Evil Dead Review
By Bret Dorman
Evil Dead is a remake. Which automatically makes it, well, evil.
Evil Dead is also possibly one of the most goriest examples of a hardcore R rating, which makes it, well, admirable.
The problem is when comparing it not only to the original The Evil Dead, but to most horror movies, it comes off as, well, sort of bland.
In this review I’ll take a look at the very praise worthy pros, the very frustrating cons, and that dangerous game called “What I would have done differently.”The Story: Five teens go to a cabin. They read from “The Book Of The Dead” and demons start to posses them one by one while the house gets all haunted. Also, there’s a lot of drug (rehab) overtones and family junk.
Let’s get the first thing out of the way. This movie is NO The Evil Dead. But then again, other than Evil Dead II, Army of Darkness, and Dead Alive, what really can compare? However, this movie is a remake and yes, I do believe remakes are free game in the “should we compare it to the original” arena. However, I tend to compare each remake differently. For John Carpenter’s The Thing vs the 2011 The Thing, I noted how Carpenter specifically set the precedent for “The Thing” movies by changing the tone of Howard Hawks’ The Thing From Another World. But the newer version was TOO preoccupied with sticking to its immediate successor it forgot to set its own tone and just tried to recapture the paranoia of Carpenter’s version. However, I liked Rob Zombie’s Halloween because it shifted main characters from Laurie Strode to Michael Myers. Zombie established his own rockabilly white trashy style. It was vastly different but it was different while keeping in spirit with the original. I guess I like remakes that stay true to the core of their inspirations while venturing out in new directions. After all, I can always go back and re-watch an old movie. I want to see something new, but not too new. Does that make sense?
In that regard, every aspect of Raimi’s The Evil Dead was made like no adult was giving it supervision. So much time and money was spent on making it that every shot felt special. In this new one, only the gory stuff feels good. The zippy, energetic, cheesy tone of the first movie is gone. But that’s fine. According to my own rules I WANT it to disappear. I want a new tone! But… I just don’t agree with the tone. The new tone is… kind of bland. Overall its too basic. Too serious.But I totally understand the need to go this route. Too many horror movies are becoming too meta, too comedic, and too self-referential when it comes to the genre. It’s nice to see movies that take the genre seriously as a genre (not that I don’t like the other kind, praised A Cabin In The Woods for doing what it did, how it did it). But this serious approach works for horror movies that are supposed to be really scary. When Insidious and Sinister did it, it felt good because the movie was about the frights. But The/Evil Dead is different. It’s not about the spooks. Sure there are some in there for good measure, but its about one thing and one thing only: The Gore!
And yes, drop for drop this new Evil Dead may be the goriest movie I’ve seen yet. But without the proper tone it’s JUST gore. Evil Dead assumes you’re a fan of gore and will want to cheer at ANYTHING gory during it’s run time. The movie does no fist pumping mid movie celebration of it’s own. I don’t need the cheesy winking at the camera tongue in cheek stuff, but *something* would be nice. This is the precedent the first movie set. I’m sure most casual moviegoers and even hardcore fans won’t notice or even care about this tiny detail. But it runs throughout the entire movie and for that I am disappointed.
What would I have done differently?
(This is a dangerous game because if you judge every movie like this you’ll never have a good time. I like to try and reserve it for special occasions only, just so you know where I am coming from.)I would have given this movie a rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack (mostly figuratively, but possibly literally too). Like, straight up GWAR shit. Why? Because hardcore horror fans like to “rock out” to the horror. If this movie is for hardcore horror/The Evil Dead fans I imagine it could only get so far on sheer quantity of blood alone (however most horror fans online seem to like it so far). Right now the movie is mostly a classical horror score. And the horror tries to gross people out. Note to filmmakers: If you’re trying to gross out a splatter-fest gore-hound, you will fail. They feed off the stuff like a zombie chews on brains. Instead of going for the gross out, go for the badass. In this movie a character carefully pulls out nails from his hands/arm. I love the spirit of the movie and how he gets about 50 nails shot into him, but I wanna see him rip those suckers out not just wince and pull them out slowly. Ash from the original transformed from nerdy guy to straight up maniacal madman. In this movie, the transformations are all emotional, not physical (unless you count turning into a deadite). Yes, every once in a while the movie will have something truly badass or a character will do something insanely violent. But once you do that, there’s no going back. I don’t want to see characters act out in rage fueled blood soaked spurts. I want to see them get crazier and crazier. Once you raise the bar for the movie/character, do NOT lower it back to the movie’s/character’s original demeanor. This rule only counts for super ultra-violent gore-fests (not the other horror’s, in which case reverting back may be good and/or necessary).
Remember in Dead Alive how the movie got exponentially insane? The lawn mower massacre isn’t the end and the movie manages to TOP THAT (i.e. motherly sumatran rat monkey poison transformations). That’s what I wanted to see from Evil Dead. Yes, the movie ultimately rises in its craziness and the end is very crazy and bold and I like that, but the journey along the way shouldn’t be graphed out to look like a mountain range, it should be that exponential curve.
(mini-Spoilers!)Okay, for instance… there is one moment of this movie where the main dude assembles his home made defibrillator in a Raimi-like short little montage (loved it). But when it comes time to stab his sister, the movie draws out the fake tension where as I feel it should be rocking out. The movie is unbelievable, so just go for it! Instead he stabs her and tries to save her then fails. Then for NO REASON she wakes back up. How awesome would it have been if (at this point in the crazy ass movie) he just yelled, stabbed her (no pause/hesitation), then juiced her up and she woke up in a rush, maybe even vomiting blood or Exorcist-like pea soup? If you think I’m an idiot for this, then just take comfort in that fact I understand your feelings. But if you think I’m on to something, I have a feeling I may have touched on that “why don’t I like this movie as much as I feel I should” vibe you had after seeing this extremely awesomely violent movie.
Other than that I think the movie is a good step in the right direction. The drug stuff is a little TOO on the noise for my tastes, but that’s part of the inherent “B-Movie” vibe something like Evil Dead is going to have. I think they could have completely done without the intro. Or the Tree Rape scene for that matter. Even Raimi said he wishes he never did the one for the original. I think there is an art to swearing and for the most part the deadites crude swearing rubs off as disingenuous. It’s almost too easy to call someone a cunt-y whore (in the context of this movie). But some of the “you bitch”/”fuck you” moments are good.
For the most past the actors are all really good. Some are given more to do than others, but Jane Levy is great once the chant is said and stuff starts to go cray-cray. Lou Taylor Pucci as the nerdy throwback teacher is good for trying to bring the seriousness of the craziness to light. Jessica Lucas delivers a strong performance. Even Elizabeth Blackmore, who isn’t given a lot to do has her moment to shine for a couple minutes as a sweet and scarred out of her mind innocent girl in a nice cute dress. Lastly, Shiloh Fernandez is good for the tone of the film, but again, I fear most of his role was a wasted opportunity. And I appreciate how Bruce Campbell is not in the movie. The original is SO CLOSELY tied to Raimi’s style AND Campbell’s performance that in order to set a new (eh) tone I like that they dropped Campbell. It’s one thing to have the “demon POV” shot or crazy zoom in close up every once in a while, but to see Campbell’s face (and chin) would make you want some cheesy moments. And this movie isn’t about the cheesy moments.
In Conclusion, I think Fede Alvarez made the movie he wanted to make. And I think he did a great job at making a real horror movie. I think he did a good job at making an ultra-violent balls to the wall crazy splatter filled gore-fest. But I don’t think he made the movie I WANTED to see. And normally that’s not a problem. But when touching something as good as The Evil Dead (and as someone who goes nuts for camera-movement/crazy storytelling yes I am a big fan) I think you invite this kind of criticism. Should Fede Alvarez and everyone involved be proud of Evil Dead? Yes. But I’ll keep hoping that the genre get’s a rage fueled badass flick that’s in on the joke without being cheesy. Again, I don’t think this movie needed to do what I wanted or what the original did, I just wish that the nooks and crannies were filled with something other than copious amounts of blood, which is fine to spray other the final product by the bucket-full… or in this movie’s case, perhaps small lake-full?
Final Grade: C
(This final grade might get a little better as my cynicism wears off. I think it’s safe to say a long run estimate is more like B-, but this is why I dislike grading some movies. I think the movie (and my full review) should speak for themselves, not be dumbed down to one simple letter. But I gotta do it because, well, I gotta do it.)
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