**** (out of 5)
April 5, 2013
Jane Levy as MIA
Shiloh Fernandez as DAVID
Lou Taylor Pucci as ERIC
Jessica Lucas as OLIVIA
Elizabeth Blackmore as NATALIE
Directed by: Fede Alvarez
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
If you’re looking to be offended, or you don’t like horror movies, or you want to wax poetic about the sociopolitical ramifications of tree rape, or you just want to overthink some of the simplest plot devices used in the scary movies for dozens of years, you’re going to have some problems with “Evil Dead.” That’s not to say that people who don’t like this movie don’t “get it.” Rather it’s to say that anyone watching this movie now must realize that $17 million budget or not, “Evil Dead” is as much a cheap thrills exploitation flick as Sam Raimi’s original 1981 “The Evil Dead.”
And that’s okay.
First of all, even though it has studio support behind it, “Evil Dead” is a cheap, low-budget horror flick. Sure, $17 million is nothing to sneeze at, but in a time when your standard blockbuster movie has a budget ranging from $150 million to $200 million, it really is. Also, while Raimi’s “The Evil Dead” reportedly cost only $350,000 to make, the budget for “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (that year’s biggest hit) was $18 million. And the same year, while the studio-supported “Halloween II” had a budget of $2.5 million, it’s predecessor was made three years before for about the same amount as “The Evil Dead” was.
So while the world of low-budget filmmaking has changed quite a bit, and there’s a greater platform release for these pictures, the content may be essentially the same, and we should consider it as such.
But that doesn’t necessarily make the film good. Impressive, sure. But good? No.
What makes “Evil Dead” good is that it accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do. It’s not trying to tell some grand story. It’s not trying to reshoot the original. It’s not trying to even teach a lesson. (Because after all, what kind of lesson can be learned from this movie, aside from if you find a book of human flesh written in human blood with the warning “DO NOT READ THIS BOOK” carved into it, you shouldn’t read the damn book?)
When I first heard about this remake, I was nervous. Horror remakes are real hit-or-miss for me. While some are pretty cool, like Alexandre Aja’s “The Hills Have Eyes,” others (like “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and Rob Zombie’s atrocious “Halloween”) have been really awful. Sure, the trailer had some neat moments, but that’s never a reliable indicator of anything.
The movie does make some changes to the original. First, there is no discernable Ash character, who was originally made famous by Bruce Campbell. The horror and heroism is spread around among the five characters, with Mia (Jane Levy) being the main focus.
The story follows Mia who, along with four friends, travels to a remote cabin in the woods to kick her dope habit. However, the group finds a mysterious book in the basement, which claims to raise demons from the woods. Stupidly (as is needed for a horror movie, because one with smart people would last about eleven minutes), they read from the book, and demons arise to possess them. Cue gory and awesome effects of people doing horrible things to themselves and others.
The two main changes to the original story is Mia’s detoxification and the fact that the demon is personified in the body of a previously possessed girl. I liked the addition of Mia trying to kick the habit because it offered a plausible explanation for her behavior and apparent halluciantions. The personification of the demons was a bit to reminiscent of “The Ring” and other J-horror elements, but I got by that pretty easily. (There’s also a violent and weird prologue to the film that was unnecessary for me, but I suppose it was a thought-to-be-necessary-but-really-not requirement of the studio to “grab the viewer” right at the top of the film.)
In the end, it’s not the story or the characters that will bind you to this movie. Instead, it’s the spirit of the film, if you’ll pardon the pun. “Evil Dead” leaves a lot of the humor and absurd slapstick from the original films behind. To be honest, the original “The Evil Dead” wasn’t heavy on the slapstick the way that “Evil Dead II” was. It just played as campy with some of the over-the-top gore and violence.
Instead, the filmmakers took a stab at a straightforward, grisly horror movie, and it worked for me. This is not for the squeamish or the feint of heart. It’s easily the goriest, goopiest, most visceral, bloody and violent movie I’ve seen with an R rating. But that’s the point, and it was a hell of a lot of fun to watch.