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Ju-on: Origins (2020)
Better than most Ju-On movies
Ju-On Origins is a short episodic series with about a 3 hour total running time, so it kind of feels like a movie broken up into six parts. For fans of the original Japanese series, this one will feel familiar and fits in well with the tone of those films from 2000-2003. This series succeeds in staying true to the tropes of the original movies, complete with your standard overly convoluted plot, multiple characters interacting with each other in different intersecting timelines, and slow burn frights where most horror series rely on jump scares. Hardcore horror fans will appreciate the extremely gory practical effects, which add a certain whimsical (and disgusting) charm to the whole thing.
Ju-On Origins focuses much of its efforts to scare the audience on the horrors perpetrated by people upon each other, in most cases men being cruel to women and children, and less on the ghostly creatures that populate this world. If you're tired of the now stereotypical Japanese ghost with wet black hair you'll agree they did well to steer clear of that tired image. The big downside of this story is, well, the story... which is confusing at best and completely non-sensical the rest of the time. Feels like something is being lost in translation, whether of language or culture, and the end result doesn't make a whole lot of sense. If you can overlook that weakness and just enjoy a movie for the strong horror elements previously discussed, this series is for you.
Seek out I Spit On Your Grave instead
The latest entry in a 40+ year old sub-genre of rape/revenge exploitation films, Revenge is a movie that generated a lot of buzz and acclaim for the wrong reasons. The plot is familiar to genre fans who have enjoyed this fare for many years, although if critics are heeded, this time around it's fresh and new. 2017 truly was the year of the woman in America, and rightly so, everyone wants to see strong female characters mop the floor with the evil men who did them wrong. So many forget that this formula has been in place for a long time in genre films, and those same viewers disregard those earlier and more original forays into this territory simply because it wasn't in style at the time.
Revenge tells a tale in a way that is fun and appealing to the senses - it's a beautiful and colourful sight to see, with plenty of ridiculous gore effects, blood and over the top scenes. It is admittedly a much easier pill to swallow than some of the harsh and disturbing takes on this subject from the past. Where it falls short of it's predecessors is amongst an almost constant barrage of absurd plot devices, eye rolling leaps of faith and banal stupidity in the actions of the characters on the screen. It ultimately adds up to a memorable, yet frustrating movie that I wanted to like, but couldn't force myself to enjoy.
While watching, I found myself wanting to switch to I Spit On Your Grave, either version really - because both are far superior, if less attractive versions of the same film. ISOYG is challenging, difficult to watch some of the scenes, gritty and grimy, but will have you cheering for the main protagonist even as she enacts an extreme flavour of vengeance on those who harmed her. The revenge is much colder, calculated and cringe-worthy than this candy-coated stuff. If only they had waited until 2017 to remake it, it would have been perfect timing.
In summary, skip Revenge and check out ISOYG instead - but caution, if you are easily rattled you may want to just stick with the easy, shiny, pretty, new Revenge instead.
Evil Dead (2013)
A Fun Movie, Yet Something's Missing
In the months leading up to the release of his Evil Dead remake, rookie feature director Fede Alvarez made some promises to the die-hard fans of Sam Raimi's cult trilogy. This would be a gory film with an unprecedented quantity of blood and several nods to original Evil Dead series, with no attempt to recreate scenes or characters from those films. On these promises, he and the producers of Evil Dead have delivered completely.
The film plods along carefully without overtly stepping on the toes of those fans who have a special place in their hearts for such things as The Necronomicon, boomsticks, deadites, Bruce Campbell and soul-swallowing demons. While several distinct tributes are made using props and set pieces (cabin, Oldsmobile Delta, chainsaw, shotgun, cellar) and the camera work, this film has it's own direction and a completely different tone.
This might be where Evil Dead begins to falter somewhat, as the previously employed fun and comical approach to the subject matter is discarded in favour of a more serious tone. Alvarez deliberately chose this strategy, maybe without realizing that a concept as goofy as the Evil Dead probably should not be taken seriously. There's something hilarious about a mischievous zombie giggling and scheming, but it's certainly not genuinely frightening, and this film's attempts to scare the audience are more often just silly.
The faltering continued with characters in the film. The lovable hero Ash is replaced by a group of unlikeable nameless twenty-somethings with very few redeeming qualities. While the actors portray these forgettable characters well enough, there really isn't anyone to cheer for in Evil Dead - there's no villain, and no hero.
That being said, it was a very gory film with some fun parts. So if you are looking for a bloody disgusting yet unintentionally goofy cheese-fest, you might like this flick. Or you could just go watch the far superior Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn (1987).