I wanted to kick this off with a review of, what I feel to be, the first event film of 2013.
Let me preface this review by saying that I am a huge fan of the original Evil Dead series (The Evil Dead, Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness) and like most, when I first heard that a remake was in the works I was beyond annoyed and somewhat disgusted, I think my eyes may have rolled so hard that I saw the back of my own skull. It’s not that I try to hate on remakes just for the sake of hating, like many people do, it’s just that the original film is one of my favorites. It holds a special place in my heart of horrors. I know many horror fanatics feel the same as I do so of course I was tentative in accepting a new film that wasn’t a sequel into my life. Also, horror remakes tend to be awful (A Nightmare on Elm Street 2010 anyone?).
Anyway, I started to do research on the new film, learning absolutely everything I could about it. What first piqued my interest was the fact that Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Rob Tapert (original director, star and producer) were all executive producers on it and they personally chose Fede Alvarez to direct the remake. So, if they had full confidence in this new director then maybe I could too. I was still hesitant, but I was paying full attention. As I learned more about the movie I was becoming more and more excited. To be honest, its been a long time since I was this excited for a horror film to be released and on top that, a remake! I still can’t believe how confident I was that it’d be great, but the facts behind it were getting me more than excited. A new director and a cast of mostly newbies (Shiloh Fernandez, Jane Levy, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore and Lou Taylor Pucci) also made me interested, it was like history repeating, in a good way. There would be no CGI – only practical effects, the sets would be nearly exact replicas of what came before in the original series and there would be no new version of the Ash character. Everyone involved felt that only Bruce Campbell could portray Ash and the fans agree whole-heartedly…more on this later. To the review!
As my friends and I piled into our seats in the dark theater you could feel the excitement coming from the rest of the audience. People were chatting and it was clear that everyone there was really anticipating the start of the film. The lights lowered some more and we were quickly pulled into the world of Evil Dead.
The movie opens with a bang. We’re thrown into the middle of a confrontation in the basement of the famed cabin in the woods between a father and daughter…and a witch and a bunch of deformed hillbillies right out of The Hills Have Eyes…oh and there’s an evil book involved. Lots of stuff going on. Just as the action comes to a head we get the title. “EVIL DEAD” slams onto the screen and quickly gets wrapped with evil vines. My first thought: “Awesome.” We now move ahead in time and we’re introduced to our five leads. Eric, Olivia, Natalie, David and his sister Mia. The five 20-somethings arrive at the cabin for something far more serious than a college party weekend. Mia is a drug addict and while it’s never actually said what she’s abusing, it’s obvious that it’s heroin. Yeah. Right from the start we’re in much darker territory than the original flick. So the life-long friends are meeting at David & Mia’s secluded family cabin for an intervention/cleansing. Tensions run high between them for a few different reasons, all interesting personal details and none of it seems forced. So things aren’t great between them and this is before the evil spirits are unleashed upon them.
Soon enough the group finds The Book of the Dead in the cabin’s basement and one of them decides to read the incantations aloud. Word of warning: if you come across a book that is bound in human flesh and inked in blood, DO NOT READ IT. From here on out it becomes a wild bloody ride. Limbs are cut off, tongues are sliced in half, faces are removed and evil possessions are plentiful. Just like the original, each character is taken over by something demonic and terrible things happen. Unlike before the gore is very realistic and brutal. There is so much blood in this movie that you may actually feel saturated by it by the time the credits roll. Don’t run from it; bask in it.
Thankfully the cast is full of mostly fresh faces. I was never taken out of the story by repeatedly thinking about an actor’s previous roles. And the acting is quite good throughout. Everyone involved seems truly terrified by what is happening around them. My only complaint was when one character is doing something dreadfully painful and doesn’t have much of a reaction at first. Lou Taylor Pucci’s character of Eric is a true standout. He’s charismatic, intelligent and when the going gets tough, he does what he can to stay level-headed and fight back. It may help that he’s the only one who’s had a pretty strong acting career so far.
Being that this is a much darker and far more violent version it is hard to see much of the humor in this, it’s subtle and very dark, but it is there. The nods and winks to the original series are sprinkled throughout and never take away from the action unfolding. Perfectly placed. The music and background sound effects are absolutely perfect. It adds to the suspense and the horrifying imagery as it plays out and again, winks to fans of the original. The effects are fantastic. Nearly all practical effects – makeup gore and fake blood…and there is a ton of it. Even the most jaded audience member can fully appreciate it. While the filmmakers boasted that there would be no digital effects, there are a couple of times it’s used and it was necessary. If it was used any other times I never noticed. The action and gore of the final showdown is just fantastic. From the way it’s shot, music, sound effects, special effects, lighting, everything was great about it. A delight to all fans.
So many things in this movie makes it an excellent horror film, but there were a few things that I would’ve changed. The generic girlfriend character (Natalie), a few bits of poor dialogue that felt like a rip-off of stuff from The Exorcist and maybe a few other minor things, but other than that I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. It may not scare horror fans, but there is no denying that the imagery is nothing short of horrifying. Is it the most terrifying film experience of all time, as the posters so boldly claimed? No, but it’s damn good.
Though packaged as a remake, I got the impression that this could easily be a sequel or a spin-off. Some rumors have been floating around that seem to be true. The positive reviews of Evil Dead have even sparked Raimi and Campbell to plan out Evil Dead IV…or Army of Darkness II(title tbd). Now it seems apparent that along-side this original series sequel, a sequel to Evil Dead 2013 is in the works and then both worlds will collide in a 7th and final Evil Dead movie having Ash and the survivor(s) of the new series teaming up. I can’t wait to see this (hopefully) unfold. Oh and stay after the credits for a fun scene that may or may not support this idea. I wanted to review this movie without giving away anything about it, so I’ve really had a hard time organizing my thoughts while writing this; I’m sure this is obvious. To try and finally wrap this up I loved this movie. I truly did and I highly recommend seeing it. If you are one that’s easily frightened this may cause panic attacks, for the rest of us it’s a fun and freaky wild ride into hell. Enjoy Deadites!
Plot: B+ Everything Else: A