Evil Dead (2013) - Can't Stop the Movies
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Evil Dead (2013)

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Evil Dead 2013 is one of those films I've been waiting for with equal parts excitement and dread since sometime in early 2000s when rumors of a remake started circulating. Excitement because I've been a fan of the Evil Dead series and Sam Raimi since I first saw Army of Darkness twenty-some years ago. Dread because when's the last time you remember a good horror remake?

For those of you going in completely blind, Evil Dead is a story of five kids spending a weekend in the woods and getting murdered horribly by demons. That's pretty much it. Like the original, it's light on plot and heavy on gore. Mia (Jane Levy) is trying to kick her drug addiction, so she's gather a few of her college friends and her brother (Shiloh Fernandez) to take her out into a secluded cabin for the week so she can detox. Things go as well as they can in that situation, at least until one of the kids decides to read the scary book wrapped in barbed wire that has “DO NOT READ THIS” crudely scrawled on every page. Cue demons, destruction and about 100 gallons of fake blood.

Today's Special: Book of the Dead, wrapped in garbage bag and barbed wire, served with side of shotgun shells.

Today's Special: Book of the Dead, wrapped in garbage bag and barbed wire, served with side of shotgun shells.

If you've seen the 1981 original, there aren't a whole lot of surprises to be found in Evil Dead 2013. Some characters die/get possessed in a different sequence than you might remember, and the brutality of the violence has definitely been ramped-up, but it's still the same basic film. Two points that did stick out in my mind, though (Warning: Very minor spoilers):

1) The last ten minutes or so seems...off. It's difficult to really quantify that, but I suspect that there may actually be two different endings filmed, or it was rewritten at the last moment. It's not bad, but it does feel like they were building to one ending and changed their mind at the last possible moment.

2) The tree rape sequence. I'm of two minds about this one. On one hand, I feel that the 2013 version of the tree rape was handled much more “tactfully”, if such a word can be used to describe tree rape. It was treated as an act of violation and horror, not just a cheap, sleazy way to interject sex into the film (i.e. Hostel). I can respect that, to a point. What bothers me is that they choose to keep the scene in at all; 33 years later and it still feels unnecessary and creepy, but not in the “good” way.

Sick of seeing my picture pop-up on every social media page yet?

Sick of seeing my picture pop-up on every social media page yet?

As you could probably predict, Evil Dead 2013 is taking a pounding from a lot of "die-hard fans" on the internet (also, water is wet). While I tend to filter out the white noise complaints about a lack of realism in this film about demon-possession and nit-picky gripes about "using the wrong shotgun" or whatever, something I see nearly every review (good or bad) ignoring is the acting. While Evil Dead 2013 might be light on characterization, there is some phenomenal acting to be found here. Particularly Jane Levy, who really shines once she gets possessed and starts vomiting blood on everyone. I've seen enough awful zombie and demon-possession acting in my time, and Levy is firmly in the “disturbing and awesome” camp. The rest of the cast do a decent enough job of being scared and getting murdered.

The other big star of Evil Dead 2013 is really the special effects. Alvarez used very little, if any, CGI in this film, opting instead for practical special effects. The end result is particularly effective, as the violence and carnage seem that much more visceral. I say without bragging that I'm fairly jaded against scenes of violence in film, but there were still moments in Evil Dead where I winced and almost had to look away.

But as much as I want to praise the acting and the special effects, the film has a major, glaring flaw. Evil Dead 2013 lacks a lot of what made the original so much fun. Sam Raimi's film was an underdog in every sense of the word. The dialog was bad. The acting was bad. The special effects primarily consisted of garden hoses full of blood and fake rubber limbs. And yet, it endures to this day because it was more than just mindless gore. Sam Raimi took the unlikely themes of “bodily dismemberment” and “slapstick” and actually found away to make them work together without sacrificing tone or turning the film into a farce. Watching Evil Dead 1981, despite all its limitations and flaws, you can see that mad spark of genius at work.

Fede Alvarez, as good as he is, doesn't have that “spark” that Sam Raimi did. And that's fine. I wouldn't want to see him aping Raimi's style. But at the same time, Evil Dead 2013 is really missing that certain “something” to really stand out and be it's own film.

I come to honor Evil Dead, not bury it....oops!

I come to honor Evil Dead, not bury it....oops!

Evil Dead 2013 is interesting: It is a well directed, well acted tribute to the 1981 original. It replicates the tone and themes of the original to a tee, but it loses the original's heart; that special something that made it unique in a sea of blood-soaked horror flicks and elevated it to cult status. Without Raimi behind the camera, it feels like just another splat-fest.

And yet having said that, Fede Alvarez's take on Evil Dead is still equally disturbing and entertaining in its own right. Alvarez has shown that he is not only a competent director, but that he has a deep understanding and respect for his source material. Despite it's short-comings, I enjoyed Evil Dead 2013, and I look forward to what Fede Alvarez has to offer, both in the Evil Dead universe and beyond.

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Posted by Jacob

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