Movie review: ‘Evil Dead’
When I go to see a horror movie, I’m looking for three things: excessive amounts of gore, a reasonable level of campiness and genuinely surprising plot twists. “Evil Dead,” a remake of the 1981 cult classic directed by Sam Raimi, met and exceeded my expectations in all three of these regards. Raimi handpicked Uruguayan director Fede Alvarez, who is making his feature film debut with this reboot. With a cast of little known actors, led by a strong performance by Jane Levy (from the underrated ABC sitcom “Suburgatory”) as Mia, the film successfully plays up its horror tropes as the group of college kids go into the woods and you begin to wonder who will die first. For fans of the original, there is no new Ash in the remake, although his trademark chainsaw does make a much appreciated appearance. For nonfans of the original, Ash (portrayed by Bruce Campbell) became a cult icon, placing 24th on Empire magazine’s The 100 Greatest Movie Characters list. Raimi and Co. made the right decision by not rebooting Ash, and I don’t believe that his lack of presence in “Evil Dead” is conspicuous or detrimental to the film.
The horror movie genre is often criticized for going back to the classics and reassembling their pieces in a modern context without innovation, and rightly so. However, “Evil Dead” continues a new movement along the lines of Joss Whedon’s “The Cabin in the Woods,” in which writers and directors with a love of the genre give their own stylistic take on what “horror” is in the contemporary world. Its influences are apparent (channeling “The Exorcist” with the classic gravelly voice and demonic yellow eyes), yet it clearly becomes its own product in the end.
Enough with this blabbing about historical relevancy, “Evil Dead” is an awesome film. In the opening scene, a girl, possessed by a demon, pleads with her father as he pours gasoline over her head, and things only get more messed up from there. As far as gore goes, you will find it in abundance. For those who cringed when the character in Eli Roth’s “Hostel” got his Achilles tendon sliced and then tried to walk, just wait until you see what this movie does. Yet it never feels cheap or unwarranted as it often did in “Hostel.” “Evil Dead” is not torture porn but rather a demonic possession film with a hearty dose of gore, and it achieves this balance with great success.
For the most part, “Evil Dead” takes itself rather seriously, but eventually the running gags start to add up, and you realize that while the characters are all incredibly serious about what’s going on, the writers know that they are just dumb people making terrible decisions. The convention of “Don’t go in there!” is used to make you question the character’s intelligence, but this is all intentional and is meant to call into mind the vanguards of the horror genre. Keep an eye out for the duct tape. This running gag had me in stitches.
Lastly, “Evil Dead” is truly and refreshingly surprising. While the movie stutters a bit between the time that Mia gets possessed and people start dying, it adds to the onslaught of action and plot development that is thrown in shortly after. There are three separate times that the movie feels like it might end, and yet it keeps throwing in a new plot twist that changes up the whole story. Most importantly, these twists never feel senseless and always add to the story. This is an incredibly difficult thing to accomplish in a 91-minute film, but “Evil Dead” pulls it off with flying colors, mostly red. Man, there is a lot of red in that final scene.
If you’re a horror-movie fan who has felt disillusioned the past decade or so, check out this film. It’s a sign of good things to come for the horror genre. And it even leaves you with a memorable moral in the end: don’t do heroin.