Sunday, April 28, 2013

Horror Film Review

Evil Dead (2013):  At long last...the one we've all been waiting for.  I saw it tonight in the theater.  Expectations were beyond high, and needless to say, I was nervous as hell.  I mean, the tag line was, "The scariest movie you'll ever see!"  So was it?  Was it the scariest movie I've ever seen?  No.  Was it a kick-ass gore-fest that lived up to the impossible standard set by the original 22 years ago?  Yes, yes it was. 

The filmmakers eschewed opening credits and dove headlong into prologue where a father, helped by some Deliverance extras, sets his teenage daughter on fire to save her soul from a possessing demon.  It seemed to work, and so on to present day where five young people head to a dilapidated cabin in the woods not to party but to help drug-addict Mia (Jane Levy) go cold turkey.  Joining Mia are her friends Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) and Olivia (Jessica Lucas), her estranged brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) and his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore).  A smell leads them to a trap door which leads to a creepy basement where they find fire damage and a book wrapped in barbed wire.  Oh, and dozens of decomposing cats hanging from the ceiling.  While Mia's outside wandering around in the rain and dealing with withdrawals, Eric (who is supposed to be the smart one) decides to read passages aloud from the book.  As we know, it's an ancient book of the dead that's basically an instruction manual for making bad shit happen, i.e. a Pavlovian bell for super evil demons.  Mia's possessed after a tree rapes her (sort of) and then we're off to the races, seriously bloody races.  Let's see...there's a box cutter, machete, an electric knife, a nail gun, crowbar, double-barrel shotgun, and, of course, a chainsaw.  Not to mention shards from a broken mirror and, well, fire.  The five friends go to four, then three, etc.  Ultimately, Mia takes on the resurrected, soul-eating demon while the cabin burns and it's raining blood.  This climax falls under the category "must see to believe."

A few things:  there's a slight subplot regarding Mia and David's mother dying in a mental hospital but it's not at all important.  If you're a dog-lover, all I can say is, sorry.  The soundtrack is impressive.  More specifically, the cacophony of music mixed with what can only be described as a civil defense siren whenever shit goes sideways.  Very effective and very disturbing.  One complaint I have is the utter, and I mean utter lack of humor.  Not one line of dialogue written to elicit the tiniest of smiles.  You may say, "Look, moron, it's a horror flick.  Why should it be funny?"  Of course it shouldn't be funny as a whole, but every movie (except maybe Schindler's List) has at least one line, at least one stab at humor.  Not here, though, and I think that was a mistake because it's been my experience that juxtaposing comedy and horror heightens the horror.  Oh, well.  Maybe next time. 

For fans of the original: a certain car makes an appearance.  You know the one I'm talking about.  Can't really miss it...or what's left of it.  There's a nice reference to Flint, MI as well as a familiar running-through-the-woods camera technique.  The biggest question, of course, is whether Ash or some form of Bruce Campbell makes an appearance.  I had my doubts, yet I waited through all of the end credits just be sure.  All I'll say is you should do the same.  Hail to the king, baby.


Acting:  Surprisingly subdued performances enhance the terror.  Pucci gets a bit hammy as his character Eric goes a bit nutty.  There are a few false notes but they're brief and immediately forgotten.
Story:  The intervention twist is interesting if not humorless.  I guess they couldn't completely copy the original. 
Direction:  A somewhat plodding first act is more than made up for by the remaining two.
Production Values:  A $17 million budget is an absolute fortune compared to what Sam Raimi and crew had to play with in the original but still relatively small by Hollywood standards.  Even so, the film looks anything but cheap.  Quite impressive. 
Gore/FX:  Ah, yes.  Here's where most of the money went.  No CGI, they did carnage the old fashioned way which means more realistic.  I can't even begin to explain how much blood there is yet surprisingly it's light on what I consider heavy gore.  That is to say, no eviscerations.  However, there is just about everything else you could imagine.  The licking of the box cutter was the only scene where I had to momentarily look away.  Maybe I'm weird, but the final battle where one-handed Mia's using the chainsaw made me smile.  It was awesome.
Scares:  For the uninitiated, probably quite a few.  I didn't jump although I came quite close numerous times.  Especially the bit with David and Mia in the flooded basement.  Jeepers.
Ending:  As I've said, the final confrontation is epic.  I must say I was surprised that someone lives.  Well, maybe not super surprised since there had to be sequel considerations.  And, of course, there's the bit after the credits.  If you're a true fan, it's worth it the wait.
Verdict:  I won't even ask the question.  Of course you should see it.  Despite the heavy tone and lack of humor, it's a hell of a lot of fun.  One might even say...groovy.

Rating:  5 out of 5

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