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April 5, 2013

Evil Dead

(2013, Dir. by Fede Alvarez.)

Evil Dead deserves its place in the world alongside the Evil Dead trilogy. That might be the least important thing you need to know about this reboot and I have so many other thoughts running through my head about the movie that I just experienced, but my first reaction has to be this. It is impossible for me, as a fan of all things in the Evil Dead universe, to see this movie and not immediately consider its worth in comparison to Sam Raimi's trilogy. Unfair or not, it is reality - and I'm excited that I can open this review by saying that - with no comment on "better than" or "worse than" - I'm glad Evil Dead exists.

Balancing - not always delicately - between "homage" and "new vision", Evil Dead offers five characters, a cabin, and a weekend gone wrong.  The mathematics are the same as the film(s) it exists to emulate, but the characters are new and the dynamics are changed. The major change worth talking about is probably the fact that our lead female is now a drug addict who is being forced into a cold turkey weekend by her brother and her friends, and that this character, Mia, is created wonderfully by actress Jane Levy. The young woman undergoes a few transitions in tone and a large amount of turmoil during the film, but she never misses a beat.

You could counteract the great character moments with a few concerns, like the fact that the blonde female character has three lines in the first forty-five minutes of the film, is never involved in any pertinent conversations, and is more often than not referred to as "Baby."  Characterization is not strong across the board, which will surely give some critical viewers pause as they enter this new Deadite-filled universe. I think this is a rather hollow complaint on some fronts - though I did find the fact that a movie with basically five characters appears to lose one of them for large stretches of the exposition - because a movie like this (or like the original The Evil Dead) are not about unique and outstanding characters.

To no one's surprise, this movie is all about the carnage that is unleashed via that dastardly Necronomicon (whose well known name, if I'm not mistaken, is never spoken in this film).  And what carnage it is. Director Fede Alvarez throws in plenty of trademarks from the first two Evil Dead films and sly nods to Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell (for examples, look for returning shirts, camera tricks, and Oldsmobiles), but he also offers a whole new bloody vision that is a complete change of pace from anything we've seen in the preceding films. And a lot of what he does is freaking awesome.

Indeed, this movie works because it invents its own mayhem. It could be mistaken for being too serious, but I find it hard to really accuse a movie who changes pace so often and pushes so many bizarre images in our face as a humorless experience. Maybe I am desensitized to blood on screen, because I rarely found myself flinching - I did cover my eyes all three times a syringe came into play, but I was fine with dismemberment and disfiguration - while others were groaning in their seats. I was too wrapped up in how Alvarez was presenting his story to care that what I was seeing was gross. I knew what I was walking into, and if you've seen the film's trailer (if not, it's posted below) you probably have the idea that this film does not intend to pull its punches.  The changes to what the "evil dead" are and how they are represented is probably the biggest difference from original to remake, but it allows Alvarez to maximize the amount of splatter in the film.

Yes, I get that Evil Dead is not a perfect bit of storytelling and I am more than aware of the fact that it is not the original Evil Dead. These two issues will no doubt derail many viewers, but I prefer to look past them and see that Evil Dead is a perfect version of what Evil Dead wants to be. It's got a manic energy, a great visual style, and - probably most importantly - some of the most jaw-droppingly entertaining gore you'll ever see on a movie screen. I had a great time watching it. That's all I care about at this point.


Hey! Look Behind You! said...

Well said! I'm hoping that fans of the original don't go in with a preset desire to hate on this film. I think it deserves a fair shot.

Dan O. said...

I liked the new vision; I just wish it was scarier than it was. Great review.