Reviews

'Evil Dead': Again with the Dismemberments

As the teacher meets with his friends at the backwoodsiest-ever cabin in Tennessee, you get the idea that he's not happy with his day job.


Evil Dead

Director: Fede Alvarez
Cast: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore
Rated: R
Studio: TriStar Pictures
Year: 2013
US date: 2013-04-05 (General release)
UK date: 2013-04-19 (General release)
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Trailer
The woods in these movies, they like to rape girls. So when the girls run through the woods, they get raped.

-- Fede Alvarez

It's the teacher's fault. We all know that the Book of Evil must not be opened or, god forbid, read out loud. Bound up in barbed wire, hidden away in a basement where it's surrounded by dead cats hanging from the ceiling, and marked up by red letters that say, "Leave this book alone," it's so obviously out of bounds that you would think that even the worst reader of signs would get that point. But no. The high school teacher is worse than the worst reader.

It's not so clear why this is so, in Evil Dead, a reimagining of Sam Raimi's several versions (from the short Within the Woods forward). But as Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) meets with his friends at the backwoodsiest-ever cabin in Tennessee, you get the idea that he's not happy with his day job: his face is sour, his hair lank, and his glasses an emblem of his pouty geekdom. Eric's not happy to be at the cabin either, but he's self-righteously angry at his former best friend David (Shiloh Fernandez), who years ago abandoned his little sister Mia (Jane Levy), who suffered caring for their terminally ill mother and so, apparently, became a drug addict.

Since then, Mia's been unable to kick, and has even ODed, a detail her brother only learns when he's informed at the cabin by Eric and another friend, Olivia (Jessica Lucas), now conveniently a nurse, so that she might think she can attend to Mia's withdrawal symptoms herself, thus convincing everyone that they should remain at the cabin (a.k.a. the Terrible Place) long after they should have left it. As you know because you know the Evil Dead saga, the Book of the Dead calls for a fifth soul to "feast on," and so David has brought along his girl, whom he introduces as "my girl," whose name is also Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore).

All of this is standard plotting and populating for any horror movie, even if it's more or less specific to the Evil Dead franchise. Fede Alvarez's film assumes you know this much because you know the Evil Dead mythology. You know that no one should open the Book. And you know someone will.

In another movie, the fact that this someone is the teacher might have currency in a debate about underfunded high schools and frustrated educators. Here, his error seems a function of his anger and his bad reading. When, at last, Eric admits to David and the others that he read the book out loud and so solicited the evil force, they're less surprised and horrified than they are exhausted and near dead. So the teacher's culpability is something of an afterthought, though his childish acting out seems, for a moment in your mind anyway, to raise questions concerning his fitness as a teacher, a friend or even a former friend. Be that as it may, the teacher brings the pain. And he pays for it, as do his fellow cabineers.

The payment is familiar. The camera hurtles toward the cabin, assuming the evil force's perspective. The friends run through the woods, they're deluged by an ungodly rainstorm, they hear garbled evil voices and witness evil doors slamming shut, they suffer penetration, commit self-dismemberment, they wield a chainsaw and a nail gun. These violences are especially graphic, per the film's upping of that ante. Someone is locked in the basement and is duly transformed. Someone discovers the bloody corpse of a beloved dog. Some is stabbed and someone is shotgun-blasted. Someone's skull is smashed. Someone saws off their own jaw. And oh yes, someone is raped by trees.

That this last someone is a girl goes without saying. Certainly, assaulting girls is the primary business of horror movies. As Raimi long ago described it to me, the genre depends on the sound of girls screaming, a sound shrill and sharp and painful, a sound with which boys' typically lower register can't compete. A variety of assaults might produce that sound, of course, but the sexual sort is particularly effective. In Evil Dead, you hear that sound a lot, by the girls attacked and those possessed. The boys do their best to articulate their feelings, but the girls have a most effectively direct access to self-expression -- not to mention the expression of your own anxiety and anticipation.

The tree rape scene is predictably and also particularly disturbing. The victim is trying to escape the cabin, unbelieved by her friends when she tells them it is indeed terrible, and, by the way, that no one should have touched that book.

She's caught in the rain, her car sinks in a creek, and she's doing her best to survive elements. Slammed into a tree, she cowers and whimpers, and then the branches and roots come at her, relentless, reaching, and, for all their utter triteness, weirdly frightening. At this point in this scene -- and in any scene of its type -- you're not looking at a face or a human performance per se, but rather, at a tangle of roots and limbs, sinuous and despoiling. The tangle makes its way up her thighs, and as you hear her screams, you know how right she was right about the book.

5

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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