Movie Review: Evil Dead

Is that evil? Or is that dead?

It is always unfortunate when writing a review for any remake that it can rarely, if ever, be discussed on it’s own merits as opposed to having to compare and contrast with the original.  That is doubly the case when it is a beloved horror film franchise trilogy such as Evil Dead.  The fortunate end to all of this, however, is that the remake is good.

While Sam Raimi has been off making huge superhero blockbusters, and Bruce Campbell has been making TV shows and cameos in every Sam Raimi huge superhero blockbuster, fans have been clamoring for a new Evil Dead film starring everyone’s favorite smart ass deadite killer Ash.  They opted out of that scenario, but decided to produce a new story about the Book of the Dead and the cabin that spawns the evil… all of it… all the evil… and passed the directing torch onto newcomer Fede Alvarez.

Alvarez ditched the campiness that made the original three films (more so the later two) so memorable and replaced the jokes and hammy acting with some serious gore (bordering on torture porn) and every ‘Chekov’s gun’ they could cram into every scene.  It was as if they took each element from the original two films (remember now… the second film in the series, Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn, is little more than a slightly bigger budget version of the first, The Evil Dead) and put them in a large bag… shook the shit out of the bag… and reassigned those elements to different scenes and different characters, then added a few new gizmos and gadgets to make us squirm.  Chainsaw?  Check.  Machete?  Check.  Nail gun?  Seriously?  Ugh… check.

Many are probably lamenting the loss of the humor and the extreme campiness, but I am not.  The originals are still there, we can watch them at any time… but the notion of this group of five people going to this cabin in the middle of nowhere, basically so they could party, reading passages from a fleshy book that brings back some unknown ‘evil’ into the world, and getting killed off one by one, was somewhat old when the first film was made.  The slasher film genre as a whole was already on it’s way out in favor of franchise villains Freddy Kruger and Jason Vorhees, and on the way into self-parody and irrelevance when The Evil Dead showed up, giving us some much needed levity and over the top gore that was missing from much of what the genre was producing.  When Army of Darkness came onto the scene, it was no longer a film to be feared, but a laughably silly movie where Ash is thrust into the middle ages as a demon fighting hero, complete with mechanical hand and witty quips.  Evil Dead does a fantastic job of returning the series back to it’s slasher film roots with an ample amount of blood and viscera and none of the cracking wise we’ve come to expect.

This time around, the five young people head to the cabin in order to help Mia (Jane Levy) kick her heroin habit.  Mia’s brother, David (Shiloh Fernandez) has not been present in her life lately and everyone else is surprised that he even shows up.  He brings along his girlfriend, Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore), and they are all joined by Mia and David’s longtime friends, Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) and Olivia (Jessica Lucas), a nurse who is helping Mia with her withdrawal.  Having the set up for them being at the cabin being that someone is kicking heroin is a great twist onto the old trope… having the cabin belong to David and Mia’s family is even better… there is more of a structure to the story than most horror films ever even aspire to, which makes the question of whether or not what begins to happen is real or not, much more believable.  Is Mia simply hallucinating, or is it really happening?

I wouldn’t say that the film starts of slow… this may have been a feeling of anticipation or expectation… but when it does finally start moving, it becomes a non-stop gore-fest, often times pushing the boundaries of what I can tolerate in a film.  We all have our specific squirm inducing things that push those particular buttons… I certainly have mine, and this movie got me squirming and half closing my eyes at least twice.  I can’t recall the last time that has been the case.  Is this torture porn?  Honestly, I’m not sure… I think it dances on the border a bit, but I felt the gore was there for a reason, and that reason was to push these people further and further into fear and madness… one of whom seems to be the film’s resident pin cushion/punching bag.  Let’s just say, even though there are only five people, there are many more ways to maim/injure/disable/mutilate someone more than once.

One thing that is held over from the original to this… moments of stupid amounts of blood.  Raimi’s silly ‘torrents of blood’ is used a few times to amazing effect.  Also, don’t expect certain people or certain implements to be used in the same way.  Think you know who the Ash analogue is?  Believe you know how that chainsaw will be used?  Are you sure about that?  All you will know for sure is that, yes, Ash’s car makes a cameo.

If I haven’t made this point clear, I probably should… this is a gory movie.  If you are bothered by graphic violence or violence against animals, don’t see this movie.  I may be a desensitized monster… but you may not be.  Just thought I should mention that…

If you are a hipster who will whine about Hollywood churning out nothing but remakes and sequels, you may want to pass.  Not that you won’t enjoy this, but because you won’t allow yourself to enjoy it.  If you think something from your youth is sullied by a crass cash grab of a remake that is now suddenly raping your very childhood… don’t bother.  If you enjoy a great horror film that takes familiar ideas and makes them seem new and updated for a modern audience while at the same time giving a stream of homages and hat tips to what came before it… then go see Evil Dead.  I had a fantastic time and found myself more than pleasantly surprised by much of what I saw and how often my expectations were dashed.

Cornelius J. Blahg

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