Director/Screenwriter: Fede Alvarez, Screenwriter: Rodo Sayagues
Five friends, holed up in a remote cabin, discover a Book of the Dead that unwittingly summons up dormant demons which possess the youngsters in succession until only one is left to fight for survival.
Cast: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore (film synopsis from sxsw.com)
WHO’S IT FOR?: Those who enjoy watching teens get mercilessly ravaged by other sadistic and possessed teens through ultra violence.
The idea of remaking Sam Raimi's classic horror movie Evil Dead never sat well with me. It always felt like an unnecessary name check cash grab in hopes of reeling in the devoted hardcore fans in addition to appealing to the younger crowd with taglines like "The Most Terrifying Film You Will Ever Experience." You've gotta have some big balls to make a claim like that. Then that red band trailer came out, and I'll be honest it had me hooked. Is it the scariest thing you'll ever see? Not likely but it certainly takes the fun, blood soaked vision of the original series and turns it up to 11. Despite a shoddy script and iffy performances, the new Evil Dead makes a splash where it counts with enough blood, guts and dismemberment to make even the bravest of film goers cringe in disgust.
The simple story from the original (a group of friends go to a cabin and all hell break loose) is replaced with a generic brother-sister family story about drug addiction. Mia (Levy) is taken to a cabin by her brother and some friends to help kick her heroin addiction and hopefully reconnect. While there an ancient evil is unleashed and everything goes to hell pretty quickly. Here's the thing. I didn't need the addiction story, at all. It slows everything down and tries to give an air of seriousness to a film that really didn't require it. These people were going to be violently killed whether or not one of them had drug problems so you might as well keep it as simple as possible.
The first half moves by a little slower than most people would expect with lots of setup and creepy noises to ratchet up the tension before going completely batshit. And when it hits the fan, it hits hard. I'm honestly surprised some of this got by the MPAA. The level of gore and violence on display here is easily NC-17, I can't imagine what they had to cut out to get it down to an R. People get cut up, limbs get ripped off, tongues are split and fountains of blood shower each scene. It's one thing to display this stuff, quite another to do it well. The special effects are impressive, done almost all with practically little to no CGI present.
For the most part, Alvarez's version is it's own beast. Most of the movie is a complete reinvention of what we've seen before except for the ridiculous amount of fan service that is thrown in for no reason. There are clear nods to the original including a variation on the infamous "tree rape" scene that attempts to one-up the original but ends up feeling tacked on. For the most part the film is filled with the same dumb character decisions and cliches we've seen time and time again.
Evil Dead is a clear victim of favoring style over substance. I'm not saying a horror movie needs to have an award-winning script or Daniel Day Lewis in the leading role, but it helps to know what kind of film you want to make before you set out to make it. The film delivers on the gore and violence but never quite breaks the generic mold most horror fits under, and suffers for it. Evil Dead is a mostly fun, blood-soaked reinvention of a series that probably didn't need to happen but while it's here, let's just sit back and enjoy watching these poor kids being tortured for 90 minutes else we'll blow up the world.
FINAL SCORE: 5/10
Tyler Mager currently reviews movies for CollegeMovieReview.com and comics for Gutters and Panels. He's also an aspiring screenwriter and filmmaker based out of Austin, TX. Follow him on twitter @tylermager.