Monday, April 22, 2013

Movie Review - Evil Dead (Remake - 2013)

Let me be clear. The Evil Dead series qualifies as a classic. The original Evil Dead was a horror masterpiece that defined the entire 'kids trapped in a cabin with something evil' horror sub genre. And the story of the film is any horror fan's greatest dream. In the 80's, with barely any money,  a couple of guys from Michigan with almost no movie making experience went to the woods of Tennessee and made a low budget horror film that pushed the bounds of terror cinema beyond anywhere it had previously been. 

I love Evil Dead. It is, in my mind, one of the best horror movies of the 20th century. I remember the first time I saw it. I was at a high school girlfriend's house with a group of friends and I remember, from the moment we pressed play on the VCR, I was in horror heaven. The girl I was seeing? Not so much. She spent the movie in my lap with her head buried in my shoulder in sheer fear. But, to my jaded gore hound sensibilities, Evil Dead was something new; something breathtaking in its simplicity and unrelenting terror. 

I rushed out to get a copy of Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn the next weekend and - although it's essentially a remake, it too proved unbelievable. That one could mix horror, and comedy so easily as Sam Raimi did with his gore-muse, the incomparable and groovy Bruce Campbell, was a thing of wonder. Later, when I was in college, I remember going by myself to see the only Toledo showing of Army of Darkness in a cinema in North Toledo. 

So, understand when I say that, a couple of years ago, when the internet went bat-shit crazy with news that there was going to be a new Evil Dead film? Yeah. I looked at this news with my usually cynical skepticism that any rumors of a much loved franchise's return engender. 

So, when a few months later, it was announced that the a new Evil Dead was actually happening, I was thrilled. I was looking forward with an absolute horror chubby at the idea of Ash returning and doing battle with the Deadites and the Necronomicon Ex Mortis! And you can imagine my disappointment when they further announced that - (cue the whomp whomp whomp trombone sound effect) - it would not be directed by Sam (who was too busy making shitloads of big budget Spiderman money) and not star Bruce (because, well, because Bruce wouldn't do it without Sam). 

Either way, I was not happy. My interest was ever so slightly piqued when they announced Sam and Bruce were producing, and that the remake had their blessing. But it wasn't the same. And then I saw the first crazy, bloody Red Band Trailer. 

Holy shit, said I, this might actually be pretty good. 

So I gave it a chance. The trailers looked great. I kept coming back to the fact that Sam and Bruce were involved. So I took the chance and went and saw it this weekend. I can now say, unequivocally -- Evil Dead 2013 does justice to the originals. It is worthy of the title of Evil Dead. It has my unholy blessing. 

Too many times have I been disappointed by remakes. Too many times have I seen some studio asshole mutilate a great classic film with an undeserved, watered down remake. Please believe me that, in this case, this is not so, my lovely zombie minions! 

The Evil Dead remake is a horror movie that any horror fan would love. It has plenty of over the top carnage, viscera, and buckets of the hot, red, coppery stuff. It relies on physical effects and not shitty looking CGI. It is brutal, scary, and transcends the recent spate of torture porn horror that - while tracing their lineage back to the original Evil Dead - do little to capture the quintessential melding of horror and gore that the original so capably exudes.

The movie starts with the introduction of a cast of pretty young people who meet at a cabin they all grew up at. The owners of the cabin - an estranged brother (David - as played by Shiloh Fernandez) and sister (Mia, played by Jane Levy)  - join their friends to help Mia detox from drug addiction. They are there in the hopes that - in the isolation of their childhood vacation home - they can finally save her life after numerous OD's and a prior unsuccessful detox. 

Unknown to them, the cabin has been the site of a break in and - because they're dumb - they find and read aloud from the famed Necronomicon Ex Mortis. (Although, in this case, they go back to the original Sumerian version from the original Evil Dead - the Naturom De Monto). With the pronouncement of the fateful incantation that bring forth the demons, the inevitable roller coaster of hell begins! 

I won't go too deeply into the plot, you get the basic idea, but I did want to talk about the script itself. As I've said before, I had my doubts about this remake, based largely on prior bad remakes. All too often we've seen the source material distorted, or totally ignored for whatever stupid business reasons the studio felt made the movie more profitable. And that's the biggest travesty of most remakes, they are disrespectful and unmindful of what made the original so great. By having Raimi and uber-groovy Bruce Campbell involved, they could make sure that the things that made the original so groundbreaking and unique weren't relegated to the editing or cutting room floor.

What I'm trying to say is that, in this case, the script and story are unique and stand on their own merits. While none of the characters are particularly likable, and they are not - nor will ever be - as kick-ass as the original Ash, the story also makes a point of paying homage to the original. It stands alone as a separate entity, but it knows the roots of the story, mythology, and consequences of fucking with a book bound in human skin. 

The homages are little, and not over the top. For instance, from the first moment we see Mia, she's sitting on a rusting car behind the cabin. The car should look familiar - it's Ash's car,  a 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88. It's little touches like this that make the movie worthwhile. 

As I said, the majority of the effects are practical effects. And they are state of the art. There are buckets of blood, there are squirm inducing stabbings, dismemberment, and, yes, the tree rape scene that made the original so damn horrific is here - just re-imagined in a spectacular way. The gore is crazy, and the story is so crazy that it reminded me of the first time I saw the original. It's been a long time since I saw a movie so scary and well done. Believe me. 

Another nice touch is that, about three quarters of the way through, you find yourself playing the 'So who's Ash?!?' game. What worked about the original was that it was very much a man against everything sort of story. One man (in this case BRUCE FUCKING CAMPBELL) against death, the loss of his friends, madness, and a shitload of evil demons bent on "swallowing his soul!" I found myself trying to figure out who was that pivotal character and, every time I thought I'd figured out who was Ash - they'd end up dead or possessed. I even, at one point, went "A-ha! I've figured out who's Ash because the character's actually dressed like him!" - only to have them die unexpectedly. 

It goes without saying there are plot twists galore. 

So - the final verdict? Go see it, dear reader. Go quickly before it's out of the theaters and you miss it in all of its widescreen, 30' by 70' foot, blood gushing awesomeness. Only in a theater can you get the impact of all of it's stomach churning, and jump out of your seat scary glory. This movie is seriously creepy and scary and I can't recommend it enough. If - like old Doctor Zombie - you're a fan of the classic horror, and you've longed for the old days of horror films for and by horror fans, then this is the film for you. Too long, we've been subjected to neutered, studio produced crap, or the endless slew of crappy direct to DVD fare that has all the finesse and style of a college film course final. This movie is the real deal, dear reader. 

Go. Go see it now, before we swallow your SOUL! 

Oh yeah. One final tip: Make sure you stay through the credits. Believe old Doctor Zombie;