Evil Dead (2013) – Review

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I remember letting out a sigh when it was first announced they were going to reboot Evil Dead. The fear of having a beloved film series destroyed suddenly loomed in my mind. Regardless of this I knew that as a fan I would watch the film despite thinking “Is this really necessary?”. After watching the film last night I am glad to say that yes it was. 

The film kicks off with a horrific demon cleansing ritual being performed in the basement of a cabin in the woods. This sequence instantly sets the tone and gives you an idea of the kind of demonic presence that inhabits the cabin. The film then cuts to an undisclosed amount of time in the future as a group of young adults have arrived at this same cabin.

Unlike the original 1981 film, they are not here for any kind of vacation. They are here in order to help their drug addict friend Mia, played by Jane Levy, go through detox. The group all gather near a well as she ceremoniously dumps her dope and makes her vows as the worst weekend of their lives begins. I really enjoyed this drug addict twist to the story as it makes it easy to dismiss Mia’s warnings when she starts telling people that she sees things in the woods as it gets chalked up as part of her body going through withdrawal.

The group then makes the horrific discovery in the cellar thanks to Mia constantly complaining about the smell of death (which no one paid attention to until their dog, Grandpa, starts scratching the floor). The group is immediately disgusted and perturbed by what they find. Which includes the famous “Book of the Dead”, a book wrapped in human skin which contains all sorts of evil incantations and drawings. But since they are having this detox for their friend they just decide to clean out the gruesome scene and stay put.

The book they found intrigues Eric (played by Lou Taylor Pucci) and while flipping through the pages and reading an incantation (even though the book warned him not too!) he inadvertently unleashes Hell upon himself and his friends. Soon after Mia decides to steal the car and leave the cabin as she claims she needs to leave. She unfortunately ends up crashing in the woods and is chased and has a very “personal” encounter with the evil entity (those of you who have seen the original can guess what I am referring to). Soon after she is found by her friends and theyend up taking her back to the cabin and that is when the chaos begins.

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As you might have guessed from watching any of the trailers, this movie is seriously brutal and gory. There is one scene in particular that takes place in the bathroom which involves one of the girls, a piece of a broken mirror and a whole lot of self mutilation that is just flat out grotesque. You will also see a lot of self inflicted amputation throughout the film. As you can imagine, it is not for the squeamish.

However, those of you who have no qualms with bloodbaths will find yourselves giddy with excitement. The film has some of the best special effects that I have seen in recent memory. In an age where CGI/digital effects are constantly being used in every film, I loved the decision to keep all of the gory moments “realistic”.  The fact that all of the gallons of blood, the puke and severed limbs is all “real” adds that special touch that you do not see anymore in Horror nor any genre of film for that matter.

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I did enjoy some the actors performances, especially Levy’s portrayal of the distressed, drug-addict Mia. Another standout was Pucci as the easy to hate yet lovable Eric.  Shiloh Fernandez did a decent job portraying David, Mia’s estranged older brother. I did however, feel that the rest of the cast was largely unmemorable  for the most part until it was their time to “check out”.

The story is what you would expect from this kind of horror film. You won’t find any underlying plot lines or complicated/thought provoking scenes at all in Evil Dead. The film sets out to do one thing, shock and disgust you with its grotesque moments and in that aspect I think it succeeds. While I have to admit that I was pretty much unaffected by any of the gore or jump-scares, I did notice and hear the rest of the audience shriek and slightly jump in their seats multiple times. The dialogue also felt laughable at certain moments (especially some of a certain characters lines while they were possessed) but overall if felt passable.

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I have to hand it to Director and screenwriter Fede Alvarez for being able to take on the task of rebooting such a beloved franchise and have it stay true to its roots but also allowing it to feel fresh at the same time. Even though I have seen the original 1981 film multiple times I was still surprised by a lot of the twists that were added. While the movie largely follows the same plot it also has a lot of unexpected moments and events (especially during the final stages of the film) that I did not see coming. I always felt like I knew how everything was going to play out as far as what would happen to each character or what they would do next but I was pleasantly surprised multiple times. The film also retains a lot of the classic camera angles such as the traveling shot used in the chase sequence in the woods as well as the close-up shots of power tools and chains as they were being used.

Although the film does include these new twists it still suffers from a lot of horror movie tropes that you would expect. Wait, there’s a girl that seems like she is possessed locked in the basement? “Sure, I’ll go into the cabin all by myself to fetch supplies!”. Also, even though I personally enjoyed all of the  gory moments, I can easily see this being an immediate turn-off for people who might be going into the movie expecting a little more than bloody dismemberment (why they would however, is beyond me).

When the movie finished I felt pretty satisfied with the events that transpired. I have to admit that I was worried towards the end as I felt like the movie had wrapped up with a half-assed victory. That feeling was immediately snatched from me as Fede Alvarez and crew still had another brilliant sequence up their sleeves. The ending was a total throwback and concluded things nicely (and disgustingly) while still leaving the doors open for future installments.

Overall, I think Producers Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell (the star of the original Evil Dead trilogy) made a good decision to leave the film in Alvarez’ capable hands. He was able create a film that felt familiar as well as new and exciting at the same time. While he does nothing to re-invent the genre, if you are a long time Evil Dead fan or someone who loves over-the-top gore you owe it to yourself to go see the film. Just don’t go in expecting to watch the next Oscar winner and you should be fine.

 

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