Evil Dead Review [SXSW 2013]

movies:
Amy Curtis

Reviewed by:
Rating:
4
On March 9, 2013
Last modified:March 22, 2013

Summary:

Evil Dead lacks the humor and sub-genre-launching power of the original, but it’s a solid remake that is definitely worth watching, even and especially if you are a fan of the original.

%name Evil Dead Review [SXSW 2013]

It was a ballsy move to even contemplate a remake of Sam Raimi’s iconic 1980s horror film The Evil Dead. So much could go wrong, after all, and there would be no quarter for a sub-standard remake of Raimi’s shoe-string-budget shock and schlock masterpiece. Luckily for moviegoers, though (and those responsible for the remake), Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead re-imagining does not disappoint.

When news of this film came out, I tried to put aside the immediate and overwhelming sinking feeling. Not only was this going to be a remake of an iconic movie, but it could not possibly be as good as the original due to the fact that Bruce Campbell (a big part of what made The Evil Dead series successful) was simply too old to reprise his role in any capacity.

Then I heard that Raimi and Campbell had given the remake their blessings and were working closely with relatively unknown director Fede Alvarez on the new Evil Dead. That gave me hope. I also checked out Alvarez’s movie short Panic Attack!, which turned out to be pretty impressive. So it was with less trepidation than originally thought that I went into the screening of Evil Dead on Friday night, the opening of Austin’s SXSW film festival. Campbell was in the audience too, which gave me even more encouragement.

Then the movie started, and the first scene was incredible. Not just frightening in the normal sense, but disturbing, boundary-pushing, and full of old-school effects tempered with non-intrusive CGI. Luckily, the rest of the movie unfolds in about the same way.

The story takes from the original two Evil Dead movies, but it also begins to make its own mythology, and that is what works so well with this film. It understands its roots, stays true to the basic formula, and throws in enough novelties and twists that the audience is not fed a simple re-hash of the original.

Some scenes, in fact, feel like metaphors for the Evil Dead reboot itself. Here is Evil Dead again, resuscitated and given new life in a new age. There are some changes, but they reflect both the times and the culture, so they are not only welcomed, but smart.

The story is simple (as a good cabin-in-the-woods horror pic should be): A group of young adults meet at an isolated cabin for a few days in an attempt to “cold-turkey” their drug-addicted friend. They soon discover an ancient evil book, read an incantation from it, and the next thing they know they’ve unwittingly released a demon that can possess their bodies and eat their souls. Yikes.

And let’s not forget the horror element of this film. Evil Dead is definitely scary. So many horror movies that come out today just aren’t frightening. They try to be, but they aren’t. Evil Dead truly gets under your skin, just like a soul-eating demon would. It is not just about the specials effects and the gore either, or even about the jump scares (and there are a number of these); it is about the cabin and the isolation. That is how it should be, as this is what the sub-genre is all about. Of course, there is also the blood and violence, which comes in ample amounts and is upped to a level that only modern practical and CG effects can achieve. Seriously, I have no idea how this film got away with an R rating. It is gory beyond belief and Alvarez absolutely drenches the film in blood.

All that being said, as good as Evil Dead is, it is not a perfect movie. There are a few scenes that border on silly (and not in the “we’re-making-fun-of-ourselves” way that the first Evil Dead was). Also, at times, the mythology that the film created is left aside or muddled for the sake of the story (and where the creators wanted it to end up). In this instance though, and I rarely feel this way, I find it somewhat forgivable because the ending is one of the best horror movie endings I have ever seen, remake or not.

Another thing that is a bit upsetting is the lack of that humor that was so pervasive in the original Evil Dead movies. This film is a straight-up horror and lacks the instinctual humor that came naturally to the star of the original, Campbell. Without the humor he brought to the original movies, Alvarez’s version is not as fun. The story is great, the horror elements are spot on and on the whole, this is a very entertaining flick, but it probably won’t have the lasting power of the original because of this weakness.

Still, Alvarez is a talented director, bringing horror to the next level with exciting direction that never got boring or looked by-the-numbers. He co-wrote the script too, so his talents are officially across the board. The new cast of young’ens gets the job done as well, though there is no new Bruce Campbell among them. Shiloh Fernandez (Dead Girl) and Jane Levy (Suburgatory) lead the pack and are both quite good in their roles, playing a brother and sister bent on saving their relationship and the world. Supporting cast includes Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas and Elizabeth Blackmore, all of whom hand in decent performances.

Evil Dead is a remake that works (a true rarity). It probably has to do with the involvement of Raimi and Campbell a good deal, but the new version is just as scary as the original and has a clever update/twist too, making it well worth a watch for both fans of Raimi’s original film as well as newcomers to the series.

Evil Dead lacks the humor and sub-genre-launching power of the original, but it’s a solid remake that is definitely worth watching, even and especially if you are a fan of the original.
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  • shake

    Woot. Evil Dead is back, baby!

  • LightsCameraReaction

    Bah I’m so jealous you saw this! Does the trailer ruin the film? Are all the best bits in the trailer?

    • amy curtis

      while the trailer does contain some of the highlights, there are still plenty of great scenes that will be new and gloriously disturbing for you to see ;)

  • Oldschool1987

    The original was never supposed to be funny, Cambell himself said any humor was a result of bad acting and cheap effects, never intentional. It wasnt until the sequel they added humor, I’m glad this remake is a balls to the wall horror.

  • Luis

    The first evil dead did not have humor. Part 2 was horror and humor. Army of darkness makes the full transition.

  • Amanda Kokenge

    First off, good review. However, as another commenter has pointed out, the original and first Evil Dead was not supposed to be funny in anyway. The humor didn’t come until the sequel.

  • SC

    Another reviewer that has no idea what they are talking about. The original The Evil Dead(1981) was not meant to be funny. It was the small budget,poor acting and bad effects that make it seem silly today. I saw the original back in 1983 in a packed theater and no one was laughing. Most people were scared shitless and if they did laugh it was a nervous laughter. There was nothing funny about the original. You are thinking of Evil Dead 2 Dead by Dawn. Do yourself a favor go back and watch the original again(I bet you probably haven’t even seen It just part 2) and tell me if it’s funny. Yes the acting and poor effects are funny but that’s unintentional. Bruce and Sam have both said they were trying to make the scariest movie they could. I just don’t understand how some of you critics get your job. Stop acting like you know what your talking about. It’s critics like you and the other morons that just read other morons comments on how The Evil Dead was funny and don’t do your homework.

    • Amy Curtis

      I have seen all of the Evil Dead movies, more than once. Inadvertently or not, the original Evil Dead movie had comedic elements. This might not have been the intent (as Raimi has oft said), and instead the result of a ridiculously bad script, acting and camera work/available technology and budget (oh, and Campbell’s comedic nature). Whatever the reasons, it came off as scary and campy at the same time, which (in my humble opinion), is the reason it has become the cult classic it is. It is also the reason Raimi and co. went all-out campy in the next two installments in the series.

      Also, Raimi was an avid fan of The Three Stooges growing up, and many of his first directorial attempts (before Evil Dead) were slapstick comedy shorts based on what he loved about the Three Stooges. In fact, one of his trademarks is using Stooge-like sequences in his films. Therefore, if one really thinks about it, it’s obvious that Raimi’s love of the Stooges and comedy in general unconsciously affected his camera work and script in the first Evil Dead, adding the humor you so vehemently deny is there. You can draw your own conclusions.

      • SC

        I don’t know what movie you were watching but there was no Three Stooges camera work in the original EVIL DEAD that was part 2. Trying to make your point by straight up making up shit makes you look like you really don’t know what your talking about. Name one scene in The Evil Dead that had a Three Stooges funny moment. And don’t say when Ash was getting tossed around by Cheryl because that was not even close. Do yourself a favor, stop before you embarrass yourself by trying to act like you know what your talking about.

  • http://www.facebook.com/noman.ansari Noman Ansari

    Hey I think you made a major mistake with this review. I think you are confusing the original evil dead, which was a straight up horror flick, with its sequel, which actually was humorous.

  • Joe?

    The original EvilDead isn’t meant to be funny, nor is it… The first movie of the series is all about horror; all about the atsmosphere and gore… If you enjoyed the remake I suggest maybe you watch the original…

    EvilDead2 was the starting point for the mix of horror and comedy…

    And EvilDead3 (ArmyofDarkness), as mentioned in someone else’s reply, went all out with the comedy…

    As a fan of the series, I’m defenitely looking forward to the “remake” of EvilDead; and again, I also suggest you watch the original… What I don’t think I’ll like about the remake is that they changed the mythology of the BookoftheDead; changing it from an ancient Sumarian text to a Satanic-like bible; from an ancient Kandarian demon to Satan… This change is dissapointing, but I have yet to actually see the movie though…