I cannot remember the last time I have been so excited about the release of a horror movie. Marking the days off the calendar, watching the trailers and clips incessantly, listening to the soundtrack on a daily basis, I was hooked on this movie before it even came out. Part of me was worried that I was building it up too much, “You’re gonna ruin it for yourself”, I kept on thinking, but did I? Absolutely not. As the inaugural review for this blog, I decided to kick it off with possibly the ballsiest remake in the history of the horror industry, Fede Alvarez’s take on Evil Dead.
—— REVISED UPON SECOND VIEWING:All changes to original review will be noted with an asterisk —-
Title: Evil Dead
Director: Fede Alvarez
Writer(s): Fede Alvarez, Diablo Cody
Producers: Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell
Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore
When news leaked that a no-name director was going to take the horror cult-classic The Evil Dead and remake it, there was backlash like none I’ve ever seen that reverberated throughout the horror community. I myself was shocked that someone was going to endeavor on this, but interested none the less. An Evil Dead without Ash? How is this going to work? Only time would tell.
Time stretched on, and before too long we started to see things. Stills became teasers, teasers became trailer, and then came the fated red band trailer that hit us all in the face like a ton of bricks. My apprehensiveness and nervousness faded immediately into pure excitement and joviality. I was going to see one of my favorite horror movies, brought back to life with all the gore and splendid depravity I could possibly hope for.
Evil Dead (without the “The” this time), hit theaters last Thursday night at 10 PM and demolished the box-office, bringing in 26.1 million dollars, more than any other film that weekend. When was the last time a horror movie topped the box office, much less one so visceral and violent? I was at the first showing at my local theater, giddy with excitement and ready to take in every glorious blood-soaked second, and I fucking loved it.
There will be plenty of spoilers from here on out. If you have yet to see the remake, please read on with caution:
The film starts in an unexpected, yet refreshing way. We don’t see the familiar drive to the cabin, we are greeted by a young girl being kidnapped to awaken chained to a pole in a basement. There are dead cats hanging from the ceiling and there is an old woman reading out of none other than the Necronomicon Ex Mortis in the corner. The young girl is disoriented when she sees her father, and begs him to “take her home”, however we soon find out that this dainty thing tied to pole is the first she-bitch we’ll encounter in the film and she’s already offed her mother. What we’re watching is an exorcism and her father is the one doing the exorcising. We also see a new dynamic in this film, the methods of destroying the deadites are not limited to bodily decapitation. Fire and live burial are also viable options, in this instance, daddy chooses fire and we see the she-bitch show her true face before he lights his daughter up.
Enter the title card.
Now we see a car, containing David (Shiloh Fernandez, who seems to be our hero) and Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore, his seemingly mute girlfriend). They are heading up to a remote cabin deep in the woods where they will meet up with old friends to help David’s little sister, Mia, detox off of what we are led to believe is heroine. When they arrive at the cabin we meet Olivia (Jessica Lucas, Mia’s friend, a nurse), and Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci, the resident Deadite punching bag).
After a less than pleasant reunion it’s established that Eric hates David now, and David goes off to find Mia doodling on a notepad behind the cabin. As with any horror movie, these are all the basic plot building points. Mia needs to come down off of drugs, we establish that Mia experienced her mothers slow painful death in a mental hospital alone because David was too afraid to be there himself. As the film progresses we learn more and more about Mia’s addiction, in that “they have to stick this out”, she’s already OD’d once and she can’t survive another one. She had been declared dead for a few minutes due to the last OD, but was luckily brought back (the reasoning behind Eric’s hatred for David, who he feels abandoned his sister).
Recognize the car?
Now the film starts to progress. Mia is going through withdrawal heavily, and keeps complaining of a terrible smell in the cabin that’s driving her insane. Conveniently, Grandpa the Dog, pulls back the carpet to uncover the infamous cellar hatch, this time complete with giant blood smears surrounding it. After a trip down to the cellar, Eric and David discover our exorcism room, and the Necronomicon which is wrapped in heavy plastic wrap and barbed wire.
After bringing it up stairs, Eric decides to open ‘er up and give ‘er a read, despite the many warnings to “LEAVE THIS BOOK ALONE”, unleashing the spirits, just as Mia starts to lose her mind and demands to be driven home. When no one complies, she takes the keys to a car and leaves herself. This is where I’ll stop, as you can see where things go from here.
One aspect that I appreciated about the film was the fact that they were able to create a viable excuse for the rest of the gang to believe that she was just “going through withdrawal symptoms”. No one knew what was going on until it was too late. Mia quickly devolves into the horrid creature we’ve seen in the trailers and teasers, Olivia is quick to follow behind her and of course Natalie follows soon after.
The film takes several liberties with the mythos of The Evil Dead without directly mimicking anything, or straying too far from the story, which is something that I appreciated greatly about it. *In fact, upon second viewing, they pay homage to so many different aspects of the original trilogy without you noticing that it’s exciting to get a taste of the old. They’re small and subtle, so much that someone who isn’t a big fan of the original trilogy won’t catch them at all.* You get the same plot points, the same amount of people and the same environment, but a new story to feast your eyes on. While the script lacked in some aspects (Natalie had literally 5 lines in the entire film), and a few of the actors left a bit to be desired (David and Natalie were equally pretty awful), I had a great time watching this film.
1. It goes without saying that the practical effects and gore in this film were superb, and often times gut wrenching. A lot of people expressed fears that all of the “good stuff” would be shown in the trailers. This was far from the case. I don’t think I have ever seen such a bloody and violent film in a movie theater.
Case in point? This scene:
or maybe this one:
2. The soundtrack. Roque Banos deserves an award for this soundtrack, it was brilliant. I had been listening to it for a few weeks before the film was released and it put all kinds of images as to what awful things could be going on over this music. It also draws a lot of influence from Jerry Goldsmith’s The Omen soundtrack, which is also one of my favorites. Haunting choral arrangements and a chilling siren compliment many of the tracks and help build the tension of the film beautifully.
3. We see more of the Necronomicon. I’ve always wanted to see more of the Necronomicon. We got that and more in this remake. We learned about different demons, different methods of destroying them and the art was beautiful in a dark and macabre way.
4. That final scene. Enough said. If you’ve seen it, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
1. Poor character development. With the exception of Mia and Eric, I didn’t feel an attachment to any of these characters, thus, I could care less if they lived or died.
2. Lackluster screenplay. This too plays into poor character development, but at times the script felt a little predictable. Especially with what the Deadites would say. At times, the Deadites themselves resembled Regan from The Exorcist a tad too much, in their voice and language, but I found that easy to look past.
3. Deadite trickery. This is actually just a completely personal one, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about since I saw the flick last week. While this didn’t break the movie for me, it’s one of those things that I would have liked to see because I can imagine it would have built insane tension. We see the Deadites regularly try to trick the main characters by reverting back to their old selves (much like in the original) to get them to believe that they are okay, especially in instances where they are about to be destroyed. Instead of keeping this up, they go back to full Deadite and end up getting torched/stabbed/maimed etc. Had the girl in the beginning kept it up until Daddy set her on fire… Now that would have been twisted, as opposed to going full-on Deadite and giving her father every reason to torch her ass.
All in all, I loved it. The few complaints I have were buried by all the things I loved about it. Make sure you stick around after the credits as well, there’s a small but very sweet treat for those who do.
OFFICIAL RATING: 8/10 STARS