Jane Levy - Mia
Shiloh Fernandez - David
Lou Taylor Pucci - Eric
Jessica Lucas - Olivia
Elizabeth Blackmore - Natalie
Genre - Horror/Demons
Running Time - 92 Minutes
Even though EVIL DEAD (2013) is the number one film this past weekend, the debate over this "remake" [or "rebirth" as it has been described] rages on. Go on Facebook. Go on Twitter. The horror community has been clearly divided on this film. Some love it. Some find it unnecessary. Some who didn't see it have continued to bash it, just because it exists. There's no clear winner in this debate, but it's clearly been keeping social networking running this entire weekend.
I understand the disappointment and even hate for EVIL DEAD (2013). The original THE EVIL DEAD is a horror cult classic that spawned two very good-to-great sequels that helped build the careers of director Sam Raimi and actor Bruce Campbell. Since 1992, fans have been clamoring for an EVIL DEAD 4. Although video games and even a musical attempted to fill that void, there was no doubt that the demand of a sequel was the top priority. Instead, fans were disappointed to receive a "remake" instead that was produced by Raimi and Campbell [who were heavily involved in this project], which caused quite a backlash against it. For some people, remakes are bad and should never be supported through money and time. This isn't always the case for all remakes, but a lot of them have left a bad taste in fans' mouths.
However, I wish those who are against this remake would at least watch it before judging. I know people who have seen this film and were disappointed. I respect that, unless the reason is because the film wasn't as funny as the original [the original wasn't a comedy, at least not intentionally - the sequels sure]. But I think if these haters would give the film a chance, they may actually find something to like here. In fact, I enjoyed EVIL DEAD (2013). Is it the best remake ever? Is it perfect? No to both questions. But it's a fun flick that's more of a continuation of the story established in the original trilogy rather than film that apes the original in every way so a newer generation can watch something modern rather than something old.
Mia (Jane Levy) is dealing with a drug addiction and doesn't want to go to rehab. Her friends Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) and Olivia (Jessica Lucas), as well as her estranged older brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) and his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore), drive her to Mia and David's family cabin in the woods, standing by her as they hope she can kick her habit through cold turkey. While Mia struggles with getting clean, the rest of the group find strange and morbid things in the cellar, including a book covered in human flesh. Mia decides to run away, losing her will power. Meanwhile, Eric reads from the book they found, reciting an ancient phrase that awakens a demonic force. This force takes a hold of Mia, slowly possessing her.
As the group finds Mia and bring her back to the cabin, Mia begins acting weird - talking about evil and how the woods are alive. The group sees this as Mia dealing while detoxing, but are quickly proven wrong when the supernatural force sweeps upon all of them. Unfortunately for this group, this intervention may turn out to be their last.
- The gore! Oh, the gore! Like I mentioned, not everyone has agreed on the quality of EVIL DEAD (2013). But not many have disagreed that the amount of gore and violence in this "remake" is the film's highlight. It's been quite a while since I've gone to see a horror film inside a movie theater, where blood and guts weren't edited out due to the MPAA and their guidelines. In fact, I was really surprised this even managed to sneak by with an "R" rating! But it did and I'm extremely happy about it. An EVIL DEAD film should be this gory and violent.
In a lot of ways, EVIL DEAD (2013)'s gore and violence slightly reminded me of Peter Jackson's 1992 cult classic, BRAIN DEAD/DEAD ALIVE. Ironically enough, I learned after the film that some of the effects were actually done by WETA, who also worked on that 1992 film. Limbs are ripped apart. Skin gets mutilated. Heads are smashed in. People get burned [done with CGI though]. And there's a lot of blood once the supernatural force makes its presence. It's probably the most R rated film I've seen in a wide theater release in a long time. I thought it delivered the goods and more.
- Jane Levy and Shiloh Fernandez. While all the acting was decent [especially Lou Taylor Pucci as Eric], Levy and Fernandez were the standouts - mainly because they had to most to do here. Shiloh Fernandez, probably best known to horror fans for 2009's DEADGIRL, is very capable as the male lead. While I barely knew nothing about his character other than his relationships to the people around him [I'll get more into this later], I thought Fernandez gave a multi-leveled performance that made him likeable and easy to root for him. I do think the script made the character look kind of stupid at times [the script was an issue in general], but Fernandez always made the most of it. I thought he was really good here.
But the film's standout is clearly Suburgatory's Jane Levy, who's performance as Mia will be remember in the horror community for years to come. She brought it the moment she appeared on screen. She convinced me as a struggling addict. She convinced me as a possessed evil being. And she convinced me as a victim-turned-heroine. Her facial expressions, her body language, the tone of her voice in different scenes, and her charismatic presence really elevated her above anyone else in the film. Levy had the most developed character in the film and really worked it. I definitely want to see her career continue to flourish because Levy has got the goods.
- Fede Alvarez's direction. It's hard to "restart" a franchise directed by a well-respected and innovative filmmaker like Sam Raimi. It would have been easy to just copy what Raimi did in the original film. It would have been completely bold to do the exact opposite, making EVIL DEAD look and feel nothing like the original. Either way, Alvarez would have gotten love and hate for it. As a double edge sword, it's no way he would have won, no matter what he did. As someone who doesn't really care about all that, I'm glad Alvarez didn't totally copy Raimi's visual style just to please fans of the original trilogy. Yes, we do get the "demon POV cam" that THE EVIL DEAD is known for. But Alvarez does it in a more subtle way. Sure, Raimi's style is better, especially since it used music during it that made it more tense. But at least it's there and done with enough respect as a homage, rather than a copy cat technique. Alvarez does excel at giving us dramatic camera angles and a lot of visual style that's memorable. I also liked the cinematography of the film and some of the editing was quite inspired. And for a 92 minute film, I thought it flew by! I don't think the direction here was perfect [where was the sense of fear?], but I dug it regardless. I hear Fede Alvarez is going to continue directing these films and I think that's a good thing. It's obvious he's a fan and I think the franchise is in good hands with this guy.
- The story. Let me make it clear that I'm not talking about the screenplay itself, which has flaws that can't be overlooked. I'm talking about the structure of the story and how well it managed to create a new film using a similar and familiar premise. I really liked the reasoning why these five people were at the cabin. While most horror films would have stereotypical characters come to a cabin for sex, drugs, and partying, EVIL DEAD has stereotypical characters come to a cabin to help one of their own deal with a serious heroin addiction. How refreshing is that? It actually got me more invested in how the story would play out because the characters are pretty selfless for helping out a troubled friend, only to find themselves dealing with a demonic presence one of their own stupidly conjured up. Hell, it made Mia's demon possession seem like a play on drug addiction and withdrawal, which was a nice and smart touch. While I wish I knew more about the characters, at least their purpose for being there was something pretty deep. And besides of that useless prologue [it was very unnecessary], I thought how the film played out was done really well. In fact, I was swerved at the end at who was going to survive [what I thought would happen didn't]. Not many horror films these days can do that to me, so I was impressed by how the story was laid out.
I also liked the homages to the original franchise. Seeing Sam Raimi's first Oldsmobile made me smile. Loved seeing the chainsaw back, as well as the limbs getting chopped off [ala Ash]. Also some of the editing during the final act reminded me of both THE EVIL DEAD and EVIL DEAD II. And of course, we get a variation of the tree rape and the demon locked in the cellar, taunting the others. The elements that needed to be in this "restart" were here, and I commended Alvarez and the rest of the filmmakers for showing the original stuff a ton of respect.
- The script Part I: Dialogue. Majority of the recited lines in the film were good, but there were times where the dialogue felt a bit forced and even a bit unbelievable. In fact, it hurt a lot of the likeabilty of the characters because it made them sound so stupid during a situation they should have figured out to be pretty abnormal. For mature, supposedly intelligent characters [hell, one was a nurse and the other a professor], you'd think they act smarter or say more intelligent things. If they were college students, I'd be more okay with it. But it just sounded ridiculous with older characters.
I'm not sure if this dialogue is due to Diablo Cody [of JUNO and JENNIFER'S BODY fame] being the script doctor. Besides a point where the demon spoke like a Pazuzu reject from THE EXORCIST, and some unnecessary one-liners at times to bring a few chuckles during serious moments, nothing really screamed "Cody" for me. But some of it felt off and took me out of the film. Luckily the film was very entertaining, even with this issue.
- The script Part II: Lack of characterization. Yes, the original THE EVIL DEAD wasn't huge on character development. Hell, most horror isn't all that concerned with this aspect of storytelling besides names, relations, and professions. And while the stereotypes were all here, I wish they were developed more - especially since there are only five characters to follow. Mia and David have the most development, with her addition issues and his estranged feelings towards Mia and their family due to a painful past. It's enough to make us understand their relationship [or lack thereof] and why things happen the way they do during the film's climax.
I wish I could say the same about the other characters. For a professor, Eric is an idiot. He finds the Book of the Dead and does what any smart person would do - READS FROM IT AND WAKENS THE DEMONIC PRESENCE. And this guy is supposed to be the stereotypical "smart one"? And this is the one dude who knows all about black magic and actually believes in it. Yet, he does the exact OPPOSITE of what he SHOULD know what to do with something like this. What a moron! And then he keeps what he did to himself for a while until the shit really hits the fan. His character does try to be likeable towards the end, but I wanted him dead the moment he did the opposite of what he should have done.
Olivia, the nurse, was okay I guess. But it seemed to be more to her, especially when it came to David. It was as if the two shared something personal in the past, especially how she first reacted to David's girlfriend, Natalie, being there. Maybe she felt this was a "family" matter. Maybe she was a jealous ex. I honestly didn't know, but felt there was more to the story.
Speaking of Natalie, what was the point of this character other than to fill the stereotypical "girlfriend" role? Sure, her exit was memorable, but other than that, this chick barely left an impression. She barely shared any scenes with her boyfriend, David. I honestly felt siblings David and Mia had more sexual chemistry than David and Natalie did, and I don't even support incest! Hell, I didn't even remember her name until after the film when I looked it up on IMDB.com. She was a prop rather than a person I should care about. I forgot she was even around for much of the film. What a waste.
And why did these characters take so long to buy that Mia was possessed? Do drug addicts speak in demonic voices and are able to move things without touching them? Hell, even her brother David kept thinking that she was suffering from a mental illness, in total denial. I really wanted to smack all of them so they can open their eyes and see things for what they were. All in all, the characters could have been a lot better.
- Could have been scarier. There was nice tense and suspenseful moments, especially during the final act. But I never felt scared or even creeped out. I wish I would have at least jumped once due to a jump scare. For a film that claimed to be the "scariest movie ever", it was a big let down.
By the way, having the demons look like rejects from THE GRUDGE probably doesn't help here either.
THE FINAL HOWL
While not perfect, EVIL DEAD (2013) is still one of the better remakes of the modern era. In fact, I thought of it as more of an unofficial sequel to the previous three films that reestablished what the original movies had presented. I wish the characters were deeper and the dialogue was stronger. But the gore was awesome, the acting was better than expected, and Fede Alvarez's direction was very well done. Plus, it was a blast to watch in a theater with other people. So while flawed, I had a lot of fun with this film and will definitely buy this on DVD/Blu-Ray. I'm looking forward to the rumors of potential sequels, leading to the ultimate crossover in EVIL DEAD 7. EVIL DEAD (2013) is a really good restart and I'm hoping things get better in the next film.