Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Evil Dead (2013)

Back in my review of TheTexas Chainsaw Massacre I stated that the only movies that should be remade were the ones that featured a great character, idea or central theme but ended up being crap. I know a lot of people adore the original The Evil Dead, but I am not among them. While I do find it enjoyable on a basic level I much prefer the other two films in the series (Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn and Army of Darkness). When I heard the original film’s creator, Sam Raimi, was interested in remaking his first film I was all for it since I felt it fell within my criteria to warrant it.

A group of 5 estranged friends and family members converge on a remote cabin in the woods to help one of them kick their drug habit. A soul consuming demon is released when one of them reads aloud the passages of a mysterious book they find. As the demon’s influence passes from one person to the next, they attempt to fight back to survive the night. 

Evil Dead is one fucking awesome horror film that delivers not only the gory goods, but great characters and introduces a new and creative voice in director Fede Alvares to the world.
I know what you’re thinking. “Just how gross is it?” If you’re a fan of horror films I’m sure you know just how gory the original The Evil Dead is. Blood of all colors spray across the walls, body parts are chopped off, faces melt and more. So I will get this out of the way first and say that this remake surpasses it in that regard completely. I winced, grimaced and gasped more than once at some of the nasty images that flashed across the screen… and I am very well versed in overly violent horror movies! I won’t ruin any of the fun, but you’ve been warned – there is some truly fucked up shit going on in this flick.

The acting is quite good for a movie of this type. Usually you get a bunch of no-name actors trudging through lame dialogue for 90 minutes while blood flies overhead. In Evil Dead everyone is putting their all into it to help sell the story. Jane Levy, who plays the druggie Mia, sells her addiction well. She is especially convincing when she becomes possessed by a demon and goes absolutely batshit insane. She’s good at the creepy. Real good. Her brother David is played by Shiloh Fernandez, who is also quite exceptional here. He gives the dramatic moments some weight and excels in the scarier moments. The other co-stars, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas and Elizabeth Blackmore, are all decent as well. Some get more screen time than others, but that’s to be expected in this genre. I really enjoyed Pucci’s Eric. He’s the nerdy and awkward one in the cast who gets a handful of really bad lines, but he ends up being stronger than his archetype usually allows.
I was greatly appreciative that screenwriters Rodo Sayagues and Fede Alvares, with a little help from Diablo Cody, gave the main characters a reason to be at the cabin that had nothing to do with partying. An intervention/rehab for one of their own gave the characters a little more dimension than twentysomethings wanting to get drunk, stoned and laid. I actually became pretty invested in them and their situation before all the demonic shenanigans went down due to this. It’s about time too! And another welcome addition was that as the demon begins to influence poor Mia there's the possibility that what she's seeing is just a fever dream from her withdrawal.

Another aspect I was thankful for was the amount of twists and turns the story took. I will not spoil anything, but things don’t exactly play out in the clichéd way you’d normally expect. It kept me on my toes and made me a happy genre fan.
I hope Fede Alvares continues to make movies of this caliber. On the surface it’s just another scary movie chock full of grisly violence and effed up stuff, but it also features some amazing cinematography from Aaron Morton, gorgeously disgusting practical make-up effects (the burn FX were creepily realistic) with virtually zero CGI enhancement and outstanding editing by Bryan Shaw. The production design is excellent as well. Alvarez assembled a great team both in front and behind the camera and the quality shows on the screen in every frame. He worked his actors in all the right ways, kept the atmosphere filled with dread and gave us all exactly what we wanted to see in this type of movie and more. Having Sam Raimi on hand probably didn’t hurt either. I hope Alvarez follows in his footsteps, especially since Mr. Raimi started off directing low budget horror flicks and now makes some of the most expensive movies ever made. Not a bad person to have as a role model.

Unfortunately I was not a fan of the musical score by Roque Baños. Out of all the awesomeness on display everywhere else I found the score to be par the course and indistinguishable from the music from every other horror flick out there. It was a bit of a disappointment.
Lastly I want to talk about the obvious comparisons between the original and the remake. As always I try to be as open minded as humanly possible when watching the remake of a movie I’ve seen and sometimes loved (A Nightmare on Elm Street). Evil Dead takes all that was good about Sam Raimi’s original and improves on it exponentially just like a good remake should. Having a bigger budget helped, I’m sure, but the script is smartly written and updates it for modern audiences (but where were the cell phones?!). There are clever homages to the source material, from a small sound cue (the buzzing fly) to a fan favorite moment (tool shed). It is almost a love letter to The Evil Dead; it takes the basic story and outline of the original and goes off on its own tangent that feels organic and referential at the same time. Fans of The Evil Dead will be just as pleased as newbies to the franchise.

So get out there and see this flick as soon as you can. Show Hollywood that there is an audience out there for R-rated gory old-school horror and not PG-13 boo scare-a-thons. In the grand scheme of things Evil Dead doesn’t break any new ground at all, but to die hard horror fans this should be like pure uncut catnip that will be absolutely irresistible to all that can appreciate it. I am definitely one of them and am championing the hope that there will be a sequel. It rocks hard.

4 out of 5

p.s. Stay until the end credits are over. There will be something that fans of the franchise will find undeniably superawesomeamazeballs. Guaranteed.

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