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Evil Dead of 2013 Exposes Many Problems of Modern Horror

Evil Dead
Directed by Fede Alvarez
Written by Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues, and Diablo Cody from the 1981 film by Sam Raimi
Sony, 2013

Back in 1981 when Sam Raimi made what would end up being a cult horror classic in The Evil Dead, he had to shoot on a tight budget, and therefore, had to be creative with his limitations.  As I’ve said many times before with horror, adding money to a genre that should be grimy, dirty, and not look slick at all completely drains about 50% of the horror right off the bat, maybe more.  And even though actors might have been bad in these horror movies back then, I never got the sense they were hoping you would visit their Facebook page later.  They had character.  Bruce Campbell became a cult star mainly because he has a sense of humor about himself and knew what he was as an actor.  Now, kids in horror movies might as well be digitally inserted into them.  I couldn’t care less.

Post-Cabin in the Woods, it’s hard to take Evil Dead’s premise seriously anymore.  But it seems like it’s been remade in direct answer to Cabin, which many casual movie fans hated for not being a 100% total horror movie.  But, here we go: 5 friends go into the woods to stay at an abandoned cabin.  This time, the cabin is not being used as some college sexy getaway, it’s for Mia (an actually terrific turn by Jane Levy for the most part) to get cleaned up off of drugs.  Her never-there brother David (Shiloh Fernandez, who looks a lot like Zac Efron) has actually made the trip, along with friends Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), Olivia (Jessica Lucas), and Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore).  The friends decide that they’re not going to let Mia leave under any circumstances, as she’s made these “I’m off of drugs!” claims before only to relapse hours later.  So sets up the catch-22 when things get crazy.

Eric finds the Necronomicon, the “Book of the Dead,” and starts saying some of the Latin phrases in it, which unleashes the evil in the woods and which latches itself onto Mia, who starts acting exactly like someone trying to get off of drugs acts like: crazy and desperate.  Add to the fact that Mia and David’s mother was also placed in a mental institution, then all thoughts that a demon might be possessing her goes out the window.  Eventually, this demon plague that is affecting Mia starts going to the other people in the cabin.

The film is ridiculously gory, probably one of the goriest I’ve seen in a long time.  The whole finale in fact is bathed in blood.  There are some pretty good moments in this movie that are tarnished by the rest of the film, notably a strange, long, drawn-out ending that makes the film feel like 2 hours as opposed to 1 1/2.  I have a feeling this is going to be huge and actually have some legs, mainly because this is exactly what the naysayers of Cabin in the Woods really wanted, and the casual horror fan will have lots of images in their brains to savor and discuss with others.

But for me, the modern horror telling of this ruins it.  Remember in the beginning of the original The Evil Dead, where we have that shot of the swing banging against the cabin?  Horror can benefit from taking its time to set up the mood.  That image of the swing is as iconic as anything in film and legendary in horror.  The cheapness of the photography and the effects add to that ickiness that you can’t quite feel in a modern horror film filled with digital effects, clean photography and slick filters, and much-too-fake digital blood.  Raimi also did things with the camera that were inventive.  Here, we see homage, or mini-homage to what Raimi did.

I didn’t expect a full-blown exact remake, but it would be nice if characters actually had some character, and that horror builds rather than is thrust upon us.  I will say one huge point for Evil Dead is that at least the demons don’t seem to be interested in just playing around like so many strange ghosts and demons do in most horror films these days.  These guys want to hurt and kill.  In all, I think horror fans will be pleased.  I’m not convinced this is what horror should be on the whole, however.

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