Evil Dead (2013)


Better Evil Dead than Evil Red.

Better Evil Dead than Evil Red.

(2013) Horror (Tri-Star) Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore, Phoenix Connolly, Jim McLarty, Sian Davis, Stephen Butterworth, Karl Willetts, Randal Wilson, Rupert Degas (voice), Bob Dorian (voice), Ellen Sandweiss (voice). Directed by Fede Alvarez

One of the best horror films of the 1980s and a personal favorite of mine was 1981’s Evil Dead which starred Bruce Campbell and was directed by a young Sam Raimi. Now it’s getting the remake treatment (although Raimi and Campbell are on board as producers); is it worth the effort?

Five friends gather in a remote cabin which belongs to David (Fernandez) and Mia (Levy). David’s girlfriend Natalie (Blackmore), best friend Eric (Pucci) and his girlfriend, RN Olivia (Lucas) are there not for drunken revelry but for a more sober reason – to get drug-addicted Mia straight. She’s going to quit cold turkey and David, who’s been absent from her life (hell, he’s been absent from everybody’s life) is getting the cold shoulder from Eric and Mia and to a larger extent, he deserves it.

Mia soon begins ranting about seeing a strange young girl in the woods, and complains about a terrible smell. When they discover a hidden door that goes into the basement, they are shocked to find all sorts of dead cats hanging from the ceiling, some burned alive. They also find a book, wrapped in barbed wire and all but screaming “DO NOT READ. YOU’LL BE SORRY…”

What does Eric, the supposedly smart one do? Reads it aloud. Are you effin kidding me? And of course all Hell literally breaks loose – Mia goes for a walk in the woods and gets attacked and restrained by the trees, at which point the young girl vomits up a kind of cross between a vine and a snake and that….well, you can guess where it goes. Maybe not.

After which the young people get picked off one by one, becoming possessed, desperately trying to hack off their infected limb before the entity takes over and then…being taken over anyway. It’s grueling, gory and only 90 minutes long, by which time either you will care what happens to the survivors (assuming there are any) or you won’t. It all kind of depends on how you view horror movies in general.

This one isn’t all that bad despite the fact that it suffers from Young People Doing Incredibly Stupid Things syndrome. Of course it’s easy to judge the reactions of people from the safety of a movie theater with a mouthful of popcorn being chewed noisily, ice cold soft drink at the ready to wash it down with. I assume that in a situation in which my perception of reality was challenged I might actually…panic. I might not even act heroically which of course throughout the movie I’m thinking “David you idiot! If it were my sister, I’d shoot her in the head in a heartbeat.” The trouble is, I don’t think I could shoot my sister in the head, even if I knew she were literally suffering the tortures of the damned. I’m not sure if that makes me a coward – in the context of horror movies, however, it makes me a wimp of the highest order of magnitude.

The performances are solid enough for movies of this type with Suburgatory‘s Levy getting the most props for her portrayal of a troubled, addicted young woman. There is plenty of gore, nearly all of it practical which for my money looks a lot better to this point than the computer generated stuff. There are some pretty decent scares as well, although more of the roller coaster variety than the slow build-up and payoff type.

There are a couple of things missing here. First and foremost is the sly humor that marked the original – this is much more serious horror, no sly winks or edgy gags. And no Bruce Campbell who was responsible for a lot of the not-taken-seriousness of the first trilogy. That sense of humor is what made the original trilogy a classic; by comparison the remake is a bit stodgy.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t without its own charms however. While it doesn’t really hold up to the original, it does what it’s supposed to do competently and as modern horror films go, it holds up its end of the bargain adequately.

REASONS TO GO: Some pretty impressive visuals and scares. Maybe the ultimate “lonely cabin in the woods” story.

REASONS TO STAY: Needs a Bruce Campbell sort to make it work. In the end nothing really distinguishes it.

FAMILY VALUES:  There is a ton of blood, guts and ultra-violence, plenty of bad language and some sexual references.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Swanberg directed six films that were filmed in 2010 (and co-directed a seventh), one of the busiest years for a single director since the silent era.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 4/24/13: Rotten Tomatoes: 62% positive reviews. Metacritic: 57/100; the critical acclaim wasn’t exactly overwhelming.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Cabin in the Woods

FINAL RATING: 6/10

NEXT: Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me

New Releases for the Week of April 5, 2013


Evil Dead

EVIL DEAD

(Tri-Star) Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jane Levy, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore, Jim McLarty, Rupert Degas (voice), Randal Wilson. Directed by Fede Alvarez

You’ve seen it before but you’ve never seen it like this. The 1981 cult hit gets a new coat of paint as a group of young people go to a remote cabin in the woods where they find (da-da-DAAAAAAAAH) the Book of the Dead. Even though they’re warned not to of course one of them reads aloud from it, unleashing demonic possession and all kinds of carnage. You’d think people would know by now…

See the trailer, clips and a promo here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Horror

Rating: R (for strong bloody violence and gore, some sexual content and language)

6 Souls

(Radius) Julianne Moore, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Jeffrey DeMunn, Frances Conroy. After the death of her husband, a psychiatrist has lost her faith in God, choosing to believe only in science. She is then introduced to a patient with multiple personalities who takes on the physical characteristics of each personality. As she discovers that each of those personalities is the soul of a murder victim living inside him, she discovers that what is happening may transcend science and have deadly consequences for her and those she loves.

See the trailer, clips and a link to download the full move on Amazon here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Horror

Rating: R (for violent content, disturbing images and terror)

Himmatwala

(UTV) Ajay Devgn, Tamanna Bhatia, Paresh Rawal, Zarina Wahab. A remake of a 1983 blockbuster in India, a shy schoolteacher inadvertently witnesses a local thug commit a crime, only to see him go free after his testimony. Ashamed and terrified, he leaves his village. His family then sets out to redeem his good name.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Bollywood

Rating: NR

Jurassic Park 3D

(Universal) Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Richard Attenborough, Jeff Goldblum. The question is, does post-converting this ’90s classic add anything to the experience that your imagination didn’t already put there? Thought not…

See the trailer, clips, a featurette and a link to download the full move on Amazon here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D

Genre: Adventure

Rating: PG-13 (for intense science fiction terror) 

The Playroom

(Freestyle Releasing) John Hawkes, Molly Parker, Olivia Harris, Jonathan Brooks. A teenager is forced to become a surrogate mother to her younger siblings during the 70s. She tells them fantastic stories to mask the realization that their parents’ drinking is raging way out of control.

See the trailer and a link to download the full movie on Amazon here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: NR 

Tattoo Nation

(D&E Entertainment) Danny Trejo, Don Ed Hardy, Freddy Negrete, Travis Barker. How did tattoos go from being something sailors got when drunk on shore leave in Singapore or something prisoners got to identify themselves as criminals to becoming “body art” and where 25% of all young adults under the age of 40 now have one? It’s actually a pretty good question…

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Documentary

Rating: NR

Four-Warned: April 2013


Oblivion

Every month I’m going to look at every movie on the release schedule and try to assign them a numerical value corresponding to how anxious I am to see it. The lower the number, the more I want to see it. A one means I would walk through hell and high water to see it; a four means there’s no interest whatsoever. The numbers are not arrived at scientifically but they aren’t arbitrary either.

The numbers aren’t a reflection of the artistic merit of any of these films, but merely a reflection of my willingness to go to a movie theater and see it. The top four scores will be gathered as a means of reflecting the movies I’m anticipating the most; you may use that as a guide or not.

Each entry is broken down as follows:

NAME OF FILM (Studio) Genre A brief description of the plot. Release plans: Wide = Everywhere, Limited = In selected markets. RATING A brief comment

Keep in mind that release dates are extremely subject to change, even at this late date.

FOUR TO SEE
1. OBLIVION (1.2)
2. 42 (1.5)
3. EVIL DEAD (1.6)
4. PAIN AND GAIN (2.0)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. THE COMPANY YOU KEEP (1.3)
2. THE BRASS TEAPOT (1.7)
3. SIMON KILLER (1.8)
TIE. TRANCE (1.8)
TIE. KON-TIKI (1.8)
TIE. TAI CHI HERO (1.8)

RATING SYSTEM: 1) Must-see, 2) Should-see, 3) Perhaps-see, 4) Don’t-see

APRIL 3, 2013

ANDRE GREGORY: BEFORE AND AFTER DINNER (Cinema Guild) Genre: Documentary. A portrait of the subject of My Dinner With Andre years after the fact. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.9 He’s an amazing raconteur but the trailer doesn’t give a sense of that.
LUNARCY! (Epix) Genre: Documentary. A group of disparate eccentrics have only a love for the moon in common. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Could be fascinating but teasers don’t really show a whole lot about the movie.

APRIL 5, 2013

6 SOULS (Radius) Genre: Horror. A multiple personality patient may restore a grieving psychiatrist’s faith in God, but at the same time may lead her to a deadly secret. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Nothing like an encounter with the devil to restore one’s faith in God.
THE BRASS TEAPOT (Magnolia) Genre: Fantasy. A struggling young couple find a magic teapot in an antiques store but as always with magic teapots, one must be careful for what one wishes for. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 Looks fun and kinky at the same time.
THE COMPANY YOU KEEP (Sony Classics) Genre: Drama. When a reporter exposes a former member of the Weather Underground now living a quiet life, he inadvertently lets loose long-kept secrets and exposes both men to mortal danger. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.3 Robert Redford directing and an out-of-this-world cast? Count me in.
EDDIE THE SLEEPWALKING CANNIBAL (Doppelganger) Genre: Horror Comedy. A has-been artist discovers his protégé is a sleepwalking flesheater but determines that this will inspire his greatest masterpiece yet. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.0 Looks kind of…uhhh…indie precious.
EVIL DEAD (Tri-Star) Genre: Supernatural Horror. A group of five friends find an ancient book in a remote cabin and unwittingly release an evil force. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.6 A remake of a Sam Raimi classic probably won’t equal the original – but it still could be worthwhile.
FREE ANGELA AND ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS (CODEBLACK) Genre: Documentary. The tale f Angela Davis, the controversial Berkeley philosophy professor whose left-leaning politics would put her at the center of a sensational murder trial. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Davis herself speaks out for the first time about the events that made her a household name.
JURASSIC PARK 3D (Universal) Genre: Science Fiction. A test run at a biological theme park turns deadly. Release Strategy: Wide (3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 3.6 Yet another classic movie cheapened by a brazen cash grab.
LOTUS EATERS (Phase 4) Genre: Drama. A group of young hip Londoners express their discontent with the system through embracing indie rock, having lots of sex and taking lots of drugs. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles April 12). RATING: 2.9 Haven’t we seen this movie before?
NO PLACE ON EARTH (Magnolia) Genre: Documentary. A family of Ukrainian Jews hide from the Nazis in a pair of cold, damp caves for over 18 months. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 An incredible story that hasn’t been told in 60 years.
SIMON KILLER (IFC) Genre: Thriller. Recently heartbroken, a somewhat mysterious young man visits Paris and falls in love with a prostitute, leading to blackmail, betrayal and a revelation of his true nature. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 A mesmerizing trailer; the word out of Sundance is that this one is amazing.
THE STORY OF LUKE (Gravitas) Genre: Dramedy. After his grandmother passes away, a young autistic man is forced to live with his dysfunctional family. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Good cast. Kind of a been there done that story though.
THALE (XLRator) Genre: Horror. Two crime scene cleaners discover a mythical creature living in the basement and soon uncover the terrifying secret why she was there. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Another odd and twisted Norwegian horror movie; they seem to be getting to be the next hot horror spot.
TOMORROW YOU’RE GONE (Image) Genre: Action. When an ex-con’s promise to commit murder for a cellmate who saved his life in the slam goes awry, he must fight to protect his freedom and the life of his new lover. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 While I like Willem Dafoe and Stephen Dorff, the trailer wasn’t impressive.
TRANCE (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Thriller. An auctioneer involved in an art heist double crosses the gang and is wounded in the head; when he awakens he has no memory of where the priceless painting is and must use a hypnotherapist to find the answers – which aren’t what they seem to be. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 The latest from Danny Boyle looks decidedly trippy.
UPSTREAM COLOR (erpb) Genre: Science Fiction. A man and a woman are drawn together, their lives tangled in that of an ageless organism that threatens to absorb their identities if they can’t do anything about it. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 From the director of Primer another sci-fi tale that relies less on special effects than being thought-provoking.

APRIL 12, 2013

42 (Warner Brothers) Genre: Sports Biography. The incredible story of Jack Roosevelt Robinson, the first African-American to play Major League Baseball. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.5 A great American hero gets a lavish film to tell his story.
THE ANGELS SHARE (Sundance Selects) Genre: Drama. A chronically unemployed new father wants to prove to his girlfriend’s family that he can support his child turns out to have a flair for brewing Scotch whiskey. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.0 The Full Monty in kilts and director Ken Loach has another solid addition to his filmography.
ANTIVIRAL (IFC Midnight) Genre: Horror. A new industry that supplies viruses from celebrities suffering from head colds to inject into obsessed fans who want to get closer to the objects of their obsession turns deadly. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Directed by David Cronenberg’s son Brandon who appears to be a chip off the old block.
DISCONNECT (LD Enterprises) Genre: Drama. Several intertwining stories about our increasing reliance on technology for socialization and the devastating consequences that might be in store because of it. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Some fascinating stories; hopefully it fares better than most anthology pieces.
FISTS OF LEGEND (CJ Entertainment) Genre: Drama. Three childhood friends whose dreams of pugilistic glory were derailed 25 years earlier gets one more shot at the brass ring. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 The trailer didn’t excite me much.
INTO THE WHITE (Magnolia) Genre: War. At the beginning of World War II a group of British and German airmen are shot down in harsh Arctic conditions and must co-operate to stay alive. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 The presence of Harry Potter star Rupert Grint will doubtless excite some curiosity.
IT’S A DISASTER (Oscilloscope Laboratories) Genre: Comedy. Four couples meet for brunch just as the world is about to end. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles/Austin. RATING: 2.4 The humor looks to be dry as a bone; that kind of appeals to me.
SCARY MOVIE 5 (Dimension) Genre: Horror Spoof. The latest in a line of horror send-ups that take on recent hit horror films. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.3 If you’re likely to see this, you probably don’t need to know what it’s about anyway.
THIS AIN’T CALIFORNIA (Self-Released) Genre: Documentary. Skateboarding culture in Germany turns out to be not that different than skateboarding culture in California. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.8 Who’da thought?!
TO THE WONDER (Magnolia) Genre: Romance. A newlywed couple who move from France to Oklahoma find their relationship tested. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 One of the most beautiful trailers I’ve ever seen for director Terrence Malick’s latest, starring Ben Affleck, Javier Bardem, Olga Kurlyenko and Rachel McAdams.

APRIL 17, 2013

DECEPTIVE PRACTICE: THE MYSTERIES AND MENTORS OF RICKY JAY (Kino Lorber) Genre: Documentary. Renowned magician Ricky Jay discusses his background, who influenced him and shows off some of the dry humor that makes his act so memorable. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.8 No real trailer that I could find but the footage I did see looked very talking head.
MISTAKEN FOR STRANGERS (Self-Released) Genre: Musical Documentary. The acclaimed indie band The National’s 2010 tour is chronicled by the lead singer’s rascally younger brother. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 Also missing a trailer; might be good depending on how far out of the box they go.

APRIL 19, 2013

FILLY BROWN (Pantelion) Genre: Urban Drama. A young rapper comes to the awful realization that the ticket to her dreams may cost her everything she has. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.9 A hip-hop Cinderella story with a Latin twist.
HOME RUN (Goldwyn) Genre: Sports Drama. A baseball star suspended from the game is sent home to be a youth baseball coach. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Looks like a standard sports redemption movie.
IN THE HOUSE (Cohen Media Group) Genre: Drama. A 16-year-old boy insinuates himself into a classmate’s home and causes chaos while his semi-truthful essays spark inspiration. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.0 Terrific cast and the right balance between comic and creepy.
THE LORDS OF SALEM (Anchor Bay) Genre: Horror. A DJ in Salem, Massachusetts plays a record she receives in a strange box and literally unleashes Hell. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 The latest from Rob Zombie stars his wife and looks like it kicks ass just like his other movies do.
OBLIVION (Universal) Genre: Science Fiction. A maintenance man repairing drones on an abandoned Earth after a failed alien invasion discovers an astonishing secret that could change everything. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 1.2 Tom Cruise starrer looks like it will probably do fair to middling business but I’m a sucker for these sorts of movies.
UNMADE IN CHINA (Seventh Art) Genre: Documentary. The experiences of an American filmmaker trying to make a movie in China. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Looks pretty fascinating and looks like making a film in China makes making movies in Hollywood child’s play by comparison.

APRIL 24, 2013

AT ANY PRICE (Sony Classics) Genre: Drama. An ambitious farmer wants his son to expand the family farming empire while the young man wants nothing more than to be a race car driver. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.6 Sounds cheesy on paper but could well be a realistic look at what is facing the family farmer in the 21st century.

APRIL 26, 2013

ARTHUR NEWMAN (Cinedigm) Genre: Comedy. A man fakes his own death after screwing up his life, hoping to find a fresh start. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Not so sure about the premise but with Colin Firth in the title role you can’t really go wrong.
THE BIG WEDDING (Lionsgate) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A divorced couple must pretend to be happily married in order to appease the ultraconservative religious mother of the bride who is marrying their son. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.5 Good cast but looks like another rote rom-com from the trailer.
GRACELAND (Drafthouse) Genre: Thriller. When the driver for a corrupt Filipino senator sees his own daughter kidnapped by mistake, he finds himself falling deeper into a web of deceit and corruption. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Looks like a pretty taut and compelling thriller which is pretty rare these days.
KON-TIKI (Weinstein) Genre: True Life Drama. The story of Thor Heyerdahl’s epic journey to prove that pre-Columbians could have journeyed across the Pacific ocean in a balsa wood raft to colonize the Polynesian islands. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 One of the great adventurers of the 20th century.
MUD (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Drama. A pair of young boys find a man named Mud hiding out on an island in the Mississippi and decide to shelter him which may prove to be a fatal mistake. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Matthew McConaughey has been on a roll of good performances and this just might be his best ever.
THE NUMBERS STATION (Image) Genre: Action. A CIA operative whose last assignment went disastrously wrong is ordered to guard a code breaker at a remote company station; when it comes under attack he must figure out what is going on and stop it before something even worse happens. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 John Cusack’s in it you say? Well that’s swell!
PAIN AND GAIN (Paramount) Genre: Action. A group of bodybuilders in a Miami gym mastermind a kidnapping and robbery but don’t count on the lengths their victim will go to get his money back. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.0 Dwayne Johnson seems to be in every movie being released this year so far.
THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST (IFC) Genre: Drama. A Pakistani living in the US is viewed with suspicion and mistrust after 9/11. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Looks very intriguing, and director Mira Nair is one of my favorites.
SUN DON’T SHINE (Self-Released) Genre: Romance. A couple of newlyweds take a road trip through Central Florida, although their motivations are highly mysterious and suspect. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.8 Looks a bit confused and muddled from the trailer.
TAI CHI HERO (Well GO USA) Genre: Martial Arts. A town of Tai Chi Masters whose form of Tai Chi is forbidden to be taught to outsiders finds their town under siege by a remarkable array of machines. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 The second in a trilogy, infuses steampunk into a martial arts movie – very cool!

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
42, Oblivion, The Big Wedding, Mud, Pain and Gain

The Cabin in the Woods


The Cabin in the Woods

That's putting the "arm" in armoire.

(2012) Horror (Lionsgate) Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Connolly, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Bradley Whitford, Richard Jenkins, Sigourney Weaver, Brian White, Amy Acker, Tim De Zarn, Tom Lenk, Dan Payne, Jodelle Ferland, Dan Shea, Maya Massar, Matt Drake. Directed by Drew Goddard

 

Five friends take off for a weekend at a rustic cabin in a remote, wooded area. Sounds familiar, no? Well, I’ll admit this kind of scenario has been done before, but never quite like this.

Dana (Connolly), her roommate Jules (Hutchison) and Jules’ hunky boyfriend Curt (Hemsworth) are getting ready for a weekend away from school. Dana is suffering from the break-up of a romantic relationship she had with her college professor and Curt’s cousin has just bought a new vacation getaway in the woods a ways out of town. Along for the ride is Holden (Williams), a bookish friend of Curt’s whom Jules is eager to set Dana up with, and Marty (Kranz) the stoner childhood friend of Dana.

Stopping at a gas station on the way there, they meet the obligatory creepy old man (De Zarn) who rather than warn them not to go to the cabin drops some dark hints about the place. Not enough to dissuade them from going but just enough to be intriguing. There must be a central casting agency for creepy old men somewhere in Hollywood.

The cabin, set on a bucolic lake in the mountains, at first seems to be a perfect vacation spot. However, upon further investigation there are some troubling features. Why is there a one-way mirror between bedrooms? And why is there such a collection of arcane things in the basement?

That’s probably because the cabin isn’t what it seems. The five friends are being observed and have been since before they left the city. Two technicians, Sitterson (Jenkins) and Hadley (Whitford) are manipulating events, forcing the five friends into decisions. What is their motivation? What plans do they have for the young people. And who is the mysterious Director (Weaver) and what is her agenda?

Forget everything you know about this sub-genre. Yes, there are elements of the supernatural but also of J-horror, science fiction and spoof as well. Goddard, who helmed the magnificent Cloverfield teams up with Joss Whedon (who co-wrote and produced this and did a little second unit directing as well) to produce what is easily one of the best horror movies ever and certainly the best so far of the 21st century. Not only that, it is one of the best movies of the year period.

It has the right mix of action, viscera, sex and comedy and timed at the right places. It’s hip and old school at the same time. For example, when the creepy old man (a.k.a. Mordecai a.k.a. the Harbinger) calls Hadley to voice his doom and gloom gospel about cleansing the sins of the young people, he breaks off to say “Hey, am I on speaker phone?” which he is. The touches are light when necessary and even goofy in places before they hit you with a big whammy.

I’m being deliberately vague about some of the plot points – I found knowing very little about the movie enhanced my enjoyment of it. Hemsworth filmed this before he became a big star in Thor and shows the kind of easy-going charm that is going to net him more earthly roles in the future. Connolly, a soap opera veteran is pleasing as the plucky virginal heroine and Hutchison is very hot as the bimbo – she has a make-out scene with a wolf’s head…well, let’s just leave it at that.

Most people are going to come off remembering Kranz as the stoner. He is comic relief initially but his role evolves unexpectedly and not only does he get most of the best lines in the movie, he doesn’t flub them either. Fans might recognize him from his previous work with Whedon in the short-lived but much-loved TV series “Doll House.”

Whitford and Jenkins are both seasoned pros who get to let loose a little bit from their normal serious personas. The two have good chemistry together and can switch from light comedy to serious in a heartbeat. For Whitford, this is his best work since “The West Wing.” Weaver gets pretty much a cameo appearance but she makes the most of it.

There are plenty of digital effects, some of which are simply amazing. I’m really glad that the film was released in 2D only because although the break-neck pace of the film lends itself to 3D, the dark nighttime settings really don’t and you would have lost a lot of the subtlety of the action sequences.

I can’t say enough about this film. It is rare to have this much fun at a movie and to not want it to end while it is playing. Those who are timid about horror movies be advised – while there are some nightmarish images, for the most part it is less scary than you might think and much more fun. While young children and those who are more susceptible to having nightmares should probably think twice about seeing it, anyone else will have a great time. This is pure and simple a masterpiece of genre filmmaking and most everyone who sees it, like me, will leave the theater grinning ear-to-ear.

REASONS TO GO: Hands down, the best horror movie of the 21st Century so far. An amazingly inventive roller-coaster ride you never want to end.

REASONS TO STAY: The gore can be excessive and some of the images are disturbing.

FAMILY VALUES: There is a good deal of gore and violence, bad language and drug use. There’s also some sexuality and a little bit of nudity as well.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: This was originally filmed in 2009 and was due to be released by MGM. The studio had wanted to post-convert this into 3D despite the objections of Goddard and Whedon, but those plans were never realized, partially due to the bankruptcy of MGM that year. Lionsgate eventually picked up the property.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 4/13/12: Rotten Tomatoes: 93% positive reviews. Metacritic: 72/100. The reviews are mainly negative.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Evil Dead

HORROR FILM LOVERS: There are homages all over the place to a variety of horror movies, from The Hills Have Eyes to Hellraiser  to Creature from the Black Lagoon and on and on and on.

FINAL RATING: 10/10

NEXT: Our Florida Film Festival coverage kicks off with a review of the opening night film Renee