Friday, April 5, 2013

Evil Dead (2013) - Theatrical Review

Release Date:

'Evil Dead' will own your soul and then swallow it whole.

Review Vital Stats:  
Theater: AMC 30 at Orange
Time: 10:00 pm April 4, 2013   
Projector Type: Digital 2D  
Film Rating: R  
Film Runtime: 1 hr 30 min
Studio: Tri-Star Pictures

Loves: The Evil Dead Franchise
Likes: The entire cast, Fede Alvarez, gory horror movies
Neutral: People that do stupid things, remakes
Hates: That this wasn't more scary   
Say hello to the new lady of horror: Jane Levy's performance is the thing of horror legends

When a group of friends decide to help their hopelessly drug addicted friend Mia (Jane Levy) kick her habit, they take a ride out to a remote cabin in the woods to help cut her off from civilization. When her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) arrives, they begin to rekindle their relationship and make up for lost time. However, just as Mia is beginning to bottom out, David and Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) discover a cellar door leading down into a room that looks to be filled with all sorts of witch craft. They find a book wrapped in barbed wire that clearly someone doesn't want opened. Hopelessly curious, Eric opens the book and reads a few of the transcripts which then unleashes a demonic being in the woods that begins taking over each of them one by one starting with Mia and won't stop until each of their souls have been consumed.

When it was announced that someone had the audacity to remake The Evil Dead the horror community was outraged. This was like someone trying to remake Friday the 13th...oops, forgot they already did that. How about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre...oh wait, yep that also. Well alright, what about the same as remaking A Nightmare On Elm, darn it. Halloween?...nope. Dawn of the Dead? Psycho? Last House on the Left? The Amityville Horror? Sigh, well as you can clearly see, horror films and remakes go hand in hand like horror sequels anymore. But what we usually don't see are remakes that not only pay tribute to the original, but do it without completely destroying your memories of it.

Let's face it, a remake of the 1981 horror classic The Evil Dead was inevitable. We just so happened to luck out that not only were the original films creative talent such as Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell on board as producers to oversee their baby get a new face lift, but we also really scored with first time director Fede Alvarez at the helm. What Alvarez has accomplished here is no short of a miracle. By taking the extremely simple premise of The Evil Dead and adapting it so that it wouldn't tarnish the franchise's reputation but also carve out a new path for itself, Alvarez and company have made a remake that is every bit as good as its predecessors while also improving on it in the meantime.

Right off the bat the audience is thrust into some heavy action involving a demon possessed girl tied to a post, a mob of backwoods rednecks standing in the background, a creepy witch and a deeply disturbed father holding a lighter, some gasoline and a shotgun. You can let your imagination do the rest but suffice it to say that Alvarez sets the tone for what's to come early on and let's his audience know they are in store for some seriously f**ked up s**t over the course of the next 90 minutes.

That initial sequence is needed for more than just setting the tone because the opening moments of the film are a little slow to get going. There is some mystery to the cabin and some character moments needed to understand who is who and why they are there, but for the most part we already know what is coming and the quicker it can get there the better. Luckily we aren't the only ones on pins and needles because it doesn't take long before someone finds a mysterious book and despite having signs all over it warning the reader to not read it, some poor sap starts reading from it and from that point forward the film is pretty much a freight train of indescribable gore, buckets upon buckets of blood, wicked deaths and some very very unsettling moments.

You might be thinking right now, "Meh, so what. You see one horror movie, you've seen them all." That couldn't be further from the truth friends. In probably the best and only decision Alvarez could have made, the entire film of Evil Dead is 100% genuine practical effects. That's right, no computers adding blood sprays, no green screened severed limbs, no digital trickery of any kind (although one has to wonder how they pulled off the scene with the burning girl). What does it matter if it's all practical? Well, let's just say there is a reason why films such as The Thing (1982), The Shining and The Exorcist still hold up today and that isn't because they used computers to create their gore.

When you see someone cut off an arm, cut their face open with a piece of glass, slice their tongue down the middle, get pummeled by a crowbar or have blood vomited all over them, it was all done on set while filming and the results are stupendously grotesque and will likely result in most audiences feeling uneasy and squirmy while watching. There were reports that the film nearly received an NC-17 rating just for the amount of gore (there is zero nudity in this by the way) and it is easy to see how that almost happened. Alvarez is blood thirsty and isn't shy to put his actors through the ringer for our pleasure.

Speaking of the actors, one of the biggest omissions from the original films is fan favorite Ash, originally played by Bruce Campbell. When rumors started coming around about the remake, one of the most debated subjects was if anyone could ever replace Campbell in that iconic role. Alvarez smartly decided to not answer that question and instead went with all new characters that audiences, both old and new to the franchise, could discover for the first time and it was a wise decision that only worked because of of some smart casting decisions. All the actors are top notch and each deserves an award for the punishment and psychological damage they must have went through when filming, but the standout here is Jane Levy as Mia.

Here is a girl that comes from the humble roots of television and just takes the audience by the balls and never lets go. She has three distinct roles to play throughout the film and she nails each of them. But where she shines the most is as possessed Mia. The way she moves, speaks (other than some slight digital alteration to her voice, that is her talking) and the joyful glee you see in her eyes as she rains hell down upon these friends and family that are simply trying to help her. It is a performance that will likely win her a whole legion of  devoted horror fans and rightfully so. It was also a relief to see the deadites (that is the name for demon possessed souls) still up to their usual trickery and the consistent string of vulgar comments towards those they wish to kill which each actor pulled off remarkably well.

Also be on the look out for some homages to the original film, fans will find plenty to point out and chuckle about. Many of the items or situations that Ash ran into in the original films are present here but Alvarez once again shows his understanding of the material and uses them in the most natural ways possible without drawing too much attention to them. There are countless nods that fans will pick out such as the necklace Mia receives from her brother, the book of the dead, the shotgun, a couple of familiar severed limbs, a chained up cellar door and of course a chainsaw makes an appearance as well. If those aren't enough for those rabid fans out there, they should stay after the credits finish for a nice little surprise that left my particular audience cheering.

As for any negatives to bring up, there are only nitpicks to be mentioned such as why the book of the dead was just laying on a table and why anyone would want to just start reading it aloud. But the biggest complaints from the original film such as why a group of college kids would want to go stay at a remote and run down cabin in the woods for a weekend is actually given a great excuse here with Mia trying to detox and her friends using the remote location to keep her away from temptation. None of these issues ever detracted from the original and they still don't now. Also, for anyone out there giving this film a negative review simply because it is a horror film and not the next Oscar contender for best picture, just lighten up already.

Fede Alvarez's remake of Evil Dead is a return to true honest to goodness horror filmmaking at its very best. By adding new and improved techniques (as well as a budget) to the old school techniques used by Raimi over 30 years ago, he proves that all you need are some more than willing actors, a good make up artist, a remote location and copious amounts of blood to rain down on everyone (literally) and you have all the tools you need to make a fun and extremely disturbing film going experience that horror fans, both young and old, can fall in love with together. It's a little silly to say this, but by taking us back to an age of filmmaking that hardly exists anymore, he has set a new standard that all horror films will be held up to from this point forward. Evil Dead is the real deal and if you love horror then you shouldn't even be reading this, you should already have your ticket in hand and walking into that theater to have your soul devoured and ready to love every second of it.





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