Review: Evil Dead

Director(s)Fede Alvarez
Principal CastJane Levy as Mia Allen
Shiloh Fernandez as David Allen
Lou Taylor Pucci as Eric
Release Date2013
Language(s)English
Running Time 92 minutes

Normally, when a horror fan hears the word “remake” they feel a deep sense of fear. Most horror remakes usually suck and are made as cash grabs that prey on nostalgia. They usually have a weak plot or one that’s functionally the same as the original with none of the soul or passion behind it. Certain iconic scenes will be redone as a moment of fan-service, but nothing of substance will be added to differentiate the movie outside of this fan-service. Outside of a few rare instances (like The Ring as an adaptation of Ringu) , horror remakes are doomed to fail because they refuse to innovate or add their own mark on the franchise. Thankfully for The Evil Dead fans, Fede Alvarez isn’t about that, and has managed to create a familiar but wholly unique Evil Dead origin story.

The film literally opens with misdirection, framing shots and moments to jog fan memories. You think you know what’s going to happen, but then it’s something completely different. Over the top violence, linguistic jabs, emotional turmoil. The first five minutes is like a small demonstration of what’s to come.The story picks up a while later, as a group of friends goes up to the iconic cabin the woods. Their purpose? To help their friend, Mia, get over her problematic drug addiction. The group is comprised of Mia, her estranged brother David, their eccentric friend Paul, David’s girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore), and the self-appointed leader of the healing expedition,Olivia (Jessica Lucas).

The set up adds a nice motivation for the trip. All the characters are going to help their friend deal with a life-threatening issue. When a user goes cold turkey they become more paranoid, frantic, desperate, and afraid. The set-up would make any sign of possession easy to disregard as just as an effect of rehabilitation. The stakes are set early on , so the groups decision to stick out terrifying situations makes sense. It’s a clever premise that’s utilized properly.

However, unlike the original movie, this soft reboot struggles at establishing memorable moments for its characters, outside of just really gory sequences. The only interesting characters are the siblings because they get the lion’s share of characteristics and backstory. Their estrangement gives the relationship a sense of mystery which keeps us invested in figuring out what really happened between them. The most memorable sequences in the movie involve them because they’re the emotional core of the movie. They both have reasons to care about and be cautious of each other and the movie demonstrates that nuance properly. Granted, it’s not like I hated the other characters. I did like Pucci’s performance as Eric, but the story only starts to make use of his ability to be manic in the third act. Outside of that, every character feels like they exist just to be abused and disposed of by the script/ the ghosts that get summoned by the Necronomicon.

Speaking of which, the Necronomicon looks amazing and I love how much fun the team had in making and styling it. From the protective sealing around it, to the scrawled messages in it begging users not to use it, the book evokes a different sense of dread. In the original , the text is indecipherable/in another language , but here there are very clear visual cues.

Evil Dead – Page from the Necronomicon warning users not to touch it.

It makes the danger more apparent, but it also makes the decision to read it seem more absurd. The original gets away with it because the circumstances leading up to it are just an unfortunate result of the supernatural and the worst of peoples’ habits coming together with catastrophic consequences. It’s not that its the worst set up ever. It just feels messy. The character that ends up reading it is repeatedly shown to be a bit eclectic in matters about the occult. It just feels like if that’s the case, and they’re thereto help their paranoid friend suffering from withdrawal, that they would not say horrifying incantations. I can forgive it though, because it’s an Evil Dead movie and no curse means no fun.

That’s good, because the movie is a TON of fun. There’s a lot of love for the source material on display and you can tell that Alvarez understood how to adapt those original moments and update them for mainstream audiences today. The gore is even more over the top here and there are sequences that will leave your stomach queasy after watching. What makes these bloodbaths stand out is that they’re all done with practical effects. The horrifying applications of sharp material to flesh will chill viewers to their bone, and it makes sense when you realize it’s created via actual practical illusions and tricks. I love that they went the extra mile in selling the hyper-realism because it gives the franchise something completely different.

Now that I’ve said that, if you like the Evil Dead movies because they’re really funny, this movie may not be what you’re looking for. The movie attempts to replicate a lot of humor ,and to be fair to it, I did chuckle at some of the fast verbal lashings delivered by the deadites. My issue is just that the humor is few and far between. Most of the time it’s too fast or just feels like something edgy that should be funny but has no real meaning or weight. Though the movie can’t balance the its serious and comedic tones at the same time like Evil Dead 2,the way it handles its themes of overcoming addiction gives it something unique that the others don’t have. It’s also not chock full of fan service. Personally, I think it has just enough references to have older fans smiling, without focusing on them so much as to alienate brand new viewers. Its the golden amount.

If you’re looking for an Evil Dead movie that’s more related to the first movie in the franchise and are okay with/enjoy a more serious story-line, you should definitely check this out. I think one huge advantage this movie has is how easy it is to show to people who want to be scared by a horror movie. Aaron Morton did a great job at getting great shots and Bryan Shaw’s editing keeps tension high at all times. There are no lazy sequences and the supernatural events always feel like a threat. Jump scares are expected but get the job done and don’t feel cheap. Gory moments are actually hard to stomach (if you don’t like gore), and demonstrate real creativity in figuring out just how far to push the audience. Alvarez is a master at pacing so the movie always feels like its progressing towards some goal. When I first saw this movie, I was on my feet during the ending. Couldn’t believe how cool and aesthetic it all was.

Report Card

TLDREvil Dead is a great soft reboot that manages to tell the original’s classic story with enough twists to feel like its own creature. The film’s packed to the brim with gore and scares alike, so check it out even if you’re a horror fan not familiar with the franchise.
Rating9.1/10
GradeA

I’m writing something more involved about this piece, so I’ll save the spoiler thoughts for that.

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