“The Ultimate Experience in Grueling Terror” is back! Groovy!
When I first heard that Evil Dead was being done again, I thought, like so many others, “Not another unneeded remake of a movie that’s already a classic—and better yet, just fine as it is.” However, with great skepticism and hope, I considered the ways it could (and I do stress could) be worthwhile. No one could be more hopeful about the resurrection of a dearly-loved original than me.
After seeing the new Evil Dead (directed by Fede Alvarez), I am happy to say that it is, indeed, most of what I wanted it to be and a whole lot more! How? Luckily, the ways are as copious as blood flowing from a fresh ax wound in a throwback horror film—just like we like them…with only a few exceptions.
First, aside from the similarities we expect, it’s a new story. This time, we have a plot that begins grounded in real-life drama—a story headed in another direction that could be anything but horror. A group of friends meet at a cabin in the woods (of course), where they plan to help a friend’s sister wean herself from a serious drug addiction. So far, the only reason we know it’s a horror film is because we know the original. Soon enough, weird things happen, it becomes quickly ominous, and eventually even supernatural—of course. In the words of Ash himself, it gets “groovy.” However, one uniqueness of this “remake” is the supernatural element taking its time to become a reality for the characters. In this version, unlike the first, there are no bodies possessed and floating around a room. All of the demons, as they are, begin as very corporeal and physical beings in human form, albeit messed up and mutilated. This time, there is no quick evidence that it’s a demonic detour from the expected.
Second, it’s bloody, bloody, bloody, and gory, gory, gory! Yes, I did say each one three times! It’s been (and I’m not kidding) decades since I’ve seen a good over-the-top horror film, literally oozing with blood and gore! There are demons vomiting blood, facial mutilations (self-inflicted), tongues cut in half, bodies impaled with nails, and body parts cut and pulled off, all while the bodies are alive, no less! (Yes, the type of stuff you don’t see every day!) Oh, and sit down for this! It’s all done with practical effects! There are no (and I do stress zero) obvious or hard-to-detect CGI stunts, subconsciously messing with our ability to believe it’s really there. What we see is what’s really happening! And yes, I realized, with this movie, how much I miss “the real stuff.”
Third, and maybe most important, this movie is genuinely scary. No, it’s not scary in a Paranormal Activity way; it’s not a slow-burning story about ghosts that first make a few noises that could be anything, gradually turning off lights and moving things here and there for tricks. It’s scary in an old-school way with demons in your face and chasing your ass (coming at both ends), bent on dragging you straight to Hell in record time. Some people find it impossible to immerse themselves in such direct horror; some people just can’t do it, no matter what. But, those of you can are in for a treat. All I have to do is ask myself a quick question and give an honest answer. “Would I be scared shitless if demons like this were after me, ready to mutilate, violate, and consume me, burning my soul in an eternity of Hell?” The answer is a quick, “Hell, yes!” Of course, being too conscious of your theater seat, your popcorn, and all of your surrounding friends may cause you to be less than honest with yourself…and yes, less able to enjoy the potential fun in what Stephen King himself called “the finest emotion.”
Also excellent was the decision not to use the same old mainstream actors everybody knows and sees in everything else. Casting well-known people, too associated with too much else would surely have been a distraction and not in the necessary spirit of the original. Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, and Elizabeth Blackmore do a great and very convincing job of playing the quintet of young people mostly slated for slaughter. Jane Levy (as the recovering drug addict/unlikely heroine, Mia) is perfect in her first-time role in a horror film. In a Fangoria magazine interview (Issue #322), I read that Levy didn’t enjoy her time working on the movie, due to the physically-demanding nature of the role. But, who could tell? She certainly plays her part like a veteran, with all the energy and enthusiasm of the best butt-kicking heroines of horror I know! Kudos to Jane Levy for making her role as Mia, a commendable comparison to a female Ash, sans the humor.
I’m also really glad that this version didn’t try to duplicate Ash’s character. Bruce Campbell‘s Ash was a one-of-a-kind hero in the original, with a now untouchable cult status; any attempt to recreate Ash would have surely weakened the movie by comparison—and likely even made it a failure over that issue alone. Kudos again to all involved for making such a smart decision about that. A failed Ash doppelganger was one of my greatest worries with this one.
Another refreshing detour from the original was a lack of humor, avoiding a failed dark-comedy remake, again by comparison to a likely superior original. Once again, Bruce Campbell’s Ash was the heart of the original, especially with his humor. Evil Dead (2013) wisely chose to play it straight and serious, rather than stepping in another certain pitfall for failure.
While I applaud the unique differences in the remake, I also like the homages to several staples of the original. One in particular (an old rusted Oldsmobile/Ash’s car of choice), adds more than a connection to the first film; it also smartly suggests that the new film is actually taking place many years later, and is indeed another story unto itself—with yet another hapless group in for a new night of Hell. I also enjoyed the quick cuts in a scene where an improvised chainsaw weapon is put together. Need I say more? No!
Speaking of homages, I’m also thinking of the scene from the original where a tree-rape occurs in…you guessed it, the woods. Does this occur in the remake? I will say yes, but I will not say how it is distinctly different. I’ll just say, without giving too much away, that it avoids criticisms of the original, while making it as effective for its twisted, demonic purposes. If you’re a true fan of Evil Dead, well-versed in the original, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
Yes, I loved Evil Dead (2003). But, was it a perfect movie? No. Why? I saw it with my good friend and actress, Lien Mya Nguyen, who pointed out the reasons very well. Why was Mya’s thumb only halfway up? Her questions made even a hardcore Deadite like myself think twice. Just how many nails can a human body be impaled with (in vital locations) before it succumbs to death? Could a common electric kitchen knife really saw through a human humerus (in a matter of minutes, no less)–further without eliciting screams from the still-human amputee? Could a person really pull their own arm off, stretching and tearing muscle tissue (even if the bones were already broken) without passing out from pain and blood loss? Would such a wound stop bleeding so quickly (or immediately), without being cauterized? Would a person have the strength to pull their own arm off at all? Why would a person (yes a human, not a demon) be drenched in blood one moment, yet at other times, in the same scene, be only splattered with lesser amounts of blood? Would a woman buried in a tattered dress later emerge from the mud and muck with her dress in perfect condition and her hair freshly washed and coiffed? (Yes, a supernatural event might heal physical wounds, but a dress and hair too?)
As sure as a Deadite is evil, even supernatural films must have limits for what “rings true.” Even adrenalin-overdosed humans running from demons must succumb to being human at some point–especially when the movie is otherwise in a realistic context. Yes, continuity errors (which plague even the best of films) and impossible moments (even for a horror film) may keep Evil Dead (2003) from being a full thumbs-up experience for some; and these issues are well worth pointing out for those concerned. I admit that, in my awe-struck afterthoughts, I overlooked them. I’m glad Mya was with me.
I mention these flaws (as I agree they are) because they distract the viewer, making the focus with believability rather than the movie. Just as you’re getting into it, you’re saying, “That could never happen!” I admit that I almost get angry when a movie I like so much does things so inexcusable. Evil Dead (2013) is just such a movie that made me almost angry. But, then I remembered the truth; it’s only a movie…and I still like it anyway.
With or without flaws, even as a remake of a classic, Evil Dead (2013) carves a new niche in a familiar place. It’s a gorehound’s retro-ride to times gone by, when monsters were real and blood flowed, just as real, across the skin of real people. PG-13 knock offs and R-rated wannabes, get out of the way! Ash’s Oldsmobile, although slightly rusted, is still fueled up and ready to run your ass over. “The Ultimate Experience in Gruelling Terror” is back with a vengeance, and no demon-fearing soul is safe! But, just remember this: blood gore and flaws be damned; in the end, it’s still “Groovy!”
More gory stills from Evil Dead (2013)
Evil Dead (2013) was directed by Fede Alvarez, Written by Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues, and Sam Raimi (1981 screenplay), and Stars Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, and Elizabeth Blackmore, with a cameo by Bruce Campbell, and Original Music by Roque Baños, with Cinematography by Aaron Morton, and Editing by Bryan Shaw
For a description of Rocket Rating 8, click on the Rocket Meter above!