Tuesday, 16 April 2013

"Evil Dead" Review

I've been a little behind lately in regards to writing here, so I'm going to try to get back on track. I'm going to make my return on writing out my thoughts on the new The Evil Dead remake, which I saw on opening day. Evil Dead does what a good remake should do, which is take the basic components of the original- in this case a an abandoned cabin, five college students and a book that unleashes demons which possess those around them- and finds a new angle from which to approach it. The original The Evil Dead launched the career of director Sam Raimi, who would go on to direct of the biggest Super hero films of the the last decade with the Spider-Man Trilogy, and part of The Evil Dead's success was the personality that Raimi injected in to the film. While I'm not ready to call this new film's director, Fede Alvarez, the next Sam Raimi, he brings his own sense of style and tone to this film, never falling in to the trap of trying too hard to be Raimi. The new film is raw and brutal- don't go in expecting the slapstick humour of The Evil Dead's two sequels, Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness. It's more in line with the straightforward, go for the throat approach of the original. But even saying that undersells the gruesomeness and near humourlessness of this new film, which makes the gore of the original film seem tame by comparison. This film is definitely not for the faint of heart, but it gets the job done and I think it offers Evil Dead fans what they want in an update of the classic original.

The film focuses on the character of Mia (Jane Levy), whose four friends, Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), Olivia (Jessica Lucas), Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore), and Mia's brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) take Mia to an abandoned cabin in the woods in order to put her through drug detox. And of course, Eric finds and reads from the a book in the basement, unleashing human possessing demons, one which attaches itself to Mia. All that fun stuff. I liked the drug detox take on the cabin in the woods setup since in other cabin movies, including the original film, the reason the main characters come to the cabin is to have a party. Here, the film establishes a dark reality that's present even before the really horrific stuff begins to happen. Combining the supernatural horror with the real life horror of a drug addict going cold turkey, while it can be argued makes the film one note, for me, raised the tension quite a bit.

I also think it makes Mia's possession a metaphorical representation of her drug withdrawal. This is emphasized verbally when at first the others think Mia is going through a panic attack. She burns herself in the shower (the demons get off on inflicting pain on themseves in this version) and they think it's her way of getting them to take her away from the cabin. Like The Exorcist this is a film where people try to rationalize the horrific things happening, even though the situation reaches a point where no rational explanation can suffice.  

Levy gives a real star making performace in this film. Levy, most known for her work on the sitcom Suburgatory, gives a much darker performance here, convincingly playing a young woman who has reached the point where she can't survive without drugs, an unadulterated evil demon, and finally a woman who becomes a real badass in the face of evil. I was surprised that the film did strive for dramatic weight regarding Mia's situation and her relationship with David.  That's why I wish there was little more development for the characters- the film seems to be leaning towards fleshing these people out but doesn't go all the way. In regards to the other females, Olivia and Natalie, they seem underwritten. I liked Eric but he also felt he needed a little more focus. Mia and David definitely feel like they're the heart of the film. I also admit that despite wanting a little more development for the other characters, I did feel for them during some crucial moments.

I like the look of the cabin in this film. It's not inviting at all, which is apporpriate for the tone the filmmakers are going for. I feel in other cabin based horror films, the cabin isn't dingy enough. Here you really feel the creakiness, dampness and death within the cabin d I also admire Alvarez's staging of the set pieces. He's not afraid to dwell on the grisly details. Some may say Alvarez is overcompensating by making the film so gory but I think that when updating a film like The Evil Dead, you have to go big or go home. I also feel that the extreme use of gore makes the situation all the more nightmarish, as well as making you sympathethic to what these people are going through,

The film ends with an obligatory hint that things aren't over yet. This is to be expected in a film like this but I actually am looking forward to seeing where this new line of films is going, as well as if it's secretly part of the original Evil Dead universe. There's been talk of Raimi and Evil Dead Trilogy star Bruce Campbell doing another Evil Dead film, with Cmpbell's character of Ash makng his way in to the new series of films. I don't know if the Ash persona can fit with the new tone of this series- but hey, if they could find some way of reintroducing Ash, it'd be pretty groovy.  

PS: Here's a link to my audio review of the film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tM_ZWhfj_RA and a retrospective I did on the original trilogy for Scene Creek: http://scenecreek.com/features/retrospective-a-look-back-at-the-evil-dead-trilogy/