April 7, 2013

EVIL DEAD (Review)


Evil Dead (2013)

Director: Fede Alvarez

2.5 / 5 zedheads

How many times have I watched the original Evil Dead?

I'm sure that at this point I can't even count. Its tale of five 20-somethings who discover an evil book that unleashes evil demons during a bloody night at a cabin in the woods has become a horror classic. It may even be one of the few perfect horror movies in existence: scary, funny, disgusting, inventive, and charming all at once. Now, this highly-successful indie horror classic has been remade by Uruguayan filmmaker Fede Alvarez with a brand new cast under the guidance of producers Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell. 

So. The verdict? Despite my love for the original, I went into Alvarez's Evil Dead with an open mind and a willingness to give it a fair shake. Upon leaving the theatre, however, I realized that Evil Dead 2013 is strictly take it or leave it grindhouse material. It's a retread of a classic that compensates for its lack of genuine scares and charm with over-the-top practical gore effects. It's an awkward back and forth between gores and bores that do nothing to live up to the Evil Dead name.

Let's put a smile on that face of yours
Five friends travel out to a cabin in the woods. We've seen this story before, but this time, there's modern twist. The goal of the trip is to help Mia (Jane Levy) finally kick a drug addiction that almost killed her. To keep her from bailing on her own cold turkey rehab, she's joined by her friends: her estranged brother David (Shiloh Fernandez), his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore), a nurse named Olivia (Jessica Lucas), and Eric the High School teacher (Lou Taylor Pucci). After Eric discovers and reads from a book bound in human skin that was hidden in the basement, Mia becomes possessed. Everyone mistakes her odd behaviour as a result of her withdrawal, but it's not until several of her friends have been horribly mutilated that they realize they're dealing with a relentless, supernatural evil. By then, it's already too late.

There's no shortage of chainsaw action in the new Evil Dead. Groovy!
Hardcore Evil Dead fans are going to find that the remake is peppered with little Easter Eggs as well as visual and aural homages to the original film. Alvarez is clearly a fan of the original Evil Dead and has done a lot of work to tie this film into the visual iconography of Rami's classic -- even going a step further to incorporate the imagery of the original film's poster (which had nothing to do with the original film). Hell, I'd buy Alvarez a beer just for the fact that he called the flesh-bound book by its original name, the Naturom Demonto, and not the Necronomicon as it would later be rebranded in Evil Dead 2Alvarez also scores major fan points by opting for practical effects rather than digital. There's very little CGI blood splatter here or digital monster effects, so unlike some modern films, I suspect Evil Dead will retain a very fulfilling time-less quality.

When self-piercing goes horribly wrong
If you love bloody movies, then you're going to love how Evil Dead really puts its characters through the meat-grinder, with several instantly memorable moments of dismemberment that spring to mind. For one, the sky literally rains blood. It's a gorehound's delight to be sure, but is the Evil Dead's grueling series of slaughters and subtle fan service enough to justify a remake?

Unfortunately, no. Alvarez's script for Evil Dead is a real disappointment. The characters are forgetful and poorly developed, the dialogue is perfunctory, and there's no one interesting to root for. The manic humour of the original is all but gone. And that, my friends, is its greatest flaw. It wasn't the gore that made The Evil Dead popular. Even before Raimi went into full-blown horror-comedy mode for Evil Dead 2, the original The Evil Dead had an underlying sense of fun that catapulted the film into cult status and midnight movie history. A big part of that fun were the deadites; they were maniacal and psychologically terrorizing. Who wouldn't find Betsy Baker's incessantly singing and mocking child-like deadite both hilarious and frightening? Well, the deadites in Alvarez's remake are really no fun at all. They don't fly. They don't mutate. They don't do much except mutilate themselves and bite people like run-of-the-mill zombies. Rather than being a source of horror fun, they are simply employed to be repulsive, crude, and vulgar shotgun fodder. In another strange move, Alvarez seems to think that William Friedkin's The Exorcist is a better model for the deadites than Raimi's original source material. Despite the fact that The Exorcist put demon-possession films on the map in 1973, Sam Raimi went the other direction with The Evil Dead, and probably to the film's credit. Yet, like Regan and her filthy demon mouth in The Exorcist, Alvarez's deadites taunt their victims with such profane lines as, "Kiss me, you cunt," and "Your mother is being raped in hell." Yawn. Not only does this deadite dialogue stand in stark contrast to the decidedly anti-Exorcist tone of every original Evil Dead movie, it's also highly derivative and unimaginative.  

You have to give Evil Dead a hand for its in-your-face gore
Alvarez clearly has reverence for the first Evil Dead, but it only comes through in drips and drabs. Blood is poured out by the bucket full, and the visceral violence is cranked up to 11, but all that does is mask the shoddy story-telling and lack of likable characters and, more importantly, the lack of fun scares. As an average horror movie like you'd find on Neftlix with a dispensable cast, Evil Dead is a somewhat entertaining yet mediocre addition to the horror genre. As a remake of a classic, however, it is very disappointing. Take it or leave it; Evil Dead 2013 is certainly not as lively or as fun as any film in the original installments in The Evil Dead series.