All posts by Landon Evanson

The Only Word Worthy of Kelly Maxwell

WARNING: If you have not seen “Tales from the Rift,” turn back now. There are spoilers afoot.

Twenty-six episodes. More than two-and-a-half seasons of Ash vs Evil Dead have brought me to the realization that I still lack the vocabulary to capably describe Dana DeLorenzo as Kelly Maxwell.

Thoughts of Ambrose Redmoon’s declaration that “courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear” danced through my head, but soon faded because that too, was an insufficient concept.

Do I go with brave or tough, intelligent or loyal? Perhaps referring to her as a leader, vigorous or formidable?

How could a single word encapsulate one of the strongest women in horror history, when so many adjectives apply?

It was a challenge, to be sure, but inspired by Friday the 13th’s finest final girl (Amy Steel), I came to the conclusion that I had to “think beyond the legend,” and “put it in real terms.”

Dana DeLorenzo’s Kelly was uncompromising.

From our “El Jefe” introduction to her epic showdown with Ruby (Lucy Lawless) in Sunday’s “Tales from the Rift,” we watched a young woman grow from grieving daughter to unyielding warrior, and never give an inch.

What set Kelly apart was that she was anything but one dimensional. A badass to be sure, but one who never veered from the deepest vestiges of who she was – loving and loyal to her boys Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Ash (Bruce Campbell) – and always willing to do what needed to be done. Maxwell was the personification of Redmoon’s maxim, tossing fear aside because her new family and the fate of the world were more important than the uncertainty of her own survival.

DeLorenzo stood face-to-face with evil, the cabin, militiamen, cops, demon spawn and finally Ruby, and never blinked. And though Maxwell’s own sense of revenge was the catalyst to forging her own path, that swelled over time.

While ridding the world of Deadites, Kelly took the time to comfort Linda Emery (Michell Hurd), offer tough, motherly words that Brandy (Arielle Carver-O’Neill) needed to hear, and inspire Pablito to believe that he was, in fact, the powerful vagina he was destined to become.

And in the end, with Ruby at the height of her ruthless power, it was Kelly who bore the weight of protector on her shoulders, and her shoulders alone. With no guarantee that she’d endure the day, Maxwell decided to take the battle to Ruby for Pablo. And Ash. And Brandy. And her parents. Because to Kelly’s thinking, no one, not her loved ones or anyone else’s, should have to suffer the pain of loss ever again. And if she could stop it, then she would not hesitate to embrace the opportunity, while sparing those she cherished the danger of putting their own lives on the line.

That was Kelly Maxwell’s identity. An uncompromising fighter and friend, who never altered who or what she stood for, or how she lived her life — for anything or anyone — not anguish, adversity, or evil. She lived, loved and laughed, with an eye forever on the prize of end game; the focused leader to Ash’s reluctant, fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants Chosen One.

She went out on her terms, doing everything within her considerable capability to save those who had her heart, while the Evil Dead fandom watched through teary eyes as an uncompromised, almost imperceptible smile turned her lips before she breathed her last.

It was a good death.

Why Jigsaw is my Dirty Dancing

So I’m out with the boys for a few brewskis the other night, and Dustin decides to drop a “Time of My Life” bomb on us. It was only a matter of seconds before someone belted “Nobody puts Baby in a corner!”

Before I go any further, just know that I get songs stuck in my head with incredible ease, and they tend to stay there. I’ve had that goddamn saxophone looping in my grape for days.

Which brings me to sunny point number two: I have had a love affair with the Saw franchise since 2004. It may be no Patrick Swayze, but those annual October trips to the theatre with one of my best friends were bonding moments that I’ll always hold dear.

Now that the table’s been set, I have to come clean – I was so jacked for Jigsaw that I’d built it up like a family function helmed by Clark Griswold — an event that no flick could ever live up to.

And it rang true.

When I made my way to the local movie house, I was disappointed from the outset. In fact, I fell asleep in my seat. Watching Saw. And I know this because at one point my own snore startled me back to the festivities, and I played it off like I was not only coughing, but completely engrossed with Laura Vandervoort’s declaration that “Games can be won.”

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What’s more, after the credits began to run, I remember tweeting something to the effect that for as loyal as I’d been to the world of John Kramer (Tobin Bell), and as long as I’d waited for a new chapter, “It would have been nice to have that faith rewarded.”

So, four-plus months on, and with that sax solo dancing in my head, I decided that I owed it to the franchise I adore another go.

And in the words of the late, great Jerry Orbach, “When I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong.”

Is Jigsaw great? No, but aside from the original, how many installments of this franchise can honestly make that claim?

The issue was that I was expecting an epic continuation of the saga, when I should have just gone into it looking to once again lose myself in that universe, and enjoy the entertaining ride.

jigsaw-2560x1440-tobin-bell-2017-5k-10339Other than Mr. Bell, none of the key players we’d come to know and love were present, and in the theatre, that irked me. Which was complete nonsense, because I knew going in that none were in the cast. That didn’t stop me from hoping there’d be a surprise appearance from Cary Elwes or Costas Mandylor. So yeah, I was the horror equivalent of those Star Wars geeks who got all bent out of shape because their perception of canon was crushed.

Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger were charged with the nearly impossible task of making an eighth film interesting and fresh (sans familiar faces save Tobin), when, to steal one from John Carpenter, the story “had been mined.”

Yes, Detective Halloran was a cliché character, and with respect, Callum Keith Rennie played it that way, and the traps were a bit stale, but let’s focus on what worked.

Regardless of how you feel about any single film aside from Leigh Whannell and James Wan’s brilliant beginning, Tobin Bell has always been worth the price of admission. And though some of us (read me) were hoping one of the finest actors in the genre would play a larger on-screen role, his voice work and brief appearances were as spot on as they’ve ever been. Dude just has a magnetic presence as “Jig-fucking-Saw.”

And while Vandervoort was the one highlight I took away from my first viewing, my take on Matt Passmore’s performance as Logan Nelson has flipped completely.

Cue the sax.

PassmoreI found Passmore to be a bit hammy and over-the-top back in October, but upon further inspection, he nailed it. That’s not to say there weren’t elements of Velveeta and over-acting in spots, but he fulfilled an important role, and for my money, offered a finer contribution to the franchise than Mr. Mandylor ever did as Mark Hoffman.

One thing that Saw has always delivered were convoluted storylines that brought everything full circle when the dust settled, with clues to the truth scattered throughout. Now, keen observers of said universe likely picked them up as Jigsaw played out, but that does not negate the fact that they were well executed, or that we got a little dash of Shyamalan twist for good measure.

Jigsaw was not the epic experience I had hoped for, but that was only because it was not what I’d expected. And that’s just not the way to view cinema. You have to let the creators take you on a journey, and judge it for the adventure they present to you, now rail on it because it didn’t play the way you’d wanted.

So after witnessing Passmore lift Bell with fresh eyes bereft of preconceived notions, I echo Orbach, “When I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong” – Jigsaw is a fine addition to the Saw saga.

Themes dominate each iteration of the franchise, and Jigsaw’s was simple – confess.

So let me own up, I carried a watermelon.

Ryann

When it Comes to Friday Final Girls, Sometimes You’ve Got to Let it Cooke for a While

Sometimes I’m a little slow.

Example. It was not an uncommon occurrence in my collegiate days to wander around the local Walmart  in a zombie-like state at two in the morning. I’d wrap things up at the library, head over to snag some food, and have a well-deserved gander at the DVDs. One night, I was about to head out when I happened by a stand of sunglasses with “FOSTER GRANT” written in giant letters along its cardboard sides. I just chuckled to myself and made for the registers without even stopping.

You see, at that point I’d considered Midnight Run one of my favorite films of all-time for roughly twenty years, but apparently that was the time my brain needed to catch up to Robert De Niro’s “Agent Foster Grant” line.

Yes, Yaphet Kotto. You make yourself perfectly understood.

Which brings me to another cherished flick – Jason Lives.

Over the course of an exquisite (and recent) three-week stretch, I went from vomiting, to having a tooth pulled, and finally to influenza. You know how we all wish we had the time to just get into bed and never crawl out? How glorious we find that fantasy? Yeah, believe me when I say there are ways you don’t want to live that particular dream.

Anyway, I can be a little slow.

After numerous viewings of Friday the 13th’s sixth chapter while laid up, something finally dawned on me.

Those of you vaguely familiar with me know that I am, in fact, a Friday freak, and believe at a fundamental level that Amy Steel from Part 2 is one of the greatest final girls in horror history, and that I hold every other Crystal Lake heroine, to my thinking, to her unattainable standard.

But there was a hitch in my giddy-up. A flaw in my mindset that I was unaware existed. For thirty-freaking-years.

Jason-Lives-Friday-the-13th-Part-VI-19-1024x576I never truly considered Jennifer Cooke’s performance as Megan from Jason Lives as on par with Steel, or Adrienne King (Friday the 13th), or Lar Park Lincoln (The New Blood), simply because she never ended up squaring off with Mr. Voorhees, or his vengeful mother, one-on-one.

Sure, Jason (C.J. Graham) busted out of a cabin and wrapped the vice grips around her grape for a moment or two, but was quickly distracted by Tommy Jarvis’ (Thom Mathews) siren song.

Because of that one moment of abandonment, I disregarded everything that sat right in front of me, screening after screening, since 1986.

And it’s a laundry list of obvious.

After Megan’s father, Sheriff Garris (David Kagen) had Tommy locked up for suspicion of Jason’s murders, it was Megan who concocted the plan to trick her dad’s right-hand man so that Jarvis could be “unironed.” Then, she hopped in the car and refused to be left behind when Tommy told her that she couldn’t participate in such a dangerous endeavor. What’s more, when they arrived at the camp, Megan immediately ran to see if her friends and the kids were safe. Yes, she had a bit of meltdown calling for her father well within earshot of said little ones shortly thereafter, but when you lay eyes on a room painted with your friend’s blood, only to see another’s cranium bounce out of a patrol car like a forgotten soccer ball, you might have a moment, yourself.

But the resume didn’t cease to be impressive at that point. When Tommy floated to the surface after his underwater scuffle with Jason, Megan wasted zero time leaping into the lake to grab him (and got a far higher score on her dock dive than Kevin Bacon received from the Czech judge six years earlier). In fact, while Tommy may have fettered Voorhees to the lake floor, it was Megan who put the boat motor to good use to “finish the job” and free herself from the clutches of the Crystal Lake marauder.

And though it was painfully clear that she was not CPR certified, Megan gave Tommy just enough nudges to revive him on the beach.

So yeah, Megan may not have been a traditional final girl, but she was independent, confident and strong, determined to go after what she wanted, and while not fearless, certainly wasn’t hesitant to do what needed doing to save those she cared about. Cooke’s Ms. Garris is the Friday franchise’s John McLain – a hero who possessed the ability to think on her feet — whilst in the right place at the wrong time.

All the ingredients required to rival Ms. Steel. Just had to let them marinate for a while.

Alright, three decades.

(Slides shades on)

Like I said, I can be a little slow.

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