Thursday, April 4, 2013

Evil Dead (Alvarez, 2013)

Okay, now, just as I did in the scathing review I made for The Amazing Spider-Man, I will stepping into this not comparing the remake to the original. That's sort of unfair, especially in this case. The original is a classic of modern horror storytelling. The remake would have to step into those shoes.
But Evil Dead, the 2013 modern update on it, has accomplished that feat.

I have not walked out of a movie with the certainty I would add it to my DVD collection since The Dark Knight in 2008. Until last Thursday, when I saw Evil Dead at a preview screening.

I personally have not been familiarized with the short works of newcomer Fede Alvarez. I had to take it on the good faith of the producers, returning Robert Tapert, original director Sam Raimi and original star Bruce Campbell, that he'd provide a great film.
And he pretty much did.

Now, the story is kind of the same progression of events, just a different frame around them. There is obviously no return of Ash, as Campbell is kind of old and there can be no other actor for the role. Our best replacement would be David (Shiloh Fernandez), a man who takes his girlfriend, Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore), on a cold turkey retreat in a cabin far off in the woods. This retreat is not for him or his girlfriend, but instead for his sister, Mia (Jane Levy), who had been abusing heroin in some kind of resentment towards his brother's previous approach to certain family issues. As a matter of fact, the reason David arrived was at the insistence of the siblings' childhood friends, Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) and Olivia (Jessica Lucas).
Yeah, I know this sounds like some reject episode of Degrassi. And, indeed, we get a bit of underwriting for the most part towards them, exempting David and Mia, for the sake of the gore that is about to ensue.
The main flaw in this factor is that David's medical ideas seem outright stupid. He does not know first aid at all.

Sure, enough they find the book (this time a different name and no audiotape with it - though the original movie's audiotape is played during the credits), and sure enough, bad shit happens and the five have to fight to survive the night with each one being possessed one by one (this time it seems to be solely one demon rather than a number of spirits as in the original).

But surprisingly it adds to this version of The Evil Dead in a way that we couldn't have seen it add to the original. It leaves room for David to step up to taking responsibility and moreso, it leaves a plausibility behind the group's initial disbelief towards the heinous supernatural events that begin occurring around them.

And what the movie lacks in originality, which it is devoid of completely (come on, it's a remake of a movie that set today's horror tropes), it makes up for in visuals and impact. I had been baited towards this movie (normally, the idea of an Evil Dead remake insults me, to be frank) on the grapevine telling me that it was all practical effects, save for a few CGI touch-ups.
That's kind of false... The opening scene, before the title, showcases a particular effect that is impossible to make practically. There's another shot that I'm skeptical about, but not fully, so I'll let it slide.
In the meantime, if I'm wrong, as I may be, let it be testament to the magic of Fede Alvarez that his technique is so effective, I believe CGI to be involved.
In particular, Eric seems to get the worst of all the pain. He is a human Stooge, getting needles, nails and other nasty attacks to him all over the place. Granted, he's the one who started this by reading the Demono Naturem, so he had it coming.

It's also surprising how much homage is given to the original. Actual shots are re-used with a new context behind them, scenarios occur from new circumstances, the infamous tree scene is actually a lot more effective and scary in this form because it is one of the things that brings the main conflict into play. There's even a sequence that seems more like a homage to the well scene from Army of Darkness.

What I do have a problem with is the introduction of a necklace like the original movie, and then there is a very pivotal and emotional moment which plays out between Mia and David around the corner of the final act. Without going into detail, David performs his fuck-stupid resuscitation technique of a make-shift defibrillator utilizing a heroin needle and a fucking car battery and it works... Somehow it works. For no reason.
It's an almost perfect scene. It was hinted at earlier (Eric and Olivia started this cold turkey intervention on account of Mia having legally died of heroin overdose). The score really complimented the scene itself. It had a visual tribute to Ash performing a similar deed to his girlfriend in the original. Both Fernandez and Levy (performing Mia and possessed Mia) really sold the moment...
And there's that stupidity.
What I would have done? I would have the necklace revive Mia. David gives it to her early in the movie, tells her about the belief that it protects those with strength and it's in the perfect supernatural realm as in the movie.
Also, when Ash was possessed in Evil Dead II, what brought him back?

That's right. Not some dumbfuck defibrinjection. Shit, dawg, get it together, Alvarez.

Now, the people who really deserve recognition, since we know the effects team, the makeup and the crew will get enough (this movie is a technical treat - with some line crossing), is the cast. They really hold the story together. Jane Levy's the real shining star of the movie, she can scream to shake the bowels of Hell. But the rest of the cast deserves credit - however underwritten their characters are, they are able to distinguish them from one another beyond the simple 'teens who are supposed to get hacked to death' stereotype. And they especially get the praise for portraying their own monsters, as each person is possessed, they all have an animalistic (and sadistic) quality in their performance that makes me not want to be near them, even if they all use to look like Hollister models before the possessions.

Juggling all these aspects of pacing, effect, visuals and cast, Alvarez has provided an entertaining and bloody enough tribute to appease Evil Dead fans and probably invite newcomers to check out the original trilogy (Shame on a nigga if you haven't, though).
Very great breakout film, and I look forward to new works by the man with an original story behind them.

By the time the movie reaches its final act, it has completely abandoned the main emotion of the story now. It's done, there's nowhere else to go with it. So, what does it do?
It remembers it's an Evil Dead movie.
It kicks that story to the backburner and begins what is quite a fantastic climactic chase/battle that will surely entertain anybody who has not left the theater yet. The movie's too I don't want to go into too much spoiling with the carnage, save for the fact that Slayer would be proud, but oh man, the images in this fight will stick with you.

Bad shit coming...
Now that I'm putting this review out at the time it's coming out (I wanted to wait out of respect for the apparent but tight-lipped promotion), I implore you: if you're reading this review, go see the movie. They deserve as much money as they can so we can not only get a second installment to this new Evil Dead endeavor, but possibly a tie-in film for both this story and Ash's.
I'm certainly going to see it again.

One more thing, if you don't wait for what happens after the credits and you're an Evil Dead fan, it will easily be one of the stupidest things you ever do.


Maybe not so groovy...


  1. I would agree to this on the characters. And I kinda like the idea of not having the same people from the previous series so the film couldn't be that much "make money only" film. I really enjoyed the gore in there too. Not too much CGI for that one. While not calling it a great horror film, it is a good remake, getting away from the reputation of being a horror film remake. They're already making sequels of it. Any thoughts about this?

  2. Well, once again, these things are usually unnecessary, but considering the fact that they plan to make a 4th original Evil Dead, a 2nd remake sequel and then make a crossover film (similar to the idea for X-Men: Days of Future Past)... I'm somewhat interested.