“Everything’s gonna be fine? I don’t know if you noticed this, but everything’s been getting worse… every second.”
In 1981 aspiring film maker Sam Raimi and no name actor Bruce Campbell teamed up to make what is considered one of the best B-movies ever made, Evil Dead. The irony of the movie is that the creative team was trying to make a truly great movie and failed miserably, but because it was fun enough it garnered a following. Eventually two sequels would be made(Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness), but both of the movies moved away from the angle of horror and into the realm of cheese-ball comedy that the original had developed a name for. 30 years later and Raimi has made some of the highest grossing movies of all time(Spiderman Trilogy) while Campbell has developed a massive cult following from fans who love his “good” bad movies. The duo have teamed up again, but this time to produce a remake that they claim is aiming to be more like what they had in mind back in 1981. Can this Evil Dead remake successfully part with its roots, or are is this just another rehash looking to borrow the brand?
As the age old story goes, Mia(Jane Levy) is joined by her friends Eric(Lou Taylor Pucci), Olivia(Jessica Lucas), and eventually her brother David(Shiloh Fernandez) and his girlfriend Natalie(Elizabeth Blackmore) to help her kick a drug addiction by taking her out to a remote cabin in the woods. The group decides that no matter what Mia says or does, they are not to let her go back home for any reason. After arriving, the group discovers that some sort of witchcraft/demonic ritual had occurred in the basement. Eric finds a book called the necronomicon that appears to be tied to the rituals. After he finally cuts through the barbed wire around the book, he begins to study it in attempt to unravel the mystery. As per horror movie idiot rules, Eric ignores all of the warning signs(they are etched in all over the pages) and reads a line from the book that summons some sort of presence to the cabin. Mia becomes possessed, and the group is forced to fight her and all other sorts of twisted and disgusting trickery to survive the night.
The big dilemma an Evil Dead remake has always had is not only setting itself apart from the original, but also doing something either much better than or different from the slew of Evil Dead rip-offs that have been made since 1981. This new Evil Dead does an outstanding job at telling the story better, but it doesn’t do anything to tell the story significantly differently. I love the ambition that went into retelling a classic, but now that there have been various other stories and franchises inspired by the original, this new movie feels like just another horror movie instead of something unique and groundbreaking; two things that made the original Evil Dead a classic despite its failures.
While Evil Dead lacks the inspired innovation of the original, it does make an excellent tribute to both the franchise and this sub-genre of horror movies. The movie follows the “cabin in the woods formula” almost to a tee, but also seems to be aware without being overly self-indulgent like various other recent horror remakes(looking at you Nightmare on Elm Street/Halloween). This movie never pokes too much fun at itself, but it still treats fans to a few winks and Easter eggs without breaking the down and dirty tone that is quickly established.
The brand of horror present here is one that relies on gore over the imagination(although there is definitely a psychological aspect to it).This may be one of the goriest movies I’ve seen in the last couple of years, and for the most part it seems warranted for the story. For many people the gore is simply going to be too much, and I can’t recommend this to any horror fan who is the least bit squeamish. But for fans who are accustomed to the gallons upon gallons of blood packets used in modern horror these days, you’ll feel at home and impressed with just how creatively some of these mutilations are presented. This is one of those rare movies that is both gruesome and intense enough to cause me to look away from the screen, a feat accomplished very rarely in horror movies anymore. Needless to say, this movie sets a new bar for blood hounds to try and top.
The only thing that this movie truly fails to do is give us any one character even half as memorable as Ash. The batch of victims we get in this movie are pretty much forgettable with Mia being the only character to have any real depth. There was an attempt to give a couple of these characters more development by briefly exploring the history these characters had together, but ultimately the actors on screen weren’t able to take advantage of it. This movie was above average by horror movie standards in pretty much every category but the acting. Jane Levy was fine as Mia and I’ll even give credit to Lou Taylor Pucci for being serviceable, but the other actors were flat out bad. There were several instances I even found myself chuckling at how terrible the lead actor Shiloh Fernandez recited some of his lines. Clearly he didn’t get the memo that this was supposed to be a serious take on Evil Dead, and lets face it Shiloh; you’re no Bruce Campbell anyway.
This movie may have been Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell’s baby, but this movie really belongs to director Fede Alvarez(the “Godfather” of the film). This is Fede’s first full length feature and I’ve got to say that he brings an impressive game. The atmosphere that is quickly established in the cabin sucks you in thanks to incredibly immersive art direction that is complemented by some really smart camera work. Fede’s beautifully dark and gritty atmosphere dug its claws into me 20 minutes in and didn’t let go until the credits finally rolled after a super intense and surprising finale. Fede also chose to rely almost completely on practical effects which makes the visuals all the more revolting and believable. If Evil Dead is Fede’s first movie, I think it’s safe to say that he’ll be a director to watch for years to come.
Evil Dead brings its A-game in nearly every category and delivers an intense and satisfying tribute to the original movie. It lacks the creativity and heart of the original which is why this movie will never be as remembered or revered as a classic despite the fact that it is easily the superior film. In an era where the greatest ideas for horror are done again and again until they are run into the ground, Evil Dead stands among the casualties of an over-saturated/overdone idea. This is definitely a movie that fans of the franchise as well as hardcore horror fans will want to check out, but the more casual fan like myself may want to save a buck or two and wait for this film to devour their soul when it hits home video.
The story here is an age old story that has been told over and over again, and aside from some really neat tweaks(especially in the finale) the formula remains essentially unchanged. That complaint aside, this is probably one of best and most intense versions of the cabin in the woods story which marks this as one of the best.
The Achilles heal of this movie has to be the acting which ranges from suitable to laugh out loud bad. Aside from Jane Levy as Mia, most of the characters and the actors portraying them fall 3×5 board of plywood flat. This level of acting may be acceptable in other horror movies, but in a movie that is otherwise above par it becomes especially noticeable.
Rookie director Fede Alverez puts on an impressive show with a darkly beautiful art direction and dreadfully mesmerizing tone that sucks you in doesn’t let go. The movie is driven by practical make-up and gore effects which adds even more credibility to the already stomach churning visuals.
Overall Effectiveness of the Movie: 8.0
Despite the familiarity of the story and the forgettable one note characters, this movie still delivers an intense experience that feels like a wild roller coaster out of hell. It may not stick with you for long after it’s over, but it makes for one heck of a ride for an overall great experience.
Overall Score: 7.0
*Make sure to stick around after the credits for one groovy little Easter Egg
Original post can be found at TheMooreDaily.com