Last night I saw Evil Dead to a packed house. This movie is a remake of the 1981 version, directed by a then unknown director, Sam Raimi and a young actor by the name of Bruce Campbell. In the 32 years since that movie’s debut, Sam Raimi has gone on to direct many big budget films, the Spider-Man trilogy and most recently, Oz the Great and Powerful. Bruce Campbell has become nothing short of a God among his legions of fans and a cult hero. Both have worked together several times since then with Evil Dead II, and it’s sequel, Army of Darkness. Bruce Campbell’s name would appear several times in many of Sam Raimi’s movies as a bit player. Check the credits and you’ll see. I was very happy to read recently the announcement of a 4th film in the series, Army of Darkness II (which in reality would be Evil Dead 4).
The 2013 remake doesn’t have the inventive genius of Sam Raimi nor it’s charming leading man, Bruce Campbell. To me, both men are the Evil Dead. What started out as a low-budget, indie horror film has evolved into a tongue-and-cheek, fun and well-loved series. This remake takes the film back to its survival horror roots. It has a bigger budget and with that, more gore and violence. Evil Dead is directed and co-written by Fede Alvarez, a director from Uruguay who’s previous film credits prior to this feature film has been short films.
The movie stars Jane Levy (from ABC ‘s Suburgatory comedy series) as Mia, a young woman who recently lost her mother and is facing drug addiction. Her brother David (played by Shiloh Fernandez) brings three of his friends to his family’s old, decrepit cabin out in the middle of the woods so that they could help Mia break her drug addiction by going completely cold turkey. Unbeknownst to the group, a dark ritual was conducted in the basement of said cabin where a young woman was sacrificed. A demonic book and the source of great evil was left behind in the basement, ready to be re-discovered and it’s unholy words spoken. When they discover the book heavily wrapped in black plastic and barbed wire, one of the friends does the unthinkable: he reads the book and unleashes an unholy force that possesses a very susceptible Mia. Thus begins a long night of death and horror.
I watched this movie amid screams, gasps and some laughter around me. This movie is extremely violent and bloody. Every bit of gory flesh, drop of blood and dismemberment is gloriously shown on the screen. The gore level in this film is at level 11 on a scale of 1-10. Fede Alvarez does a good job of making you absolutely cringe during these scenes, shocking us with inventive ways in which he kills off each member of the group. If you’re squeamish or sensitive to violence, this is definitely not the film for you. I loved the way he made some nods to the original film in certain scenes.
Jane Levy is good in Suburgatory but I was very impressed with her performance here. She really showed some good range in portraying a vulnerable, frightened girl to a malevolent demon hell-bent on killing every one of her friends. Her character was developed better than the rest of the cast and as the movie went deeper, I slowly realized that unlike the 1981 version, the male lead was not the key figure in this film. If you’ve seen the commercials on TV, the focus seems to be on Mia so I was not at all surprised by the movie’s ending. Fede Alvarez definitely flipped our expectations with this film’s ending and I was totally cool with it. He left the ending open for a sequel but to be honest, I believe this remake was a one-trick pony.
I’m tired of remakes and see no need for them. If you’ve never seen the first Evil Dead, it’s easily available on Netflix or you can drive to your local Best Buy and get the remastered Blu-ray for under 10 bucks. Why retell the same story? This movie added nothing to the Evil Dead canon. I liked it but felt that it was just another money-making vehicle from the studio. It seems like Mr. Alvarez revelled in totally shocking movie-goers with gratuitous over-the-top violence. This movie was sold on the promise of being “the most terrifying film you will ever experience.” I don’t know if I’m too desensitized to all of this (I’ve been watching horror movies since I was 12 years old) but I wasn’t grossed out nor terrorized with this film. I felt Eli Roth’s Hostel was worse (in terms of showing violence). Talk about torture porn!
Sam Raimi had very little money in making the first film, forcing him to be masterfully creative. He instilled a lot of suspense and horror by not showing and just simply implying the horror, an old-school method that many young directors seem to have forgotten to utilize. Sure, the 1981 version is very dated by today’s standards but I felt it had a lot of heart and was a much better film despite the low budget. Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell elevated the original to new heights in horror at the time. It really set the bar.
I see great promise in Fede Alvarez and look forward to his future films. He should try making something original, possibly expanding on one of his previous short films. This remake will be number one this weekend and possibly the next but after that it will fade away as one of the countless remakes that’ll be easily forgotten.