Saturday, April 6, 2013

Evil Dead

"Everything's gonna be fine? I don't know if you noticed this, but everything's been getting worse... every second."

The first thing I want to tell people about the new 'Evil Dead' film, is to throw out all you remember about Sam Raimi's cult horror classic and just start over.  Fede Alvarez's remake is much darker, gorier, and lacks the cheesy schlock that made Raimi's original the classic we remember -- so just forget the original.  What Uruguayan director Fede Alvarez does in this new version is very up to date with what twenty-first century  audiences are expecting in a modern horror film.  The producers of 'Evil Dead' are Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and Robert G. Tapert.  Campbell and Tapert were both actors in the original version, thus leaving their 'stamp of approval' on this remake/re imaging.  The basic plot and spirit of the original is the same, five college age kids tormented by a demon while out in a cabin in the woods.  The film is about an hour and a half and is rated 'R' - as I think any good horror film should be.

What makes this version stand out is the sheer amount of brutality to the violence.  I am not sure if it is the fact that special effects are just much better, or that the quality of the film stock, but this film just feels different, grittier, meaner, and soulless.  The story opens with a girl, bloody, tattered running through the woods, scared, and hunted.  Trapped, hooded, and tied she finds herself in a cellar tied to a post.  Dead cats hang everywhere, an old witch-woman speaking in a foreign language is reading from an ancient tome with horrific pictures.  The girl, screaming for help is de-hooded and the only person she recognizes in the dark group is her father.  Apparently, like Louis in 'The Last Exorcism' he needs to kill his daughter in order to save her soul.  Dousing his daughter with kerosene , he lighting her up, then he shoots her with a shotgun, but not before his precious innocent daughter pulls a Regan MacNeil and spits out blasphemies that only a demon should repeat.

Borrowing a shot from director John Erick Dowdle's beginning of ‘Devil,’ he uses the concept that the world is upside down.  The camera slowly rights itself and we find ourselves tracking a Jeep while it winds down the lonely road amidst the beautiful forest backdrop. This shot reminds me of Kubrick's opening shot in 'The Shining.'  Arriving at their destination, several hours late are David and his girlfriend, Natalie.  'Evil Dead' stars Jane Levy as Mia - a young woman who has lost herself to drugs and is trying to clean herself up.  Shiloh Fernandez ('Red Riding Hood,' 'Cadillac Records ') is her older brother David who didn't seem to be around much while Mia was caring for their dying mother.  Lou Taylor Pucci ('Horsemen,' 'Carriers'), is both the smart one and the fool, Eric.  Naomi, a registered nurse, is Mia’s friend who is attempting to intervene with Mia’s drug addiction, and is played by Canadian actress, Jessica Lucas ('She's the Man,' 'Cloverfield').  Rounding out the cast as David's girlfriend is Elizabeth Blackmore as Natalie.  Oh yes, there is also 'Grandpa' David and Mia's German shepherd.

As it turns out, Mia has overdosed on heroin a couple of times and was clinically dead for a few minutes the last time.  Eric and Naomi have decided that the only way their friend Mia is going to get better is to force her to go cold turkey and they plan to hold her captive at the cabin during the drying out process.  David, who left home years ago and couldn't face his mother's death isn't so sure that this intervention is a good idea.  Naomi, the nurse is steadfast on the idea.  This new version uses the 1981 version more of a guide rather than a strict scripting of events.  During one of Mia's withdrawal fits, she screams that the place reeks of something rotten.  No one believes her until the dog starts sniffing at a rug covering the obligatory cellar trap door.

Now, those of you who don't go see horror films on a regular basis have a tendency to wonder WTF is wrong with these characters in these types of films.  Why do they do the stupid things they do?  Why do they open books tied in barbed wire and upon finding in BIG RED LETTERS words like 'DO NOT TOUCH THIS BOOK,' 'DON"T READ' and stuff like that, they go ahead and read the damn book.  Didn't they see 'Cabin In The Woods'?  After finding the crispy dead cats hanging in the cellar and the instruments of sacrifice, Eric finds himself drawn to the book that the old witch was reading.  Apparently, the people at the beginning of the film 'borrowed' the cabin to do their exorcism on the nameless girl, as the cabin 'looked as if someone broke in and had a party.’  Sounding out some words found in the book, Eric reads aloud something that sounds similar to ‘hakuna matata monsanto yada yada yada’, thus summoning the evil spirit from the woods.  

Although the actors all do their best to bring something to their parts they are severely limited by a script that only requests that bring out only one dimension of their characters.  Naomi, for instance is pretty much a 'Red Shirt,' in 'Evil Dead,' so much so that I don't know why she even was given a name.  Her death on the other hand was brutal, bloody, and shocking.  Same for the character of Natalie, her character only comes alive when she dies.  David and Eric have a little more depth to their parts but not much.  The real star is of the movie is Mia.  Like Bruce Campbell's 'Ash' character from the original, she is the only one who really goes through a change in character.  To be honest, Jane Levy's depiction of the possessed Mia lovingly licking the edge of a utility knife gave me the creeps.  David's character 'grows' a bit, but it doesn't play as truthful as does Mia's. Eric, we will note is part scholar and part fool.  Actually his character is probably the most interesting one. He guides the audience with his limited knowledge of the demonic book, he shows us the ghastly pictures of demonic purification. If anything, Eric’s role is similar to Mordecai from ‘The Cabin In The Woods,’ that of a harbinger of doom. His role turns more comical as he is the constantly being used as a human pincushion and keeps coming back for more.  

'Evil Dead' has plenty of suspenseful moments enhanced by a score composed by Roque Baños that is deep and ominous.  Sustaining the notes, that the orchestra plays to stretch out the suspense to a point that makes one cringe.  Aaron Morton's cinematography is crisp yet dark.  The makeup and prosthetics are just wrong in a good way.  I am not sure if it was a budget thing but this film seems a bit rushed.  Bryan Shaw's editing is quick and frenetic that leaves the audience breathless.  Perhaps that was on purpose.  Horror fans watching this film will notice Alvarez's nods to classic horror films from the past that make us feel at home.  Non-horror fans will find this film repulsive, vulgar, and just plain sick, but that is why we horror fans go see 'Evil Dead.'

Movie Data

Genre:  Horror, Thriller
Year:  2013
Staring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore
Director: Fede Alvarez
Producer(s)  Sam Raimi, Bruce, Campbell, Robert G. Taper
Writer: Sam Raimi, Fede Alvarez
Rating: R

© Robert Barbere

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