Jane Levy

Though Hollywood horror remake frenzy has died down (since most of the classics have been redone), there was always a worry that someone would remake Sam Raimi‘s The Evil Dead. Raimi was protective of his first film, and if it was going to be updated, he wanted control. And so Fede Alvarez was brought on, Raimi produced it, and now there’s Evil Dead. How is it? It’s fine.

The Players:

  • Director: Fede Alvarez
  • Writers: Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues
  • Cast: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore
  • Cinematography By: Aaron Morton
  • Original Music By: Roque Baños

The Plot:

Mia (Levy) is a junkie and needs to detox, so her best friends (Pucci, Lucas), her brother (Fernandez) and his girlfriend (Blackmore) all head to a cabin in the woods to hold her hostage. What they don’t know is that the house was used to kill an evil spirit, and when one of them finds the Necronomicon Ex Mortus, they read from it and all hell breaks loose.

Disclosure:

There are going to be some people who watch this film without having seen the original trilogy, or perhaps have seen the latter two films. I have seen all of the Evil Dead films repeatedly, and recently rewatched the first film as a refresher. And like many fans of horror movies, I love all three for totally different reasons, and have read books on the films, have owned multiple iterations of each movie, and in the case of Army of Darkness, have watched (and owned) at least four versions of the film. I would love to know what someone who’s going in without having that knowledge thinks of the film because their experience would be totally different than mine and perhaps they are the intended audience. Or perhaps not.

The Good:

  • Gore-O-Rama: Fede Alvarez let it out that they shot all of the gore effects practically, and it makes a huge difference. There is a tactile reality to what’s happening on screen, and you don’t ever get distracted by phony-looking CGI effects. You could see how they might want to do much of the film digitally, but that key decision makes this that much more engaging. When limbs are severed, when things get brutal, you never tune out a little because you don’t believe the reality of the moment.
  • Jane Levy, Lou Taylor Pucci: The director has been fairly public about the fact that these two actors were the most willing to play, and it’s obvious that he gets the best out of them. Pucci, who plays a teacher and looks like he was dropped out of a horror movie from 1978, is the closest this film comes to having an Ash-like character and he gets the crap beaten out of him throughout. It becomes a running joke. While Levy is also put through the ringer as she goes from being strung out and terrible to being possessed by the evil spirit in the woods. Her performance is on point.
  • The Set Up: That they’re all in the woods to get someone through withdrawal, and then not trusting the person who says that something is wrong there and they should leave because they think she’s can’t quit is very smart. There’s also a great twist toward the end which makes this just different enough from the original.
  • Fun: I’m sure a lot of people will find this film terrifying or whatever, but what makes so many of the 1970′s films so effective is that they function as primitive art. From shooting on 16mm to using a lot of non-actors, what makes them still so gripping is that they feel dangerous and more like a documentary than accomplished art. When you get professional actors and have a lot of money, it’s hard to be dangerous, and though the film offers shocking imagery, it settles in on a roller coaster tone. Once things start heating up it becomes about holding on for the ride. As Sam Raimi described Drag Me to Hell, this movie is something of a spook-a-blast, where eventually it hits a point of delirium and you engage in the slightly weightless gore fun.

The So-So:

  • Karaoke Culture: The reason why David Cronenberg’s The Fly and John Carpenter’s The Thing remakes are so revered is partly because they are nothing like the original films that inspired them (though in both cases the originals were adaptations). That’s not the way remakes are done these days, and modern remakes usually include all the high points of the original. Not always in a beat-for-beat way, but few if any are a complete re-interpretation. And so if you’re familiar with the original, there are very few surprises in store, because you know what’s going to come. And though there is no Ash, and things don’t line up 1-1, if you’re familiar with the original, it all feels very similar. Which also undercut the new inventions because they mostly serve to distinguish the film from its predecessor. Yes, having Mia be a junkie makes it its own thing, but does it inform the narrative? Not really.

The Bad:

  • Shiloh Fernadez: Dead weight on screen.

Overall:

Evil Dead is very much a horror movie of our time. It definitely keeps you engaged throughout its running time, and will probably play well to its intended audience (teenagers, and horror movie fans), but where the original was a scrappy but endearing production where willpower and craft triumphed over budget limitations, this Evil Dead is meant for easy consumption and has very little staying power. This is probably the best possible remake of The Evil Dead that could be right now, but it also points out that in our current cinematic climate, the best result is a fun but mostly forgettable 90 minutes.

Rating: 7.9/10

Evil Dead hits theaters April 5.

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Trailer: