The newest addition to a cult classic franchise released tonight, and the old man and I were there to take it all in. Evil Dead revisits the 1981 feature length directorial debut of Sam Raimi. It is the story of five young adults out in a cabin in the middle of nowhere so that one of them can turn over a new leaf, and detox herself from her drug addiction. As often happens in movies where the word “Dead” is in the title, things don’t go well. After finding a bunch of dead cats and a book bound in flesh, inked in blood, an unspeakable evil begins to possess the quintet one by one, forcing them to do horrible things to themselves, and each other.
This time around, backed in a producing role by the creative team of the original films, another up and coming director who’s gained some notoriety from his short films, Fede Alvarez, takes the helm. His movie is original, gory, and fun, enough to stand on its own merit, but it’s also a love letter to the original trilogy, showing the influence of–and paying homage to–the originals throughout.
Would you like to know more? Continue reading… spoilers are minimal, but the images are more graphic than I normally post here.
Alvarez, and co-writer Diablo Cody, did well to capture the simplistic spirit of the original series, while creating more than just a “Kids are partying in the woods this weekend, better kill ’em all…” story. The set-up of Mia as a detoxing drug addict works well to help explain the skeptical actions of the other characters for a while. By the time the shit really hits the fan, the excuses tossed around by the characters don’t really hold water, but they are clearly just throwing around rationalizations for the insanity surrounding them.
When it comes to horror movies, though, the story is really only window dressing. I’m trying really hard to judge the film on its own, and not constantly hold it up against an unreachable nostalgic standard. And since this is a horror movie, that means cracking out Dad’s Review Formula.
- Is it a jumper?
- How’s the gore?
- How stupid is it?
1) Is it a jumper?
Yup. But just barely. There were two strong flinches that bordered very nearly on full fledged jumps. One was in the basement wh–jJust kidding, I’m not going to tell you that.
Actually, jumps are probably this movie’s biggest flaw. Both myself and the Old Man felt that the timing was just a hair off perfect. This resulted in several near flinches that felt very strongly like missed opportunities at the time.
2) How’s the gore?
Fan-fucking-tastic. Without a doubt this is the strongest element to the entire movie. I may be wrong, but I’d say that the effects used were about 99% practical, 1% CGI. The only thing that looked noticeably CGI to me was a tree-slug that exited a swamp-demon’s mouth. Everything else appeared to be practical effects. I’m a big, huge even, proponent of practical effects in horror movies. Things just feel more Real™ when the actors and actresses are swishing around in corn syrup and baking soda. Puss filled wounds and tearing muscles that look like you could run your fingers through them are what make gore great. When they’re done right, they add a visceral realism you can’t find in CGI. When they’re done wrong, they’re laughably bad. It’s a win-win. I’m pleased to say that this film has both, but leans heavily towards the former.
3) How stupid is it?
Just stupid enough. There are very few goofs to speak of, or at least I didn’t really notice them. That’s good, though, because if you’re noticing major goofs in your first viewing of a horror movie… when you’re in a crowded theatre full of fans enjoying the show… it had better be camp. As I mentioned, the characters walk a line between traumatized somewhat believably stupid, and Dur-dur-durp. The writers made some interesting choices for the direction the story takes, and I think are going to be incredibly divisive amongst viewers. I personally think that being hyper critical of the plot of an Evil Dead movie is foolish.
One thing I did notice, having often used a chainsaw myself… when you can’t get it started, press the primer button a few times in between tries. I’d love to see someone do that in a movie, just once.
So that’s it… everything that needs to be covered. Clearly the movie is a winner and… Who am I kidding? There’s still just one more thing to ask…
4) How Evil Dead is it?
Very. Amongst the fan base, this is going to be a hotly debated topic in the days, weeks, months and years to come, I think. A person’s feelings on this is going to depend very greatly on their feelings regarding the (probably) divisive decisions I mentioned earlier. For the record, I’m totally on board with the direction they go, and how they get there.
I talked about the timing of the jumps earlier, and how it was off slightly. Well one thing that wasn’t off, was the timing of the film’s throwbacks to the original films. I had literally thought to myself, “Man, it sure would be nice to see–insert specific reference to the original films here–and BAM… it appears on screen, with at least five other nods to the original in the same scene. Several other references are made to the originals over the course of the movie. If you’ve seen them as many times as I have, and as recently, there are so many great nods to catch. I don’t want to spoil what does and doesn’t appear, because that was a sizeable chunk of fun for me during the movie, but I will confirm that there is both Evil-Vision™, and a Build Sequence. Also, The Love Monocle returns as the Brotherly Love Monocle.
Compared to the original trilogy on the whole, the movie isn’t nearly quotable enough, but I’m not holding that strongly against it, because The Evil Dead wasn’t very quotable either.
So there you have it. If you like horror movies, I think there’s a strong chance you’ll enjoy this one. If you like the Evil Dead films, there’s a strong chance you’ll like this one. This is definitely the best horror movie I’ve seen in a long time. That’s not glowing praise, because I haven’t seen that many horror movies in recent years… but it’s still a quality endorsement. Go see it. And stay for the credits. Show some respect, you filthy primitives.