Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Evil Dead (2013)

In this day and age, Hollywood’s been churning out reboot after reboot, describing them as a reimagining or a fresh take on the original story, anything to get audiences in the theater seats to watch something that’s already been done years prior. Sometimes it’s a matter of decades, remaking a film that was done with archaic special effects or lensed in black & white, giving it a good reason when the filmmakers decide to re-create it. Other times it’s only a few years, restarting a film franchise that was doing just fine (Spider-Man, anyone?). But with 2013’s Evil Dead, directed by Fede Alvarez, I think it was a right choice because the original (titled The Evil Dead) was released in 1981 and that’s already 32 years old.

Now who doesn’t love Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead series of films? By all means, they’re no masterpieces, but they are cult classics. Were they going to tone down the gore and repulsion in this new one? Or was the studio going to make this a PG13 outing to get the younger audiences in the cinemas? And can Bruce Campbell be replaced as Ash? I think not. These—as well as other—questions popped into my head when I heard we were going to get a remake of Raimi’s original. I figured it was going to be a teenie bopper flick and not be done seriously, making a mockery of the original, only to use the name as a way for the studio to make some money.

Boy, was I wrong.

One strategy that filmmakers use to get a horror movie started is where they begin with a stinger that shocks the audience into paying attention. Although I understand the approach of a “slow burn” type of film and can keep my concentration to the story as it unfolds, there are quite a few moviegoers who need to have something jump start them into being focused for the rest of the story. Case in point, I had a friend who I’d been trying to get interested in a few horror movies I’d recently watched. He was the type who would be bored within ten minutes and have a thousand mile stare or fall asleep right where he’d sit unless a pair of boobs flashed on the screen (man, that guy could watch any boring movie as long as it contained nudity!). When I showed him 2003’s Wrong Turn, he sat bolt upright and watched that flick all the way through. See, the film opened up right away with some rock climbers falling victim to the villains, shocking the movie viewers to see what would come next. And that’s the strategy in Evil Dead.

The film begins with a young woman, looking bruised and beaten with blood dripping from her hands, limping through a forest. Looking like she’s the victim of a terrible beating or rape, it seems like she’s escaped some sort of hell as she walks mindlessly with no sense of direction. Suddenly she’s caught by a couple of men and knocked into unconsciousness, only to wake up in some basement with a group of people gawking at her and dead cats hanging from the ceiling. Some old gypsy-looking woman speaks in some foreign tongue as she reads from some old leather-bound book and—with the help of subtitles—is instructing a man to pour flammable liquid over the girl. The girl is protesting to the man, who we find out is her father, asking him to let her go and to take her home, all the while hearing the gypsy yelling at the man to burn her—to burn the demon. Just as the man flicks on the flame of his lighter, the girl suddenly goes ballistic as the true demon speaks. He lights her on fire, then proceeds to aim a shotgun at her and blow off her head. 
Now that’s a shocking beginning! 

So, just like in the original 1981 film, five friends head to a remote cabin in the woods for a little R&R. Only in this updated story, one of them—Mia (Jane Levy)—has a heroin addiction she wants to kick. They all go to the cabin to be purposely isolated as to make sure Mia will get straightened out. Mia’s brother, David (Deadgirl’s Shiloh Fernandez), shows up with his girlfriend, Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore), to be there for his sister. Along for the ride are friends, Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) and his girlfriend, Olivia (Lessica Luca). Right away, and as with any drug addict who decides to quit cold turkey, things go bad with Mia. She complains about a bad smell in the cabin that no one else smells—although it’s explained by Jessica, the medical student, that Mia’s senses are heightened due to her heroin withdrawals—and she begins to go nuts. But—thanks to Grampa the dog—the gang discover a trap door under the area rug that leads to the basement of the cabin, smeared with freshly spilled blood. David and Eric go down the stairs, discovering a door to an adjacent room of the basement, noticing the bad odor gets worse as they approach it. As they open the door, they soon see where the smell is coming from as they happen upon the area we saw earlier in the film, complete with a burnt wooden beam and dead cats hanging from the ceiling. They discover the shotgun as well as something wrapped in plastic we soon find out (or already knew) is the Book of the Dead.

I won’t get into too much detail any further, but I must say that this film did not disappoint. Unlike the original movie, the filmmakers took the serious approach to this film and did not include any blatant comedy to it. Evil Dead is truly horror in every sense of the word, filled with dread from the beginning, never letting the audience feel comfortable with anything that’s going on in the screen. I mean, there’s never a point where the characters are enjoying themselves. They all get there and it’s sort of gloomy, they open the cabin door and everything’s a mess, looking filthy, the smell is mentioned and the source is soon discovered, and Mia is soon going nuts over her drug withdrawals. The movie never really features a down time where the characters are sitting around and joking or being happy; it’s a sense of doom from the start.

The performances are all excellent from the actors and actresses, communicating to us the trepidation they’re feeling and making it believable. I love everything about this film and—dare I say it—think it surpasses the original fully. But then again, it’s like comparing apples and oranges. These films are two different animals—one’s a horror-comedy and the other is just straight horror, so it’s not fair to compare the two.

As a stand-alone, 2013’s Evil Dead is awesome and hope we can continue on and see where Ash is nowadays, because I take it that since he showed up after the credits, maybe it’s hint to the sequel…?

So the question remains: Is this a reboot or a sequel?

At the start of the film we see Mia sitting on an old abandoned car as she waits for her brother. The car, although looking worse for wear, is a 1973 Oldsmobile that was featured in the original Evil Dead trilogy. So is it there just for the homage to Raimi? Or is it there discarded from the original films with Ash somewhere in the same Evil Dead universe. And speaking of Ash, how does his appearance at the end of the credits correlate to this film? It all makes you wonder if this was, in fact, not a remake but just a third sequel.  Anyway…enough speculation.

My final “bit” on Evil Dead?

The film could’ve done well as a stand-alone, calling it something else. It’s obvious the filmmakers wanted to cash in on the cult status regarded by the fans of the original by giving it the same name, but it could’ve fared well without the association. However, the fact that it’s a remake/reboot/reimagining is forgotten as soon as you get into the first few minutes of the film. It’s sure to shock some, scare others, and definitely entertain most. I’ve added the Blu-Ray to my collection, right behind the original trilogy and I’m hoping there’s another sequel in the works.If you’re a horror movie fan, you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t watch this flick.

Thanks for reading!

You can reach me on Twitter: @CinemaBits

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