Kill the Giggler

Short Fridays #13: ‘Ataque de Pánico!’ and ‘Gisèle Kérozène’

Jan Kouren's Gizele Kerosene.

I met the news that Evil Dead is going to be sequelised/remade/rebooted this week with a depressing apathy, considering I would have as early as a couple of years ago been feverishly excited at the prospect of a new Evil Dead film. Unfortunately the announcement left me a bit cold, probably for the following reasons:

1) The main character won't be Bruce Campbell's Ash.
2) Sam Raimi won’t direct it.
3) The main character won't be Bruce Campbell's Ash.
4) The main character won't be Bruce Campbell's Ash.
5) I can’t help but see it as another attempt to cynically cash in on the fanbase of a franchise, which, as I’ve ranted about previously at length, seems to be the only way to get anything made now.
6) The main character won't be Bruce Campbell's Ash.

One interesting aspect of the new film is the news that hitherto unknown director Fede Alvarez will be at the helm of the new installment. Alvarez’s most visible work so far has been the 5 min short Ataque de Pánico, which has been doing the rounds on the internet for a while but has obviously become a lot more visible in recent weeks due to the Evil Dead connection.

Firstly, I think it’s great that a short director has been handed such a high-profile debut gig – in horror in particular, I think you need someone young, hungry, and relatively untarnished by years in the business, which will foster the kind of energy and innovation that can be fed into the creation of something genuinely frightening and interesting.

And there is much to admire about Ataque de Pánico, particularly on a technical level. It is astonishing how an action sequence with a Roland Emmerich/Michael Bay level of destruction and spectacle can now be created on a micro-budget with just a creative use of 3D animation software, After Effects and the like. I also like how that, similarly to the recent The Amazing Spider-Man trailer’s ‘homage’ to Mirror’s Edge, it appears to have pinched its aesthetic from a computer game: in this instance, the cult Xbox shooter Earth Defence Force 2017. In my book, video game references are OK, and the more esoteric they are, the better.

As an audition tape for an Evil Dead movie , though…I’m not convinced. The reason I dearly love the first two Evil Dead movies is the grungy DIY aesthetic of them – the brilliantly clever and absurd camera angles and movements, and the spectacularly over-the-top and innovative gore effects. I also love hearing the behind the scenes stories on how all the shots were achieved – for example, the roving “Dead Cam” being created by nailing a camera to a wooden board then having two people running through the woods clinging to each end; the shot of Ash being spun around and flung through the woods in Evil Dead 2 being created by…strapping Bruce Campbell to a spinning board and spinning him around at a tremendous speed.

There’s a very brief moment in Evil Dead 2 that I really love where the camera zooms up close to a rafter to investigate a noise, then rotates around it slowly at a really odd angle – it’s a shot so weird it looks like it must have been done using computers, but due to CGI being a pipe dream in 1987 it clearly must have carefully been done in-camera.

The reason that I found (and continue to find) the Evil Dead movies so exhilarating is that there’s a physicality to them: to the effects, to the performances, and to the direction. The sweat and blood that went into creating every shot is tangible, which is not something you can say about Ataque de Pánico, unfortunately. It’s clearly a CG construct – I wanted to see more running around with a camera, and people being flung into the air than I did admittedly impressive 300ft CG robots. Also – where’s the wit, and the humour? Surely that’s one of the most important strings to the bow of any potential Evil Dead director. And incidentally – that Godpseed track has become the new ‘Lux Aerterna’ in terms of Lazy Action Movie Music Shorthand.

So what would make a good Evil Dead audition tape? Well, since you asked, this:

At nearly twenty one yeard old, Gisèle Kérozène is only three years older than Evil Dead 2, and such is probably too late to use as evidence for why French-Dutch director Jan Kounen (who went on to direct the fun Dobermann with Vincent Cassell) should put his hat into the ring for the new film, but it is a marvelous short in its own right that demonstrates all of the qualities that I love about the Evil Dead films: it’s violent, bizarre, incredibly inventive with its camerawork, it uses its low budget an asset rather than a hindrance, and it’s really funny to boot. Just don’t ask me what it’s about, because I have no idea.

So a new Evil Dead then. Despite my misgivings, writing this post has made me realsie that I am still looking forward to it. It’s Evil Dead, fer chrissakes. And if they’re mining short filmmakers to direct the new series, who knows? Maybe I’ll be in contention for 2016’s Evil Dead 5: Evil Retread