Evil Dead (2013)
by Steve Habrat
I think that most horror fans would agree that Sam Raimi’s 1981 ultra-low budget horror film The Evil Dead stands as one of the scariest and most influential efforts within the horror genre. The very idea of trying to remake the film for modern audiences was absolutely blasphemous. For years, Hollywood threatened to dig out the Book of the Dead and even Raimi himself hinted that he might return to that dingy cabin in the woods for more groovy mayhem, but it seemed like just a bunch of fluff. After years of rumors, horror fans finally have director Fede Alvarez’s ultra-gruesome reimagining Evil Dead, and it arrives in theaters with an overwhelming amount of hype, a giddy blessing from the makers of the original film (Raimi, original star Bruce Campbell, and original producer Robert G. Tapert all serve as producers here), and a tagline proudly declaring it as “the most terrifying film you will ever experience.” That is a pretty bold claim! Well folks, this reimagining (the filmmakers are adamant that it ISN’T a remake) is far from the scariest film you will ever experience. Hell, it doesn’t even come close to reaching the levels of terror that Raimi reached back in ‘81. However, you should be warned that Alvarez’s Evil Dead is without question the most brutal, violent, shocking, and repulsive mainstream movie you will see. Once that howling demon charged out of the woods and the blood started flowing out of that cabin, I absolutely could not believe that this film earned an R-rating. Get your barf bags ready!
Evil Dead introduces us to Mia (Played by Jane Levy), a drug addict trying to go cold-turkey with the help of her estranged brother, David (Played by Shiloh Fernandez), his girlfriend, Natalie (Played by Elizabeth Blackmore), nurse Olivia (Played by Jessica Lucas), and childhood friend Eric (Played by Lou Taylor Pucci). Desperate to make sure that Mia doesn’t fall back into her nasty habit, the group decides to take her to an isolated cabin in the woods, a place where the friends spent much of their childhood. Shortly after arriving at the dilapidated cabin, Mia begins complaining of a horrible odor coming from somewhere within the cabin. After a bit of searching and snooping, the group stumbles upon the macabre basement, where they find a slew of dead cats and a strange book wrapped in a trash bag and barbed wire. Naturally, curiosity gets the best of the group and they decide to read a couple of passages despite the countless warnings scribbled on the pages. Soon, Mia begins suffering from bizarre hallucinations that the group waves off as just another symptom of withdraw. However, after a violent attack with a shot gun and a hair-raising warning that they are all going to die, the group begins to suspect that there may be supernatural forces emerging from the woods.
Alvarez certainly scores points with attempting something new with a familiar formula. He could have easily just served up a bunch of dimwitted teenagers retreating to a cabin for a weekend of drinking and hooking up, but he opts for something more mature and that certainly toys with the audience, at least early on. During the early hallucinations, you can’t help but suspect that maybe this is all just in Mia’s head, but Alvarez hits the breaks on this when Eric mumbles passages from that dreaded book. From that point on, all the emphasis is put on the blood, guts, and gore and Evil Dead delivers it all while wielding an assortment of power tools and, yes, that legendary boomstick. Your stomach will do a somersault as one character slices off her own face, you’ll cringe as nails are shot from a nail gun into another characters arm (and face and leg), you’ll cover your eyes as one character yaks bloody vomit all over another character’s face, and then, in the ultimate gross-out moment, a character pulls a syringe needle from just underneath their eyeball. Just when you are convinced Evil Dead can’t get anymore gruesome, the grand finale finds the lone hero facing off against a yellow-eyed demon with nothing but a chainsaw, all while gooey blood rains from the blackened sky. It is the blood-dipped cherry on the top of this gore sundae.
While Evil Dead excels in the effects department, it takes a dip when it comes to the acting. Alvarez appears to be under the impression that audiences will be flocking to his Evil Dead simply for the extreme gore, but he forgets that what made the original film so memorable was the acting, especially from Bruce Campbell. None of the actors or actresses in this Evil Dead come close to giving the performance that Campbell did, but two of the five really stand out. Levy does a fine job as the drug-addict Mia, and she does make you chew on your nails when she is overtaken by the growling poltergeist. She snaps her head around and goes wild-eyed while howling, “you’re all going to die tonight!” In between Levy’s frenzied blasts, Pucci is busy with being hilariously terrified and appalled the entire time. In this humorless and heavy affair, his Eric manages to make us chuckle (his reaction to the self-mutilation in front of him is absolutely priceless). While Levy and Pucci are busy stealing the show, Fernandez and Lucas look like they are trying way too hard to be serious, but there is a nifty little fake out with Fernandez’s character near the end of the film. Blackmore’s Olivia is completely underdeveloped and almost forgotten until Alvarez needs her to start hacking, chopping, and shooting both herself and her chums.
It may be hard to believe, but Alvarez’s Evil Dead is absolutely dazzling to look at. Some scenes look washed out while others are plunged into complete darkness. The film is thick with a grimy and grungy atmosphere that is made all the more surreal through peculiar camera angles and an oddly beautiful score from Roque Banos. When things erupt, Banos cues what sounds like a toxic alarm to announce the snarling ghouls and I must say, it is an effective and icky tool. For a film with so much going for it, it is frustrating to find Alvarez falling back on the same old jump scares and loud music blasts to nab a jolt. As much as I hate to say it, this tactic just seemed cheap and lazy when layered over the rich production. Overall, even though it isn’t as scary as it promised and at times feels completely unnecessary, Evil Dead gets the job done when it comes to nauseating its audience and it does it style. It is an absolutely blast spotting references to the original film and there are more than a few moments that will go down in the horror history books. Make sure you stick around through the end credits for a surprise that will have horror fans everywhere erupting in applause.
Posted on April 5, 2013, in REViEW and tagged 2013, bruce campbell, elizabeth blackmore, fede alvarez, horror, jane levy, jessica lucas, lou taylor pucci, robert g. tapert, roque banos, sam raimi, shiloh fernandez, the evil dead. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.
Well-put. I agree with everything here — the movie wasn’t as scary as it was just… relentlessly, violently squicky. And hey, squicky works. Squicky works so well that the girl sitting next to me in the theater actually got up to leave halfway through, and once she was clear into the aisle, she passed out and had to be carried outside.
I really loved Mia, and the drug withdrawal premise. The audience instantly latched onto that, and thank goodness, because there just weren’t a lot of redeeming qualities in the other characters to sympathize with, lol…
I haven’t felt so dirty after watching a film since I saw The Texas Chainsaw Massacre for the first time. Blegh.
Haha needless to say that girl will never be finishing it up on Blu-ray. Yeah Mia was a really good character and I liked that her character was a junkie going through withdrawal. It also really made you speculate if it really was happening or just in her head. I also thought the finale was really intelligent too.
Great review. I loved this re-imagining. Jane Levy’s performance was definitely the most redeeming quality of the film. Nice site by the way, I am now following. I recently started my own film blog and would love for you to check it out. Hopefully you’ll like what you see.
Thank you! I really liked the movie too. I didn’t love it like I was hoping but it kept me entertained and it was very well made. I’ll be checking your site out very soon.
Great review, Steve. The gore… man… just, wow. I winced and cringed a good four or five times, and I NEVER do that at movies. Ever. But I also laughed every time it happened because I admired the filmmaker’s balls for doing that to his audience.
I think it’s missing a lot of the camp and cheesiness of the first one, but that’s my expectations going in- and not the fault of the filmmaker, of course. The one thing that really seemed ridiculous to me was… that certain key character… getting dug up at the end. It just seemed so out of left field. Although I guess it was necessary for the final 20 minutes, which were solid.
Haha I warned ya! It really is the goriest movie I have seen in quite some time. NOTHING was kept off camera and if it was off camera, Alvarez made sure he got around to showing it at some point.
My biggest complaint with it was the silly jump scares, which were predictable and annoying. You could see them coming a mile away. I get what you’re saying about that certain character. It was kind of strange but like you said, it made sense with the last twenty minutes. Did you stay through the credits?
I guess my gripe is that it was pretty forgettable where these types of movies are concerned. It LOOKED good — REALLY good — but so did Prometheus. High-fives all around for gore, but I didn’t care about anyone and the last half hour didn’t make much sense. As for the post credits tack-on: WTF?! So useless and unrelated to everything that came before. It’s biggest crime is that it was just not scary or suspenseful. Gore is great, but gore for gore’s sake is lame. Shocking does not equal scary. Also — the red band trailer gave away all the best set pieces — though, I don’t blame the filmmakers for that. Nor do I blame the actors who did fine with a script that doesn’t give us a single character to see develop or care about. After watching the original yesterday I realize just how ripe for remakin’ The Evil Dead actually IS, which makes some of the missed opportunities that much more frustrating. But really, someone should be strung up for that post-credits surprise. Final Girl wrote a review I almost completely agree with. She says it all much better than I can — and she’s funny. Check it: http://finalgirl.blogspot.com/2013/04/evil-dead-2013.html
We’re long overdue to get together and talk movies, Steve. Sorry I missed you at CinemaWasteland.
Sorry for the delayed response, Will! I do think that they could have worked Bruce Campbell’s cameo into the actual movie but the way I saw it, his little bit at the end was sort of like his blessing, which I thought was cool. I’m with you on it not being scary and being way too focused on style. And it really could have used better characters, which to me was its worst offense.
Honestly, when I heard they were making this, I really wasn’t on board with it. I was impressed by the red band trailer though and that had me on the hook. I was never blown away by it like I wanted to be, but I was entertained and grossed out by it, so I guess it did its job. The one thing I really hated is the over-reliance on jump scares. That really bothered me.
When it comes down to it, I’ll always go with the original over a remake. I wish that Hollywood would just stop it and try to do something unique. I’m ready for some new classics.
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