Friday, April 5, 2013

REVIEW: Evil Dead (2013)

SPOILERS ahead!

Remaking a movie like Evil Dead was never going to be easy, but Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and some other guys backed up relative newcomer Fede Alvarez in making this revision of the storied gore-horror classic from over 30 years ago. Honestly, I don’t think this is too bad. But I do have a few big problems with it, which I’m going to address thusly – you know, because that’s what I do, I guess…

Director: Fede Alvarez
Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez

First off, holy shit, it’s been 33 years since the original Evil Dead came out. That really puts things into perspective. It shows us that horror is eternal, that what scared us back then can still scare us now, and the same for entertainment in general – the days of old aren’t really so far behind us like some people claim. While ‘retro’ has been the big thing in the last few years, this movie is of a more genuine stripe than whatever Exorcist rehashes are coming out these days, and there’s a certain feral energy about this film that works to pay tribute to the horror of old, rather than simply ripping it off (Midnight Meat Train) or parodying it in an asinine way (Raimi’s own Drag Me to Hell). There’s a thin line between shameless hackwork and a genuine attempt (even an imperfect one, which this film is) – and Evil Dead ‘13’s blood-soaked trail of horror decimates the line.

Second, let’s just get the good points out of the way first: The gore. That’s really about it. If you want nothing else but insane, disgusting gore attacked with the zeal of a mental patient on crack going after a dog on a leash. I mean this thing is PACKED. WITH. GORE. To the goddamn brim. Some of the stuff in this movie made me look away from the screen, and if you’ve kept up with this blog at all, you know I’ve seen some shit.

Not only is the gore rampant, but it also touches on the age-old mantra of gore in films that modern films seem to have forgotten in their quest for the bottom of the barrel – if your movie isn’t some kind of serious, real-life meditation on social problems, MAKE THE GORE ENTERTAINING. Make it over the top, make it goofy, make it extreme! While the gore in this film is brutal and extreme to the max, it’s also done in a very wry way – it’s so over the top that it becomes entertaining in its own twisted, perverse way. The pacing is quick and exciting, too, which aids the entertainment factor. Overall there’s a big feel of classic 70s and 80s splatter-horror about this, although done up in a slick, modern package, and the effect is that Evil Dead 2013 is a nicely done bridge between the old and the new.

BUT – and there is a but – the writing is pretty stock, and the acting sucks. Now, the acting in the original wasn’t exactly Shakespearean either, but the original didn’t focus on the acting as a big point of concern, so much as the actors’ bodies getting torn apart and destroyed in horrific ways. This movie tries to have more of a story behind it, rather than the occult mayhem hack-n-slash of the original, which is a fine idea…if you can get a good story.

This…well, it certainly tries, I guess. They’re trying to say that the five characters are going to this cabin to have a sort of drug intervention for Mia (Jane Levy), the sister of main character David (Shiloh Fernandez). In the first 30 minutes or so, there are some pretty decent moments where it almost seems like the things going on are all in Mia’s head – of course, everyone who knows anything about this movie KNOWS that isn’t true. But it’s a nice red herring and, if handled with more wit, could have blossomed into something really interesting.

However, the film just focuses too much on the characters’ drama between one another, and with the acting being so terrible, almost universally so, it really gets pretty stupid after a while. The focus on the whole brother-sister dramatic plot is just weak as hell, and the writing for that is about as sappy as it gets. Evil Dead was cooler when it was just about gore, gore and more gore. This movie just comes off like the awkward ‘tween’ years where Evil Dead tries to ‘branch out’ and find itself in new social circles…awkward…

And, really, even when you take out that bullshit, how stupid is the main character? It’s not uncommon for horror protagonists to make stupid decisions. But dude, seriously! If your sister was possessed a minute ago and then just starts talking to you out of nowhere like normal, RIGHT WHEN YOU’RE ABOUT TO FINALLY KILL HER…maybe she’s still possessed and is trying to trick you! Just a thought, pal. It wouldn’t be so bad if it happened like once, but it’s all the goddamned time in this movie, and after about five minutes of this kind of stupidity, it will make you want to hit your head against a wall. Repeatedly.

The reason the writing sucks is because these characters’ reactions to everything are so subdued. They see a possessed person vomiting black bile and cutting their own tongue in half? They barely raise an eyebrow. They see a loved one come back from the dead after being buried alive? Doesn’t even raise their pulse one bit. It’s lazy and comes off as more funny than anything, demeaning the gleeful evil of the rest of the movie. Also, one final nitpick – what is up with how invincible the characters are in this? They barely seem to feel a damn thing. If they were possessed, sure, but this all happens before they ever get possessed…they get arms cut off, they get stabbed repeatedly, get nails driven through multiple parts of their bodies; all kinds of shit, and they just keep stumbling on, only ever-so-slightly wounded. It’s a minor nitpick, as it doesn’t really hurt the movie, but that kind of silliness does become noticeable eventually.

Evil Dead 2013 is enjoyable, and I didn’t regret seeing it. The gore is great, the lighting and atmosphere is killer and everyone involved seems to be having fun. But the attempts at making it a more serious and mature film than the original don’t work because the writing isn’t good enough to sustain them. I think this is a great ‘turn your brain off and drink beer’ sort of movie to watch with friends, preferably around Halloween, but is it as good as the original? I wouldn’t say so. Recommended for Evil Dead fans, and for those of you who really dig modern horror movies.

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