Film: ‘Evil Dead’ is Full of Life

By Will Ashton |
Evil Dead | Directed by Fede Alvarez | Rated R
RATING: 3.5/5

evil-dead-poster-hi-resThere are few horror movies as influential as Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead series.

A low-budget classic that is a staple of its time, the films have gone on to inspire and influence a countless number of films and filmmakers of the past few decades- the most recent example being last year’s highly entertaining The Cabin in the Woods- and for good reason. Raimi’s balance of slapstick comedy and horror is goofy, engaging, and downright fun.

If you ask any hardcore horror films about their favorites, you would be hard-pressed to find many that don’t include at least one of the films of the franchise on their list. So, in the spirit of horror films today, it was inevitable that the series would succumb to a remake. But, despite the countless schlocky horror remakes that have come about in the last few years (don’t ever bring up the abomination that was the One Missed Call remake around me * shiver *) I am thankful and delighted to say that the remake of the Evil Dead doesn’t suck. In fact, it’s actually a good movie, even in its own right.

This version of the story follows five friends, Mia (Jane Levy), her brother, David (Shiloh Fernandez), and their three friends, Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) and Olivia (Jessica Lucas), as they head up to a cabin in the woods in order to help Mia deal with her drug addiction. In their time at the house, they come across a mysterious book that is barb-wired shut in the basement. When Eric opens it to read what it says, he unleashes ancient spirits of the dead who haunt the five travelers for a night of pure hell.

The primary reason that this remake works is because it remembers to do the one thing that all remakes of respected horror movies should do: it respects its elders, but it creates its own identity. Evil Dead will often wink and nod to the audience with various references from the original, like the chainsaw, the rape tree, the possessed hand, and others, but it creates its own story and characters around it.

Too many horror remakes these days try way, way too hard to simply make the original all over again. Imitation may be the most sincere form of flattery, but why do we need to pay $10 to see a weaker version of what we have already seen before? Thankfully, this movie knows what made the original so classic, but it always reminds itself to keep at a distance.

Plus, it actually has-dare I say it- some originality and cleverness to boot. Without giving anything away, it actually has some unique and clever ideas as to why the characters stay in the cabin, despite the horrors that are around them- a flaw most notably spoofed in the aforementioned The Cabin in the Woods. Additionally, the movie has some of the most fun, unique, and entertaining deaths that I have seen in a horror movie in some time. The final death in this movie alone is one that I know I’ll be talking about for some time.

This movie, thankfully, uses practical effects as opposed to simple CGI, with the exception of one or two shots here and there, which actually adds a great deal to the tension in the film. Evil Dead is more of an unsettling movie than it is actually scary. Nevertheless, the make-up and effects in this movie leave for some truly haunting and well-done imagery that sticks with you even after the movie is done. These days, horror movies fall back too much on CGI blood-which, for the record, always looks terrible- and other VFX effects. If anything, this movie proves that practical are-and remain-the way to go. Also, the cinematography in this movie, done by Aaron Morton, is also one of the movies best features. The visual style pays a lot of homage to Raimi’s vision, including some of his infamous P.O.V. shots, and simply makes the most out of its bigger, but still limited, budget.

The biggest flaw with this new imagining of The Evil Dead series is the script, co-written by director Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues, and, surprising enough, Academy-Award winner Diablo Cody. While the original script, written by Raimi himself, was no award-winner itself, it kept things simple and it knew its faults. The dialogue here is never really any good. If there is one clear place where the cleverness doesn’t play out well, it’s in the dialogue, which often tries for some good one-liners, but fails to make much out of them.

The acting all around the board is actually pretty good, especially from Levy, who does a great job here and may have a bright future ahead of her. Everyone, that is, except for two notable exceptions: Fernandez and Blackmore. Both are pretty flat, especially Fernandez-who, I must confess, is actually pretty terrible here- and it is kind of a shame considering that the rest of the cast are as solid as they are. In addition to Levy, Pucci, as usual, does a good job as well with what he is given, and Lucas does a good job holding her own as well. While their character development isn’t amazing (it does try, though, at the beginning), these three do the best with what they are given, particularly Levy, and they are actually able to work past some of their questionable lines.

Evil Dead doesn’t start out great. At first, it strikes you as just your typical horror remake. But once the mayhem begins, it’s a full-blown ride.  Part of what made the original movies so dynamic was their sense of humor. While some early reviewers have complained that the movie is too straight-faced, I actually believe the movie does have a sense of humor to it. It’s just simply not as upfront about it as the original movies. There are some darkly comic moments here that will make you scream with laughter. I don’t want to give it away, but one joke involving duct tape had my friends and I in hysterics.

It’s not the classic that the original movies were, and it’s definitely not going to be the most intellectually stimulating movie that I’m going to see this year, but I had a lot of fun with this new reimagining of The Evil Dead. While the movie doesn’t quite reach the level of the original (however, this movie does benefit from having a budget that is way bigger than the original could ever muster together), it has its own kick to it, and I think horror fans are going to find a lot to like in this new movie. It’s got the stamp of approval from Daddy Raimi and Uncle Bruce Campbell, who produced this version, and it has mine too. Grab a couple of friends and have a good time with this one.


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