Recent Film Review: 2013’s Evil Dead

In 2013, the iconic Evil Dead series was remade. How does it stand up to Sam Raimi’s classics?

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I’ve never remained so conflicted about a film after watching. As a reviewer, when I find myself conflicted, I tend to look at public opinion before coming down firmly on one side. That’s not to say that my opinion isn’t my own, but in the past I’ve found myself giving recommendations based on a single pet peeve of my own, which has influenced whether or not my recommendation is useful elsewhere. There’s also the fact that when you’re enraged at a film and in love with it at the same time, it’s really hard to know your true feelings. However, public opinion seems to have largely aligned with my review, at least among those with similar taste: bland characters, terrible first half hour, great horror. From there, of course, a lot of things are subjective. Body horror is more effective among some fans than others. Some fans may miss the comedy of the original, where I’m rather glad to see it out of the way. So there is always some wiggle room, and I hope I got that through in my review, but ultimately my verdict remains the same: skip to a half hour in, and enjoy.

I’ve never been somebody to form an early opinion of a film.  I’ve often found myself watching a film with people who condemn it early on, telling them “you don’t know it’s like yet, it’s too early to say that”.  Evil Dead is a movie that proves the validity of that consideration.  It is one of the worst movies I have ever had the displeasure to watch- for about 30 minutes.

This screenplay was written by three people, and it’s not too difficult to see that.  It’s clear that writer-director Fede Alvarez has some understanding of horror.  It’s also apparent that that without the horror, it’s like the film has left its thinking cap off.  We open up with some obviously green screened shots of a woman walking through fog.  The lighting is obviously new, but I can deal with that- it looks kind of like The Woman in Black, minus the fact that in this scene she’s essentially just walking in front of a blur.  The woman gets attacked by what looks and acts like a redneck family, and we next see her strapped to a wooden pole in a cabin, with a group of people standing around her and a Necronomicon with the word “motherfucker” written across the page.

After a dramatic scene where the woman is doused in gasoline while pleading for her life, she transforms into a Deadite, spewing threats and indicating that a large portion of her vocabulary is the word “fuck”.  They really weren’t making an effort to make me like the movie at this point, shortly after I had been subjected to some of the worst trailers I had ever been subjected to at a movie theatre (plus Iron Man, which was good, and Carrie, which was bearable).  For the record, if anybody invites me to see Scary MoVie, they’re going to wish that they hadn’t.  I don’t mind swearing in a movie, particularly from Deadites, but there’s such a thing as too much.  After the last Rob Zombie movie I watched, I pretty much reached my limit for fucks and rednecks being in the same scene together.

From there, the movie proper starts.  We get a group of characters who are too busy being full of themselves to be likable, one decently likable guy who nobody else in the film seems to be able to stand, and the latter guy’s girlfriend, who has so little character that when she disappears from the film for about twenty minutes, nobody notices and you kind of forget about her until the Deadites start tormenting her.  Essentially, the semi-likable guy has a junkie sister named Mia who is quitting cold turkey, for the second time.  Their friends, guy-who-acts-like-a-dick-to-main and nurse-who-thinks-she-is-infallible, are intent to make sure she follows through this time, and to make sure she stays there even after she breaks and becomes desperate for a fix.

The two siblings own the cabin that the group is staying at, having inherited it from their mother (there’s no mention of the father, so this must be a Disney feature).  Apparently they never knew there was a basement there, however, as they’re shocked when the dog discovers it.  The group goes down and discover that it’s been broken into, and some sort of ritual involving the slaughter of a dozen or so small animals (and hanging them from the ceiling) went on here in their absence.  One of the guys takes the Necronomicon from the basement, sees notes in red ink (blood doesn’t dry that way) saying to neither write nor read the words listed on that page, and immediately goes about copying the text down while reading it out loud.  Because fuck you, that’s why.

Here we reach the build-up portion of the film: Mia experiences paranormal occurrences and everybody blames it on withdrawal.  The tree rape scene, infamous for its execution and sadism, is replaced with black goo that crawls out of a Deadite’s mouth, up Mia’s leg, and under her skirt.  Scary things start to pop in here, starting with the “rushing from a distance” shots in the original movie, coming to a head around the time Mia tries to boil herself alive in the shower.  From there, the Deadites start appearing, each new thing exemplifying an image bearded-guy had seen in the Necronomicon.  Over time, this genius comes to realize that the newly psychotic behavior of their friends, apparently passed along through contact with blood, is the result of demonic possession, not the psychosis that claimed David and Mia’s mother.

I’m not going any farther into the plot, other than to say that some things were fairly predictable from the first two films and some things were complete surprises.  It was gruesome, especially if body modification horror is effective on you.   The jump scares are kept within reasonable limits, and are generally genuinely scary ones.  The gore is kept pretty reasonable- Just by guessing, I would say about 1-10% of it was CGI, and the rest practical.  In any case, it looked good, if no more realistic than the gore of an early ‘80s film.

I’d say the makeup was this film’s real stand out feature, and with 75 times the budget of the original it would have been a shame if it wasn’t an improvement over the lackluster makeup of the 1981 original.  If one thing makes this film awesome, though, it’s the makeup.  The makeup team for this movie needs to be in the next Hellraiser movie (unless it’s another Revelation).

By no means is this movie realistically- medically, physically, even religiously I’m certain.  But if you can get behind this movie, you won’t care.  Any Evil Deador possession based movie takes some liberties in this area.  It’s not the scariest movie you ever saw, but when it comes to the body horror, I find this to be the scariest movie I’ve seen in a long time.  That’s enough for me to recommend this movie.  Just start the movie a half hour in.

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