really. The retconning of Emma Spool being Norman’s real mother is reconnected itself to make Norma his real mother again. This makes a lot more sense to Norman’s backstory, but it seems awfully convoluted. Emma Spool should never have been made Norman’s mother to begin with to be honest. Overall, Psycho III is a decent horror flick, it’s just that aside from having Norman Bates in it… it’s not very Psycho. It lacks surprises, it lacks punch, it lacks suspense.

Bates Motel

Bates Motel 1987 Poster

So this one is a bit of a curiosity. It’s an official spin-off from the main franchise and released in 1987. Oh yeah, it’s also the only film from the original franchise where Anthony Perkins doesn’t play Norman Bates. Plus this was a made for TV movie with the idea for it to kick-start a Bates Motel TV show… that never happened. The film is set after the events of Psycho and tells an alternate history, not connected to the films. It focuses on Alex West (Bud Cort), who is admitted to an asylum after he killed his abusive stepfather. While in the asylum, Alex befriends Norman Bates (Kurt Paul). Years later and Norman dies, Alex learns that Norman has left him the Bates Motel and house in his will. When released from the asylum, Alex sets about re-opening the motel.

Long and very boring story short. Some bank manger tries to stop Alex from re-opening the motel by scaring him in a very poor Scooby Doo kind of way. Alex gets some help renovating the motel. There’s something about a suicidal divorcee, a portal to an alternate dimension (seriously) and some other terrible plot points I really couldn’t care about. The film ends with Alex setting up for the motel to receive more guests and the start of a TV show that never begun.

Seriously, this is utter shit. First, you don’t recast Norman Bates… never mind kill him off in a Psycho film. Second, you don’t force in supernatural elements in a Psycho film either. There’s some bullshit about an alternate dimension and lost souls of teenagers being trapped, etc. The acting is atrocious, way beyond terrible. The directing is a mess and the story is nonsensical that plays up for inane laughs. Just don’t waste your time on this one, not even for curiosity sake. But it can be found on YouTube… if you dare… to be bored and angered. Norman Bates himself only has literal seconds of screen time too.

Psycho IV: The Beginning

Psycho IV Poster

Released in 1990, this sequel/prequel is another made for TV movie that brings back Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates as well as writer of the original Psycho, Joseph Stefano. On the surface, this flick has a lot going for it. Flat out ignoring the terrible, previous Bates Motel monstrosity and bringing back the original’s writer too. Anyway, a radio show is having a talk on matricide, hosted by Fran Ambrose (CCH Pounder) and accompanied by Dr. Leo Richmond (Warren Frost). They receive a call from someone called Ed… Ed is actually a rehabilitated Norman Bates using a fake name (Ed Gein?). Ed begins to tell his story of matricide, how he killed his own mother. The film jumps around the timeline telling Norman’s past from the 1940s and 50s through flashbacks as Norman discusses his life over the phone.

So, when Norman was six years old, his father died leaving him alone with his mother, Norma (Olivia Hussey). Norma’s mental health begins to decline as she seemingly suffers from schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder. She starts to dominate and punish Norman for any and everything, no matter how trivial. She teases and torments Norman, then punishes him when he reacts. The two are happy living together alone in relative isolation. Then in 1949, Norma get’s herself a lover, Chet Rudolph (Thomas Schuster). Chet is an oafish brute who bullies and terrorises Norman (Henry Thomas), while Norma does nothing about it. Business at the motel begins to suffer due to a new interstate being built near by.

Chet continues his bullying of Norman until he can take no more. Driven by anger and jealousy that Chet had now become his mother’s main focus of affection. Norman kills both of them by lacing some ice-tea with poison. After the funerals, Norman steals Norma’s corpse and preserves it via taxidermy. Over time, Norman begins to develop a split personality and becomes mother in an attempt to suppress his guilt of murdering his own mom. Norman begins to dress in his mother’s clothes and talk to himself in her voice. Mother takes over and Norman kills two young women who try to seduce Norman. The two girls Norman is guilty of killing off screen, in the events of the first flick.

Psycho IV Young Norman

Back in the present day at the radio station and Dr. Richmond works out that this ‘Ed’ guy is actually Norman Bates. Norman begins to worry that he could kill again. He married a psychiatrist named Connie (Donna Mitchell) and Norman reveals that Connie is pregnant with his child. Norman says that he never wanted a baby out of fear that it will be born like him, insane. He tells radio host Fran that he fears mother could repossess him, killing Connie and the baby. The chase is on to try and track Norman down to stop him from killing his wife and unborn child. 

When Connie returns home from work, Norman takes her to the old Bates Motel and house. He does try to kill her with a knife, but Connie does her best to try and convince Norman that he chose to go insane, that mother does not control him and that their child will not be born like him, that there is always a choice. As Norman realises the truth, they he can chose not to be mother, he drops the knife. He then sets the house on fire to destroy it once and for all. Just barely escaping, Norman says that his is now free. Then there’s a pretty pointless stinger ending with a fade to black and a baby crying.

Psycho IV Norman

This flick really is a mixed bag. First things first, writer, Joseph Stefano has gone on record as saying that this film is a direct sequel to the original Psycho. A film that ignores every other sequel. There is no mention of the whole Emma Spool stuff from Psycho II and III. So none of the previous events happened in relation to this film. Looking at this film with that in mind, this is an interesting picture. I really liked the idea of a prequel looking at the younger Norman Bates and seeing exactly what happened between him and his mother. Henry Thomas does a decent job as the younger Norman Bates too. I honestly think that if this had just been a prequel, it could’ve really worked. It’s the whole framing and story with the radio show and older Norman that just does not work for me, which is a shame as again, Anthony Perkins is fantastic. I guess this is worth a look, just don’t expect anything amazing. Plus, there’s a couple of fun cameos to spot. First one is famed director John Landis and the second is Kurt Paul. Now, who is Kurt Paul you ask? Well he was Anthony Perkins’ stunt double in Psycho II and III… oh and he played Norman Bates in that atrocity that was Bates Motel.

Psycho (1998)

Psycho 1998 Poster

I guess it had to happen didn’t it? Yes Psycho was remade. Directed by Gus Van Sant, maybe remake is not really the correct term to use. This is a shot for shot re-enactment of the original Psycho film. Given this, it’s not really worth me going into the plot, because it’s the exact same plot just moved into a more contemporary setting. The characters are the same, the dialogue is the same (save a few modernisations), everything is the same, except more modern. Instead of stealing $40,000 in the original, Marion steals $400,000 in this version, etc. This is less a remake and more an experiment in recreating a classic movie. This film was slated when it was released and is still very much hated among Psycho fans. I’m a Psycho fan, so what do I think?

I just don’t have the hatred toward this film like others do. Is it as good as the original? Of course not, it’s not even close. Nothing will ever be as great as the original Psycho. But as a film in of itself, it’s a good horror/thriller. There are no surprises here if you already know the original as the plots are identical. But I fail to see how that is a problem when the plot is so damn good. Sure, Gus Van Sant is no Alfred Hitchcock, but his experiment is still a fun one and you can’t help but wonder what Hitch might have done differently if he had a bigger budget and fewer restraints for his version. The acting is decent and Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates is believable. Anne Heche’s take on Marion Crane works. Julianne Moore as Lila Crane comes across as a little more ballsy in this version and a lot less 1960s clueless female. Virgo Mortensen as Sam Loomis is enjoyable and William H. Macy as Milton Arbogast is actually bloody great. That’s about it really, there’s little more to say. Yes of course I much prefer Hitch’s version and that will always be my choice between the two films. But I really don’t mind this remake at all. It’s kind of nice to watch just to see how close it is as a re-enactment and just where things have been altered too. 

And so, with all the films covered, next the books…

Psycho

PSycho Book 2

Written by Robert Bloch and released in 1959. Just as with the film remake, I don’t need to dwell on the plot as they’re the same between book and film. There are a few minor changes. The book kicks off with an introduction to Norman and his mother right from page one. Marion is Mary in the novel and she’s also not in it for much either. The book is more violent. As an example, Marion in the film is just stabbed in the shower, in the book, Mary is beheaded. Norman isn’t the good-looking, young man he is in the film. Here he’s middle aged, over weight, sexually perverted and drinks a lot. Arbogast’s death is different. Then there are some minor differences with the structure of the story. But all told, the novel and movie are virtually identical otherwise.

I just got through re-reading Psycho last week and I still enjoy it very much. It’s a short book and you could get through it in one sitting easily enough. Bloch’s wording seems a bit outdated in 2020 (it is sixty-one years old), but Psycho is still a fantastic read. If you know the film, then there are no surprises here as the plots of both are the same. Still, a very worth while read though.

Psycho II

Psycho II Book

Okay, so this one needs a little explanation before I get into the plot… and I need to get into the plot. So when Hollywood came up with the idea to make a sequel to the movie, Robert Bloch offered his services as the writer. He pitched his idea… which was quickly dismissed. Instead, the studio wanted to make their own picture. And 1983’s Psycho II is what we got. A film I really quite enjoyed. But after being shunned by Hollywood, Bloch became annoyed, so he decided to expand on his pitch for a movie and write a sequel to his novel instead, which he finished and published before the film was released. Yup, this book, Psycho II is very different to the film Psycho II… very different…

So the story picks up twenty years after the events of the first book. Norman has been locked away in a mental asylum and been treated by his psychiatrist, Dr Adam Claiborne. Two nuns stop by for a visit and to talk to some of the patients. One of the nuns chats to Norman, under the chaperone of Dr Claiborne. However, the doctor is requested on the phone and leaves Norman and the nun alone. Of course Norman does what he does best, he murders the nun by strangling her with her own rosary beads. Now disguised as the nun, Norman makes his escape along with the other nun in their van. Shorty after, Norman murders the other nun with a tire iron and leaves her body in the back of the van… after raping the corpse. Along the way, Norman picks up a hitchhiker, kills him and sets fire the the van in an attempt to throw the police off his trail. The police eventually find the burnt out van and work out that the body in the back is of the other nun while the charred remains in the front must belong to Norman. So as far as the police know, Norman is dead. But Dr Claiborne isn’t so sure, he thinks Norman is still out there.

Due to a serious accident involving a bus and several dead civilians, there would be a delay on autopsy of the body in the to confirm who he is. Meanwhile, Norman has tracked down Sam and Lilia Loomis and killed them both. He also finds a newspaper reporting on a story that Hollywood are planning on making a movie based on the events told in the first book… yes this is getting a bit meta. The Hollywood movie is going to be called Crazy Lady and is set to begin filming soon. So that’s where Norman heads next, to Hollywood to stop the production of the film in his own special way. The producer of the film contacts Dr Claiborne about background info on the whole Norman Bates case to help with the film. Dr Claiborne heads to Hollywood himself under the guise of a technical consultant when really, he wants to try to stop Norman, who the police think is dead and not in Hollywood trying to kill anyone. 

Now in Hollywood, Dr Claiborne is introduced to the cast and crew, including the director, Vizzini who Dr Claiborne thinks looks just like Norman Bates. So Dr Claiborne tries to warn anyone who will listen that he thinks Norman in in Hollywood and is trying to kill the people making the movie, Crazy Lady. No one really believes him… until the producer of the flick is found decapitated. Yes, it seems that Norman Bates has been busy. Now things are getting serious, plus Dr Claiborne learns of Vizzini’s disturbing past, that as a boy, he witnessed his mother being raped and killed. It seems that the director of the film has more in common with Norman Bates than just looking like him, and Dr Claiborne seriously begins to question the director’s sanity. Turns out the good doctor is right too as Vizzini arranges to meet with he actress playing the Mary Crane role at the movie studio to ‘rehearse’ the shower scene. Two crazies running around the set of the movie is bad news.

So at the movie studio Vizzini and his lead actress are all alone, and he tries to rape and murder her. She fights back and at the same time, Dr Claiborne is told about the meeting between Vizzini and the actress. Seriously worried the director is insane, Dr Claiborne rushes to the studio while keeping an eye out for Norman Bates. Except Norman Bates is dead. Yes, that charred body in the van was actually Norman Bates all along. The hitchhiker Norman picked up was found and questioned by the police. He killed Norman in self-defense when Norman tried to kill him. The Hitchhiker then set fire to the van to hide any evidence. So If Norman Bates is dead, that that must mean that it was the director of the film, Vizzini who was the real killer. Gone insane after the boyhood trauma of seeing his mother raped and killed and was trying to drum up some free publicity for his Crazy Lady flick.

Dr Claiborne makes it to the studio just in time. The actress manages to kick Vizzini away as he tries to rape her on the set of the shower scene. Vizzini stumbles backward into the shower curtain, where he lets out a scream and re-emerges with a stab wound in the back and drops dead on the floor. The real killer tries to kill the Mary Crane actress, only for the police to show up and shoot them. The killer falls to the floor and he is revealed to be Dr Claiborne. Surviving the shooting, Dr Claiborne is committed to the same asylum that Norman Bates was. Yes, the real killer had been Norman’s very own doctor all along. Norman died in the van early on and Dr Claiborne just kind of snapped when he realised Norman was dead. After being his psychiatrist for twenty years, some of Norman had rubbed off onto Dr Claiborne. 

Psycho II Book 2

So there you have it, the alternate Psycho II, very, very different to the film version. You can see perhaps why the movie studio initially turned down Robert Bloch’s sequel idea, because it really was a bit petty and a dig at horror films and Hollywood in general. When you read Psycho II, you can definitely see a certain level of resentment from Bloch. But is the book any good? Yes and no. The twist is a good one and one not really spoiled early on. Killing of Norman in the opening chapters is certainly ballsy and Bloch does a good job of keeping the subterfuge up. But, there are issues. At times, it feels over-written and overtly meandering. Psycho II is just not as well paced and snappy as the first novel. Plus, while Norman was a bit of a creep in the first book… raping a dead nun in this? I just seems very off to me, as if Bloch was trying to shock for the sake of trying to shock. It never felt organic really. As mentioned, you can feel a sense of petty resentment toward Hollywood and film-making too. It feels like Bloch never really got over having his idea turned down for a sequel movie. There’s quite a few completely unnecessary chapters that could’ve easily been cut to help with the pacing. There’s one chapter that has the lead actor of the film within the book going to a gay bar to research the fact the Norman Bates dressed as his mother. But Norman dressing as his mother had nothing to do with being gay. It was a pointless chapter that added nothing to the plot, plus the gay bar featured big Hollywood actor look-a-likes… why? I think with a bit of editing and a not so bitter attitude toward Hollywood and this could’ve been amazing. But as it is, it’s a decent enough read, a little long winded and thin on actual plot. Nowhere near as great as the first book, but still worth a read with a good ending.

For a while, I thought that was all the Psycho books, but there were a couple more.

Psycho House

Psycho House

Robert Bloch is back with his third book in the Psycho franchise, released in 1990. Again, a new story not connected to the films, but serves as a sequel to Bloch’s Psycho II.  Set ten years after the events of the Psycho II novel. The plot revolves around how the Bates Motel has been turned into a tourist attraction, based on the infamy of it’s history and Norman Bates’ story. Amy Haines, a plucky writer looking to pen a novel based on the Bates Motel turns up to get some background information and a little inspiration for her book. A teenage girl is found stabbed to death at the infamous house and Amy decides to investigate who is behind the murder. The town is full of suspects and whenever Amy questions someone, they turn up dead soon after. Someone is out there trying to keep the mythology of Norman Bates alive… but who?

Robert Bloch’s Psycho: Sanitarium

Psycho Sanitarium

Despite his name in the title, Robert Bloch did not write this one… on account that he died in 1994 and this novel was released as recently as 2017. In the writer’s chair for this one is Chet Williamson. So this book is both a sequel to the original Psycho and a prequel to Psycho II. Telling to story of Norman Bates’ incarceration in the mental asylum. Norman Bates is gone, taken over by the murderous mother persona following the events of the first novel. Dr. Felix Reed works closely with Norman to try and bring him out from under the shadow of mother. It is rumored that the asylum itself is haunted and when a series of murders begin to happen, the place is not short of suspects, including Norman himself who still has a few dark secrets yet to be revealed.

Now to be honest, I’ve not actually read either of these books, not yet anyway. Which is why I’ve not offered my opinion on them. But I’ve done some snooping around and the general consensus is that Psycho House wasn’t very good at all. A far cry from Bloch’s previous Psycho books, that comes off as a pretty lazy ‘whodunit?’ kind of thing. But Psycho: Sanitarium is said to be great. Despite not being written by original author, Robert Bloch, the novel does maintain the style set up in the first book and even goes on to elaborate and even extend on certain plot points set up in Psycho. All told, it seems like Chet Williamson has put together a worthy sequel to the original book after so many years.

So now the movies and books are out of the way, that just leaves TV…

Bates Motel 

Bates Motel Show

Interestingly enough, and before I really get into this show. The other Bates Motel, the TV movie from 1987 was meant to kick-start a TV show called Bates Motel. Only due to the poor and very much deserved low reception of that TV movie, the show itself was cancelled before it got started. Then just a short twenty-six years later and Bates Motel the TV show finally existed… only this show was nothing to do with the TV movie of the same name. So this show is a prequel of sorts telling the story of young Norman Bates and his mother. Only it’s not a prequel to the films or the books. It’s a kind of an all new re-telling of the history in a more contemporaneity setting. I’m not going to go over each and every episode as that would take way too long, so just a quick summary of each season instead I think.

Season One: After the death of Norma Bates’ (Vera Farmiga) husband, she buys a motel and sets about beginning a new life with her son, Norman (Freddie Highmore). When the former owner of the motel breaks into the house and attacks Norma, she fights back and stabs him to death. With the help of Norman, Norma hides the body and covers up the killing. The town sheriff, Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) begins to sniff around after the missing person, Norma and Norman do their best to keep their secret.

Season Two: Norman’s teacher is murdered and suspicions begin to build around the Bates family. Norman’s estranged brother, Dylan (Max Thieriot)  starts asking questions about their family history. While Norma begins to worry about Norman’s state of mind.

Season Three: Norman’s mental health begins to get worse and worse, yet he denies that anything is wrong. Norma increasingly becomes worried about what is happening to her son and grows increasingly more concerned about just what he may be capable of. While Alex Romero’s suspicions on the Bates’ continues.

Season Four: Norma fights to find some professional help for Norman’s state of mind. Norman’s grip on reality begins to slide more and more. Unable to pay for expensive treatment, Norma agrees to marry Alex Romero for financial support to help her son. An enraged Norman learns about the wedding and attempts a murder/suicide of his mother and himself. Norma dies, but Norman survives.

Season Five: Norma has been dead for two years and Norman is alone to run the motel. Out in public, and Norman seems to be coping well, but it’s when he’s behind closed doors when he loses his grip on reality. He begins talking to his dead mother and her to him. A beautiful young woman called Marion Crane books in for a stay at Bates Motel… but just how will Norman Bates react?

Bates Motel Show Marion

So I did start watching this show and made it to about halfway through season three… then I just got bored. Now, I’m not saying it’s not a good show, the problem is me. I just can’t get into these long winded American TV shows. I just found this whole thing crammed with filler and fluff to pad everything out. Yes I know the history of Norman Bates and his mother isn’t really a deep one… and that’s the issue I had with this show. Five seasons, each season with ten episodes at around fifty minutes each. It was just too much. If this had been a three seasons, six to eight episodes each, then I probably would have held my interest more. There’s the main story of Norman losing his grip on reality and his relationship with his mother… that was great. Both Freddie Highmore as Norman and Vera Farmiga as Norma being utterly fantastic. But then there’s all this guff going on with Norman’s brother, drug dealing, love triangles, etc. I just didn’t care about to be honest. From what I watched, I really did enjoy this show, but I soon got bored and just didn’t bother with season four and five. And as far as I understand, season five is where the plot catches up with the whole main plot of the first film. But just to be clear, this isn’t a prequel to the film series or the books. It’s a re-telling of the whole Norman/Norma history and when the show does get to the meat of Marion Crane turning up at the motel, it does things very, very differently. If your a Psycho fan, then this is well worth checking out. 

Okay, so there is one final thing to take a quick look at… a Psycho video game. Yes, a video game…

Psycho

Psycho Game Cover

Oh yeah, there was a Psycho game. Developed by Starsoft Development Laboratories, published by Box Office, Inc. and released in 1988. Psycho saw a multi-platform release on the home computers including the C64, Amiga and Atari ST.

The game was an action/adventure type thing that uses a verb interface, telling a new story ‘inspired’ by the film series. You play as a detective hired to find a missing curator of a museum. I’ll let the back of the box cover the plot…

Precious jewels and an unwitting curator have been hoisted from the Metropolitan Showcase of Art. Tracing the crime to the menacing Bates Motel, you are the only detective willing to take the case…

Travel to the Bates Motel to unravel this strange mystery. Enter both the Motel and the forbidden house on the hill to search for clues. Keep your eyes alert and your back to the wall as you encounter the psychotic Norman Bates and his curiously silent mother. Prove yourself worthy of the title, Master Detective, as you plot your escape with the stolen jewels, captive curator… and your skin intact!

Just a couple of things I want to quickly cover with that description. You never go to the motel at all, the whole game takes place in the Bates’ home. Plus Norman/mother don’t make much of an appearance either, only twice in fact. Your biggest enemies in the game are not the main character(s) but dogs and ghosts.

Psycho Game Mother

It’s one of those search everything kind of things with a few little puzzles thrown in to annoy you. Kind of like one of those classic Lucasarts adventure games… only not as polished or as well written and designed. The Amiga and Atari ST versions both feature some fairly nice (for the time) digitised images taken from the first film and the presentation is pretty good. But the game itself is a slow, cumbersome mess. Even so, if you know what you are doing, the game can be finished in five minutes or so. I mean, here’s a complete walk-through for the game from start to finish…

Look in mailbox to find and read a letter.  Open the door of the house go inside. Find a vase, dig and search it to find and take a key. Go through the middle door of the foyer to the kitchen and open the dumbwaiter. Use the dumbwaiter to go up, take the gun and ammo you’ll find. Go down in the dumbwaiter to the second floor and open the bathroom door to the right and take the caffeine pills. Down in the dumbwaiter again to the gardener’s room and search the pile of coal for a key. Open the door on the left to find the missing curator. Back to the dumbwaiter and up to the second floor again. This time, go into the master bedroom on the far left. Open and search the closet for some medicine. Back down in the dumbwaiter and use the medicine on the curator, hell give you a combination. To dumbwaiter again and go back to the bathroom on the second floor. Shoot ‘mother’ with the gun. Go upstairs to third floor, then through the door on the left and open the attic. Shoot ‘mother’ again. Open the safe with the combination you got from the curator, take the jewels and leave out the front door you came in by. Done.

Psycho Game Screen

There you go, the entire game covered in a single paragraph. Psycho wasn’t very well reviewed when it was released. Nor should it have been, it’s horrible.


And so, that’s everything Psycho related. From the original novel in 1959, through the movies, other books, a TV show and even a little known video game. Psycho has been a pretty long and successful franchise. A franchise that has spanned from 1959 – 2017, fifty-eight years of Norman Bates and his mother.

I hope there’s still more Psycho to come too. Personally, I’d love to see another remake more in line with the novel. I didn’t hate the 1998 remake as many others did, but I will always say that doing a shot for shot re-enactment, with a modern day twist was very much redundant. So I would very much like to see someone else interpret Robert Bloch’s novel their own way and make a new version of the story. I’m looking forward to reading the other two books that I’ve missed up to now, as bad or as great as they may be. I just love me some Psycho.

Psycho Fanart

Okay, so one final Psycho thing to go over for it’s sixtieth birthday. I explore and try to explain why the teaser trailer Alfred Hitchcock created for the film is the greatest movie trailer ever made.

Creepshow: The Whole Bloody And Macabre Saga Part II

So I’m at the final hurdle of this Creepshow/Halloween special retrospective. It’s been a pretty uneven journey so far. A cracking and iconic first film, followed by a disappointing but still entertaining sequel… the less said about that atrocious third film the better. But at this juncture, I think it’s fair to say that Creepshow has lost it’s way and was dying as a franchise. I was pretty sure that Creepshow 3 would be the nail in the coffin of the anthology storytelling that was Creepshow and it kind of was for a good while too. But before I do get into the new TV show, there is a little Creepshow curio I want to quickly cover.

Creepshow Raw

Creepshow Raw

So this is a bit of an oddity and little known/forgotten about. Creepshow Raw was meant to breathe new life into the ailing franchise. Designed to be a rebirth and broadcast on the interwebs as an online web series. The idea never really took off and only one episode was ever produced, which you can find easily enough with a Google search.

Insomnia

Released in 2009, this little slice of Creepshow told the story of young boy Phillip (Sam Elliot Hafermalz) who suffers from insomnia. His drunken and abusive step father, Barry (Michael Madsen) shows little sympathy toward the youngster’s condition. That night and Barry soon learns just why Philip can’t sleep at night.

Overall

You know what? This was actually not too bad. I mean, it’s not classic Creepshow but a lot better then anything in Creepshow 3. The episode only runs for around eight minutes and was originally shown on the website IGN. This short goes back to roots with the comic book presentation and filters. This is what a Creepshow reboot should’ve been, but nothing ever came of it. With a bit more work and polish, this really could’ve worked. There were a total of ten episodes planned, but only this one was ever made and shown. From what I’ve managed to dig up, the production team behind Creepshow Raw just lost interest and decided not to make any more episodes. It’s a shame because this really was a step in the right direction, a bit rough I admit but it was heading in the right direction, as you can see for yourselves…

 

 

So that was it for anything Creepshow related until just a few weeks ago when the all new Creepshow TV series kicked off. I honestly had no idea it existed until I did a random search on the interwebs for Creepshow. I can’t even remember why I did it at the time, but the search bought up the trailer for the TV series and I found out that the first episode was airing just a few hours later. This really was a shock to me as I thought the franchise was dead. So I watched the trailer and thought it looked pretty decent, certainly the best looking thing with the Creepshow name since the original film thirty seven years ago.

 

So here we are, finally. An almost forty year journey from 1982 to 2019, the entire history of Creepshow ends here, or hopefully begins a new chapter. We’ll have to wait and see just how well this new TV series does.

Now, up to this point, I’ve followed a pattern covering the films and stories. I’ve given you the general gist of the tales and then offered my overall feelings at the end. For the Creepshow TV series, I’m doing it the other way around. I’ll give you my general feelings on the show before looking at the stories. See, the films are pretty old now and (mildly) spoiling them is something I don’t really mind doing due to their age. But this show is brand new, just a few weeks old and a lot of people most probably have not yet seen it. So even though I’m not planning on doing major SPOILERS, I’m still offering a warning and will tell you what I think about the series overall before looking at each tale in case anyone out there wants to go into the show blind. So here are my general thoughts on the show without spoilers…

Overall

This show is great, let’s just get right to it here. Executive prouder and show runner, Greg Nicotero is a name any horror fan should know. He cut his teeth doing horror effects work on flicks like Day of the Dead, Evil Dead II and of course Creepshow 2. A former protégé of horror make-up maestro Tom Savini. Greg went on to have a hugely successful career in movies and TV both in special effects and even directing… and a spot of acting too. Anyway, point is that Greg Nicotero is the real deal, he knows his horror and was a massive fan of the original Creepshow flick. Outside of resurrecting the late, great George A. Romero to head up this show, Greg was the next best thing. The attention to detail in the series is perfect Creepshow. From the comic book presentation to the crazy filters and lighting, this looks and feels like classic Creepshow. The series is also full of great little nods and background details that a true fan can enjoy, for example, you remember that marble ashtray that features in all of the stories in the first film? Well it’s in the TV show too, several times. Honestly, I could write an article just on the references in this series. I had a fear before watching Creepshow (series) that it would be Creepshow 3 bad, it’s not, it’s original Creepshow great. Now, not all the stories are brilliant (more on those later) but most of them are. I don’t think there’s a ‘bad’ story in the whole series, just ones better than others. If you’re a Creepshow fan, then this is a must watch.

An so, with that out of the way, it’s now time to take a look at each episode and every story in the show. So one last warning. I’m not going to give away any of the endings, but I will be looking at each story. So stop reading now if you want to avoid even very mild SPOILERS.

Creepshow

Creepshow TV Show Poster

Showing on the online streaming service Shudder, Creepshow first aired on the 26th of September, 2019. The format is each episode is around forty-odd minutes long with two stories per episode. The run consists of only six episodes, but that does mean a total of ‘twelve terrifying tales of terror’ though the whole series. As previously mentioned, Greg Nicotero is the man man behind the TV show as producer but his effects studio, KNB EFX Group provide the make-up work too. Seeing as this is a TV show and not a movie, each episode and even each story has a different director, Greg being one of them. Also directing stories are David Bruckner, Roxanne Benjamin and even the awesome (and Creepshow original alumni) Tom Savini, among others. The Creep is back, but this is original, silent and rotting corpse Creep, not that annoying pun spouting thing from Creepshow 2. Each story is kind of introduced by The Creep, which, as he doesn’t talk, is done via little snippets of The Creep flicking though Creepshow comic books which he finds in a mysterious crate, the infamous crate from the original film. And so onto the first episode…

Episode 1: Gray Matter

The first story, Gray Matter is based on the Stephen King short of the same name. There have been a spate of missing animals (including some Stephen King references) and people recently in a small, almost dead town. A local general store run by Dixie (Adrienne Barbeau) is almost out of supplies as a bad storm rolls in. A distraught teenager enters the store claiming his father is really sick and needs help. Two patrons of the store, Chief (Tobin Bell) and Doc (Giancarlo Esposito) agree to go and check on the boy’s father while Dixie looks after the youngster in the store. Dixie slowly learns exactly what has happened to the boy’s father and the residents of the town, is it too late for Chief and Doc to be saved?

The House of the Head

The House of the Head is a yarn about a young girl, Evie (Cailey Fleming) and her doll’s house. A small family of dolls live in the house, a father, mother, child and a dog. Evie likes to play with the family and the house everyday. When she returns to play with the doll’s house, Evie finds the doll family have moved around on their own. Not only that, but they also seem to be startled by something, the family and whatever is scaring them only move when the doll house is closed and Evie is not in the room. So Evie closes the doll’s house and leaves them alone, but when she returns later, she finds a toy severed head in one of the rooms and that the family’s numbers are beginning to thin out every time Evie is not watching them.

Creepshow TV Show Episode 1

Overall

The first episode gets off to a great start. Both tales are highly entertaining and everything feels like Creepshow. The stories are very creepy with the right amount of horror and dark humour. Gray Matter certainly feels very Stephen King-ish and fits perfectly with Creepshow for obvious reasons and the return of Adrienne Barbeau to the franchise is a welcome one too. The second tale is my favourite of the episode. The haunted doll house scenario has been done before in films and books over the years, but this one feels kind of fresh. I thought it was going down an obvious path, but it eventually didn’t which was a pleasant surprise. Plus Creepshow fans may want to keep a keen eye out for some of the furniture in the doll house. My only gripe with this one is the cheap jump scare at the very end. The story ends perfectly fine with an ominous resolve that works well… but then it throws in a needless jump scare that just made me roll my eyes.

Episode 2: Bad Wolf Down

The first story is set during World War II. A small group of American soldiers find themselves behind enemy lines. When one of the Yanks kills the only son of a high ranking Nazi officer (Jeffrey Combs), he comes looking for revenge. The soldiers find themselves surrounded by Nazis and trapped inside an old and disused police station. The Nazi officer gives the soldiers the chance to surrender for a quick death or stay inside and die as slowly and painful as he can make it. As the Americans search the police station, they find the badly mutilated bodies of several Nazi soldiers and a woman locked in one of the cells who might just hold the key that could get them out alive… kind of.

The Finger

The Finger is a tale about Clark (DJ Qualls) a down and out kind of guy who finds rubbish on the streets and takes it home to find a use for it. One night, on one of his scavenging walks, he finds a strange, inhuman severed finger and takes it home. The finger begins to grow into an arm and eventually a fully formed horrific creature that Clark names Bob. Bob and Clark form a close bond, so close in fact that the little monster begins to kill anyone that upsets his ‘daddy’.

Creepshow TV Show Episode 2

Overall

So Bad Wolf Down is spin on the classic werewolf story. Have you ever seen the film Dog Soldiers? Well this story is kind of like a lite version of that. Some good effects work and a cheeky, cheap but effective way of showing the werewolf transformations. Seeing horror icon, Jeffrey Combs s always a pleasure. I loved The Finger, a fantastic little tale directed by Greg Nicotero. I really don’t want to say too much about this one as it has a really nice sting in the tail at the end. But it’s full of great little touches like breaking the forth wall and having Clark talking to the viewer as he narrates his own story. This one is perfect Creepshow fodder.

Episode 3: All Hallows Eve

It’s the night of scares and fun, Halloween and a group of teenage friends decide to go trick-or-treating. Every year they follow the exact same route through the neighbourhood and always call in on the exact same houses. Only these friends are getting a little too old for the long and fun custom usually for children and decide that this will be their last trick-or-treat tour. Everyone they call on for treats is genuinely living in fear of the teens, this is no fun game, these teens harbour a dark secret. Trick-or-treating is a very, very serious business with a dark motive.

The Man in the Suitcase

The second yarn follows Justin (Will Kindrachuk) who is at the airport waiting for his luggage to turn up. A black suitcase finally arrives at the carousel, which he believes is his… it’s not. Justin takes the case home and after some food and illegal substances, he opens the suitcase. Inside is a very neatly folded man (Ravi Naidu) and he’s alive. The man in the suitcase tells Justin that people are looking for him as he has a very rewarding secret. As Justin tries to move the man and get him out of the case, his bizarre secret is revealed.

Creepshow TV Show Episode 3.jpg

Overall

All Hallows Eve is a great tale. It’s dark, moody and very atmospheric. It’s not made clear exactly what the intention of the trick-or-treating teenagers is and they come across as very unpleasant and malevolent. But by the time the story comes to an end and all is revealed, the teens obsession and reason for trick-or-treating changes your perception. A very clever tale with a good twist. The second story is pretty decent, but for me, it’s one of the weakest of the show. There’s a bit of a mortality tale told in that distinct macabre Creepshow way. It’s tongue is very firmly planted in it’s cheek and offers some light chuckles over horror. A strange and silly story with an even stranger and sillier resolve.

Episode 4: The Companion

Teenager, Harold (Logan Allen) is picked on and beaten up by his older brother, Billy (Voltaire Council)… pretty sure it’s not THE Billy. Anyway, Harold is chased onto an abandoned farm by his bully brother and pulls out a cane that is embedded in a scarecrow in a field before hiding away in the disused farmhouse. The scarecrow comes to life and Harold soon learns where it came from and why the cane is so important. While bully boy Billy gives up the search of his little brother and goes home, the terrified youngster is hunted down by the scarecrow and becomes trapped inside the farmhouse.

Lydia Layne’s Better Half

When Tom is given a promotion to chief financial officer at work by his boss Lydia (Tricia Helfer), her secret lover, Celia (Danielle Lyn) feels she was more deserving of the job. The lovers have a argument that results is the accidental death of Celia. A distraught Lydia knows that if this death get’s out, no matter how accidental, it would mean the end of her high flying career and life. So she decides to try and cover up the Celia’s demise and get rid of the body. Taking Celia’s bloody corpse into the elevator with the plan to get it out of the building before anyone notices, there is an earthquake that results in a power cut which leaves Lydia and her dead lover trapped. She can’t call for help or her life will be ruined, but she needs to get rid of the body.

Creepshow TV Show Episode 4.jpg

Overall

The Companion is a great little tale. Very creepy, very macabre and feels like it came right out of the original film with a fitting Creepshow ending. The scarecrow itself is a wonderful and scary creature with some great, old school effects work. There’s also a great and subtle nod to the The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill story from the first film and another nod to the opening of the original film too. Cracking story. The second yarn in this episode is also a belter, but in a very different way. For the most part, it’s just two people trapped in a lift, but what is done with such a small and cramped space is really impressive as Lydia tries to work out just how she can get rid of the body before anyone notices. There’s a real sense of suspense and terror along with some pretty good scares. Very much put me in mind of The Hitch-hiker tale from Creepshow 2 as Lydia begins to lose control while a dead body could ruin her life. Overall, this was a fantastic episode, pure Creepshow.

Episode 5: Night of the Paw

After being involved in a car accident a badly injured and wanted criminal, Angela (Hannah Barefoot) finds help at a funeral home run by Whitey (Bruce Davison). Whitey patches up and helps his guest who, at first is none to pleased, but soon learns to appreciate the help. As Whitey makes his visitor feel welcome, she begins to open up about her mysterious past. It seems that maybe fate played a hand in bringing them together as Whitey reveals he owns a magic monkey’s paw that grants three wishes. The paw has been used up and is no use to Whitey anymore… but maybe Angela can find a use for it or Whitey a use for her?

 

Times is Tough in Musky Holler

A small town is overrun by the undead and when it’s none to friendly and corrupt Mayor (Dane Rhodes) makes things even worse, residents of the town take matters into their own hands. Capturing and imprisoning the Mayor along with several of his cohorts, the townsfolk turn the tables on him by giving him a taste of his own medicine. Forcing the Mayor and his entourage into taking part in a sick and twisted ‘sports event’ as revenge.

Creepshow TV Show Episode 5

Overall

I think pretty much every anthology horror franchise has had some form of the magic monkey’s paw story, even The Simpsons have done one in their Halloween specials. You know the story of a paw that can grant wishes and the user misuses them to their eventual horror. Well, Night of the Paw is Creepshow’s version and it’s pretty damn effective and original too. Bruce Davison as Whitey gives a wonderfully creepy and yet charming performance who has more than a few secrets of his own that can rival those of his criminal guest and the story does not go on the direction you may think it will at the end. The second story is a bit disappointing to be honest. Aside from some bloody, gruesome effects work at the end, there’s just not a lot going on here. It’s a bare bones tale with a paper thin revenge motif. I feel the backstory to this story (of which there are snippets shown) would’ve been much more intriguing as to just how and why the town became overrun by the undead and just how the Mayor fucked things up so badly. It just feels like a two minute ending dragged out to twenty minutes. Not a terrible tale, just not a very interesting one… with some great and bloody make up effects in the finale.

Episode 6: Skincrawlers

Dr Herbert Sloan (Chad Michael Collins) discovers a revolutionary weight loss method that doesn’t require dieting or exercise. The method can turn an obese person into a chiseled Olympian God in a matter of minutes. When overweight and donut lover, Henry Quayle (Dana Gould) turns up at Herbert’s impressive weight loss clinic and learns just how the amazing results are achieved using giant leaches that suck out the fat, he backs out of the treatment at the last minute. After crossing paths with a previously obese patient who is now super slim, Henry has a change of heart and not only agrees to the weight loss treatment, but also agrees to have it done live on TV. Meanwhile, a solar eclipse is due to plunge the city into darkness which has an effect on the fat eating leeches and just maybe, things will not work out as they should.

By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain

A mother and her children are living in a small house near a lake. Her abusive and often drunk boyfriend, who sees himself as the man of the house brings nothing but misery to the family. Despite the abuse, the mother stands by her boyfriend after the death of her husband while he was exploring the mysterious lake. One of the children, Rose (Sydney Wease) keeps an old scrapbook, the same scrapbook her father kept before his death, something he used to keep notes about things he discovered at the lake, including the supposed existence of a mythical creature living in the lake. Rose refuses to let her father’s death be in vain and soon learns that the undiscovered monster is real… but it’s dead. But can the creature still be of use?

Creepshow TV Show Episode 6

Overall

The first yarn is pure classic Creepshow. Written by Paul Dini, a name Batman fans should recognise. This one ends in an orgy of blood and gore as the truth behind the weight loss programme is revealed. It bloody brutal and darkly amusing with some amazing OTT and old school effects work. This tale wouldn’t feel out of place in the original film. The second tale is written by Joe Hill/King, son of Stephen and Billy from the first film. It’s also directed by the great Tom Savini. So a reuniting of Creepshow originals. This one is a steadily slow tale with a lot of clichéd tropes, bully-boy stepfather/boyfriend, idiotic mother who puts the abusive boyfriend before her own children, nerdy-type daughter and a very predictable resolve. It has a very obvious Loch Ness Monster influence. Despite it’s paint by numbers approach, this is still an enjoyable story, no real surprises here and you’ll know exactly where the story is heading within two minutes. Plus there is a nice bit of bookending going on as the first episode started with a story written by Stephen King while the last episode ends with one from his son.


And that’s it. Almost forty years of Creepshow covered from the original film to the recent TV show. The franchise as a whole is a very mixed bag. The greatness of the original film still holds up today, it’s slightly weaker and disappointing sequel is entertaining enough. And the third film is a perfect example of how not to make a sequel and how to completely disrespect Creepshow fans.

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However, this new TV show shows great potential. Only six episodes and twelve stories, but for me, I feel that’s just the right amount. Seeing as American TV shows tend to go on for far too long and outstay their welcome with seasons running into dozens of episodes, it’s nice to see one that dials things back a bit. Now I’ve seen the whole show, I’m excited for more instead of being bored. I really hope there is a second season next year. Greg Nicotero and everyone involved have done an amazing job putting a smile on this Creepshow fan’s face. If you’re a fan of the original film, then check out the Creepshow TV show, it’s far better then I thought it would be.

Quick update: Great news, Creepshow has been renewed for a second season.

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