Movie Review: “Evil Dead”

ImageRelentless, pitiless, bloody and intense – that’s the remake of Sam Raimi’s “The Evil Dead.”
But is this “Evil Dead” (no “The”) any good? Yes and no. It has several genuinely hair-raising moments and presents, for your edification and enjoyment, some of the most graphic horror violence ever presented on the screen.
But Fede Alvarez’s homage to the ORIGINAL “Cabin in the Woods” movie lacks the offhanded goofiness, the brittle jokes – visual and otherwise – of young people, in a cabin in the woods, facing death at the hands of something supernatural. Sure, they’re scared, and some of the cast of this new “Dead” – Jessica Lucas and Elizabeth Blackmore, in particular – get across what utter terror feels like. But the sardonic wit is lost in a sea of blood and guts.
Above all else, “Dead” misses Bruce – Bruce Campbell, who graduated from “Evil Dead” and its sequels to become a B-movie legend.
The set-up is similar. Friends and family of Mia (Jane Levy) have dragged her from Michigan State U. to a cabin in the woods to clean her up, get her off drugs. Her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez), who rarely sees her, is a reluctant intervener. But he’s brought his new girlfriend (Blackmore) along, because nothing bonds a couple like detoxing one’s sister.
The nurse Olivia (Lucas) and bookish school teacher Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci of “The Chumscrubber” and “Thumbsucker”) are there to help, though there’s friction because mechanic brother David hasn’t been involved in any of their lives, and here they are, caring enough to clean up a mess he should deal with himself.
There’s a stench in the semi-trashed cabin. It turns out there isn’t room to swing a dead cat in the basement because it’s full of dead cats and blood stains. We’ve seen the prologue. We know what’s coming.
They’ve only seen the dead cats. But that would be enough to make a sane person leave. And they don’t.
That gives bookish Eric a chance to find the skin-covered book of witch curses and spells and stir up The Other Side. As Mia is menaced by the forest, and possessed, as the rains come and wash out the road and as others are injured, brutalized and tested by their first encounter with the supernatural, Eric is the one who doesn’t think everything will work out in the end.
“Everything’s going to be fine? I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but everything’s been getting worse. Every second.”
The makeup effects, with piercings, scaldings, dismemberments, and the like – are spectacular. You will believe that’s a human face, peeled off with a sharp object. Characters are chased, by the camera, through the woods and through this oddly roomy tiny cabin. They reach for the camera and are yanked back out of the frame, a favorite horror movie staging trick these days.
And occasionally – not often – you feel something for the dead and the doomed. None develop real empathy, and those we mourn for we do simply because nobody deserves their fate. David, in particular, is under-developed and blandly played in spite of all the tragedy and trauma happening around the character.
That transforms “Evil Dead” from a cut-rate romp through horror conventions into a by-the-book bloodbath, chilling at times, not the sort of film that invites a cult following the way Raimi and Campbell did way back in 1981.

MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence and gore, some sexual content and language
Cast: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore, Lou Taylor Pucci,
Credits: Directed by Fede Alvarez, written by Diablo Coy and Fede Alvarez, based on the Sam Raimi movie. A Tristar/FilmDistrict release.
Running time: 1:32

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13 Responses to Movie Review: “Evil Dead”

  1. Eric says:

    Did you ever actually watch THE Evil Dead? There was no comedy or goofiness in that movie except for what was caused by bad acting or mediocre effects. It was straight out balls to the wall horror. Every review I’ve read that has called this great has remember this fact. Every review that has called it mediocre or bad keeps confusing The Evil Dead and The Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn. This is a remake of the first one, not the second. Too bad Ebert isn’t reviewing every movie anymore, he wouldn’t be make that mistake.

    • Yeah, I watched the original. And laughed. Modestly scary, but a litle over the top. Visited the set, even, when I lived in East Tennessee (years later).
      The characters in the original were more interesting, and this is a grim blend of the first and second films. It’s still a tough row to hoe. Not bad, but kind of misses the point, I thought.

  2. I get that you laughed during the first one. But the first one was not MEANT to be funny/campy. They intended it to be a legit horror film and due to budget constraints and some bad acting it came off as campy. What Fede Alvarez is trying to do with this film is accomplish what the original set out to do and become “the ultimate experience in grueling terror” which was the original’s tagline. I understand where you’re coming from but I think you missed the point.

    • Considering the people involved, there was room for humor in the original. The reason it endures has more to do with that than its decent frights. “Grueling” the new one is. Is the idea to make something inhuman and hard to watch accordingly? Fede got pretty close to that, too.

      • There may have been room for humor but it wasn’t intended. That’s the point I’m trying to get across. The look and feel of this remake is the movie they were trying to make back in 1981.It may endure because of some of the humor, but none of that humor was intended.

      • Funny, I was on Facebook with an academic friend who brought in Raimi to show the film and talk to his class of SAm wannabes. And Raimi was complimenting them on “laughing in all the right places.” Maybe he’s spinning, but everybody I talk to about that regards that winking humor as a given re: the two films, and why the original is a cult classic. This isn’t a negative review, but the film feels rather heartless. I cared about the dog dying, and that was it. And that’s a shortcoming.

  3. CDC_ says:

    I think Trace has a point. If you watch The Evil Dead, and then watch Evil Dead 2, you’ll notice stark contrasts in tone. Whereas the first one felt like a genuine horror film with some funny places, the second one felt like it was at all times purposefully going for the slapstick comedy that Evil Dead is so well known (and respected) for. I like the idea of taking the premise for The Evil Dead and making a more serious horror film from it. With The Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2, and Army of Darkness, those movies did what I think they set out to do, those movies were made, they’re not going anywhere. But to take a classic premise and try a completely new take on it, I think that is where the relevance comes into play. If it were being done just for the sake of being done and generating a profit, it would become gratuitous to do such a thing. But I think there was genuine intent in generating a quality film that horror fans would love, at least that’s the feeling I’ve gotten from Raimi and Campbell’s comments on the film.. Just my 2 cents.

    • Lots of reviews are making this observation, the dark tone and absence of wit thing. So perhaps we’re all conflating the first and second films. Except for me. I can’t recall ever seeing the second one.
      That’s one thesis, the blending of the two together. Another is that perhaps you and Trace missed the jokes, the winks at the genre.

      • Well you should definitely rewatch the first two. The second one is a straight-up comedy with practically no horror involved besides the gore. I LOVE the second one. But I also love the first one. I understand some of the winks and jokes in the first one but that’s doesn’t mean it was intentionally trying to be funny. A horror movie can have jokes. Look at “Scream.” But would you call Scream (the first two) a comedy? No. It’s still a horror film. So yes, the original Evil Dead does have some “wink wink” moments. But the ultimate goal of the film was still to terrify and scare the audience.

  4. Forest Wimble says:

    Is English your first language?
    If “yes”, then shame on you. Honestly. For shame.
    You decided to be a critic, you can hardly string a sentence together son!
    Horrible.

  5. Larry Rineck says:

    Remember the first Evil Dead was one of the first “video Nasties”. This is why it became such a big cult classic. It didnt play at every corner theater. It was the first of it’s kind. I am absolutley excited about this remake more than any other since the first Evil Dead was a great Horror film with little to no funnies.

  6. I saw it last night. I thoroughly enjoyed it. And I think it did have lots of moments of dark humor (the duct tape gags come to mind). I thought it was a lot of fun so I’m not sure why all the reviews are saying it doesn’t have any humor or sense of fun to it. Maybe I”ve just become desensitized to all of it though from all the horror movies I’ve watched.

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