Evil Dead-attachment0

Evil Dead

Movie Information

The Story: A group of 20-somethings find an aged book of occultism in the incredibly spacious basement of a cabin. One of them foolishly reads from it. Nastiness ensues. The Lowdown: Slick, gory, reasonably efficient remake of the 1981 Sam Raimi cult favorite. It's OK, but apart from a pretty terrific ending, it's nothing you haven't seen before — plenty of times.
Score:

Genre: Splattery Horror
Director: Fede Alvarez
Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore
Rated: R

Taking in the Thursday late show of Fede Alvarez’s re-monkeying of The Evil Dead (something I never would have done if I hadn’t had a press screening on Friday morning) gave me, if nothing else, a more representative feel for the fan base. After all, this crowd was presumably made up of the folks most keen on seeing this Evil Dead (the “the” has been dropped for the new one) — and there’s little doubt that they seemed to take to it pretty well. By that, I mean that they jumped when they were supposed to, cringed when they were supposed to, and even screamed when they were supposed to. Fair enough, but they also started filing out the minute the credits started to roll — not usually a sign of complete immersion. My take? Evil Dead comes under the heading of “I didn’t mind it” — but I say that as someone who remains ambivalent about the highly-regarded original.

The inherent problem with a movie like this isn’t that it’s a remake (or re-whatever-this-is-called). Sure, it has a story, a setup and an approach that runs to a form. But, no matter how you slice it (and I use the term advisedly), it’s a kind of horror wind-up toy: Once you set it in motion, it’s going to do the same thing it always does. This one’s no different. For that matter — and regardless of how I feel about the film — selling this load of demonic clams only a year after the postmodern snark of The Cabin in the Woods strikes me as ill-advised. It’s just too close to the sort of thing that was just parodied. (The box office has said I am in error.)

There’s another basic problem in that the movie relies on our belief in some weird alternate universe where people have apparently never seen a horror movie. You would think by this point in the history of humankind only a special kind of blithering idiot would read aloud from a clearly demonic book (with warnings festooning nearly every page to put the damned thing down). I mean, come on. The book is bound in something that looks like skin, and was found — wrapped in a garbage bag and barbed wire — in a subterranean chamber with a bunch of dead, desiccated cats hanging from the ceiling. (Hell, this kind of thing was being made fun of in the 1960s in a Gahan Wilson cartoon.) But does that deter hapless Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) here? Oh, my, no. He even works at it to restore scratched out text. A finer specimen of the Boobus Americanus you will not find — except in this movie. Yes, indeed, here we have dim-bulb David (Shiloh Fernandez), who is still having doubts that something nasty is going on after his girlfriend (Elizabeth Blackmore) has reached for the Hamilton Beach and (improbably) sawn her own arm off with said electric knife.

Mostly, it’s the same old gore-and-mayhem — a little too fixated on pain for my taste — though I give it credit for being at least mostly done without CGI. (Some claim there was no CGI, but I’m skeptical.) I also happily admit that the last stretch of the film is pretty darn intense and exciting — thanks in no small part to Jane Levy’s game performance. If the whole film had been like this, I’d be going back to see it again. As it stands, once was definitely a sufficiency. Rated R for strong bloody violence and gore, some sexual content and language.

Playing at Carmike 10, Carolina Cinemas, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

23 thoughts on “Evil Dead

  1. Dionysis

    This review induces a big ‘eh’. Besides, virtual re-make that it was, the original sequel (Evil Dead 2) was the better movie. I mean, fighting your own possessed left arm, and laughing triumpantly when you dismember yourself? Top that!

  2. Jeremy Dylan

    Sounds like I should be renting EVIL DEAD 2 instead of this or the original.

  3. Ken Hanke

    If I was going to recommend one, I’d go with that, though (and I know this is heretical) a little Bruce Campbell goes a long way with me.

  4. Xanadon't

    Gotta say that I was satisfied on the whole, and I even think that this has as much to do with the movie’s execution as my guarded expectations going in. It was actually a nice change of pace to see an American horror movie -rehash or not- push the gore limits inside the context of silly supernatural terrain rather than having to suffer through another Saw/Hostel/Collector-type premise.

    Sure, the movie was nasty and pretty brutal, but the sheer madness of it all lends a fun “holy shit!” factor to the movie, instead of just a bunch of over-calculated, over-serious, over-cruel attempts to shock.

    I don’t think for a second that there’s anything to be gleaned from multiple viewings, but I wouldn’t give back my experience with the movie.

  5. Ken Hanke

    I understand your point, but I’m still underwhelmed — except for the ending. The ending, I think, is aces — even if has the typical — SPOILER (if you’ve never seen one of these movies) — okay, let’s say you don’t bleed to death, just how are you gonna explain all this to the cops.

  6. Orbit DVD

    I don’t disagree with the review but I would probably at least half a star, maybe a whole one. I had a better time with it than most recent horror films.

  7. Ken Hanke

    I had a better time with it than most recent horror films.

    That’s not saying all that much.

  8. Xanadon't

    I think I’m with Marc. It’s no Insidious, but I’d certainly put it a notch about Piranha 3D, and I’d say I rather liked it better than Sinister too.

    Speaking of Insidious, I was happy to catch the trailer for James Wan’s latest, The Conjuring. Though it sadly looks as though it may rely to heavily on jump-scare tactics.

  9. Ken Hanke

    But we’re not really at odds there, are we? Now, did I like it better than Mama or Warm Bodies or Beautiful Creatures? No, though I’ll grant you the last two have clearly different aims.

    I’m still looking forward to The Conjuring, though not as much as Lords of Salem.

  10. Orbit DVD

    I keep hoping Ti West is able to knock one outta the ballpark. His films are interesting, but ultimately not great.

  11. Ken Hanke

    The only one I’ve seen — apart from his little doodle in VHS — is The Innkeepers, which I’d give a solid 3.5 leaning toward 4.

  12. Orbit DVD

    I would say that’s about right. House of the Devil is good as well, but it didn’t blow me away. It DID have Mary Woronov though!

  13. Steven

    [b]I would say that’s about right. House of the Devil is good as well, but it didn’t blow me away. It DID have Mary Woronov though![/b]

    But that ending is one of the worst things I’ve seen in horror since.. [i]High Tension[/i]? Yeah, that sounds right.

  14. Ken Hanke

    All of High Tension is one of the worst things I’ve seen in horror.

  15. DrSerizawa

    Well, I pretty much add points when a horror movie relies on the supernatural at all vs the crazed psychos that seem to dominate the genre. I don’t really think of Saw/slasher type movies are horror at all, really.

    In any case this one looks like a winter rental. Interestingly the original is about 2 1/2 to 3 stars as well. Though pulling it off with a 16mm camera and clay animation in the original I think deserves more respect than the current comparatively unlimited budgets. Plus, before the original ED was a woman ever sexually assaulted by trees in a movie? That’s gotta be worth 1/2 a star.

  16. Ken Hanke

    We could have a long exchange about whether slasher movies are horror pictures. I’m of two minds. If we say they’re not straight across the board, then we’ve just said that 1933′s Night of Terror isn’t a horror picture. For that matter, you rule out just about every other Old Dark House movie. And what do you do with Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI where Jason comes back from the grave thanks to being reanimated by lightning?

    The supernatural horror film seems to be gaining in acceptance once more. Movies like James Wan’s Dead Silence (2007) got a rough ride in part because they were supernatural in content. When it became clear that the events in Midnight Meat Train were supernatural, the film was criticized for “going off the rails.” That was 2008. I hate to think it was those awful Paranormal Stupidity movies that made the supernatural “cool” again, but it might have been. At least we got Insidious and The Innkeepers out of that deal.

    There’s certainly some justification for admiring the circumstances under which Raimi’s film was made, but whether that makes it a good film is open to question. To me, it makes it “pretty good — considering.” I’m not actually arguing that it isn’t better than this new one, because it is, but less because it had no budget than because it had an element of the viewer not expecting what was going to happen next. The new film is devoid of that. It really is, as I said, a kind of wind-up toy horror.

    I do think the tree business — though obviously inspired by Wizard of Oz and possibly a little known 1944 film called Destiny — is unique to Raimi’s film.

  17. DrSerizawa

    I take your points about horror including non-supernatural forces. I have probably been over-reacting due to the dearth of supernatural horror recently and the modern tendency to confuse turning your stomach with disgusting violence and torture vs having the daylights being scared out of you in some more hair-raising fashion like in the denouement of PSYCHO. That scene with granny literally had my hair on end. Crap like SAW is just disgusting and not all that frightening really. It’s more pornography than horror IMHO. Alien is a horror movie. Friday The 13th films are just crap.

    I stand by my opinion that horror movie makers would be well advised to watch some of those old Roger Corman Poe flicks and the classic old horror movies to see how much effective atmosphere can be made creatively rather than throwing money around.

    On another subject. We got rid of our TV cable and are just using a digital decoder and an antenna now. Since about all I watch on TV is Masterpiece Theater and TCM it’s a bit of a hardship with the loss of TCM. We were just sik of paying so much $ for hundreds od commercial stations. Anyhow I was channel surfing a bit yesterday evening and came across one of those TRANSFORMER movies in Spanish. I was able to tell exactly what was going on without any trouble even though I speak very little Spanish. Says a lot about the juvenile nature of Mr Bay’s garbage.

  18. Ken Hanke

    I suspect I’m a little more tolerant of certain types of crap than you are — and perhaps than I should be. You’ll get no argument out of me about the Saw movies, though I will say I prefer them as the Halloween staple to these dumb Paranormal Stupidity snooze fests. At least the Saw movies look like movies. Friday the 13th is indefensible, but something about its very existence amuses me. It always seems less a series of movies than a clever ad campaign with something approximating movies attached to it.

    I have to say, however, that I am not keen on those Corman Poe things. The 1930s horrors hold up better — and, for that matter, play better with a modern audience in my experience. The same is true of the Hammer horrors, though they do hold up better than the Cormans — at least the best of them do.

    I have trouble imagining life without TCM, even though I have to admit that it’s very rare these days that they show anything I want to see that I don’t have. I certainly won’t argue that Mr. Bay’s garbage isn’t garbage, though Hitchcock would have said that any good movie should be comprehensible even if the sound goes out. I don’t think this is what he had in mind.

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