If the point of a horror movie is to instill fear in the audience, then you better not hold back. Otherwise, you’re doing a huge disservice to yourself while robbing the fans of the movie they came to see. And horror fans know exactly what they want. Evil Dead acknowledges the sick, twisted fantasies of its viewers and then proceeds to vomit as much blood in their face as they can stomach. But the violence doesn’t stop there. Not even close. Evil Dead has much and more to offer, and by the gallons. This isn’t your typical horror flick of the week; it’s a gleefully gruesome gore-fest that tests our tolerance as an audience, but never our patience. And while it doesn’t quite live up to its bold tagline, there is something fiendishly promising about this remake that makes it a terrifying experience all on its own.
Five friends, David, Eric, Mia, Olivia, and Natalie, reunite at a dreary cabin in the middle of the woods. But this isn’t a weekend getaway. They’re here for Mia, a heroin addict who needs a little bit of help kicking the habit for good. And with her estranged brother, David, re-entering her life, maybe she can resolve other issues as well. Everyone, it seems, has their own problems to deal with, and Mia lies smack dab in the middle of them. So when they stumble upon a mysterious book, in which they accidentally conjure a malevolent force, the film then becomes a battle for Mia’s very soul. Oh, and everyone else’s too.
There is something oddly sincere about a character battling her own demons, both emotional and supernatural. It adds a surprising touch of heart that’s typically uncommon in the horror genre. Yes, this battle in particular may lean towards the utmost of extremes, but it serves as an engaging metaphor for the story at the film’s core. And it works because of the film’s star: Jane Levy. As the deeply troubled Mia, she is burdened with a ton of emotional baggage. This leaves her open and vulnerable, and prone to all kinds of madness. So of course no one’s going to believe her when she starts seeing things. She’s an addict! Evil Dead cleverly plays on her condition to allow the horror to sneak its way into the cabin. When it finally hits, everyone, including Mia, is completely powerless. Demon Mia, on the other hand, is absolutely terrifying. Her deadpan expression is gone, replaced by a playful demeanor that borders on the insane. Mia’s character continues to drown in the depravity as the possession tightens its vengeful grasp on her. But she’s been here before, psychologically, and though she may be the victim here, she never truly stays that way. She’s a woman who can fight back, and her journey is nothing short of amazing.
The film capitalizes on its demon-centric plot to explore all kinds of body mutilations that will give the Saw franchise a run for its money. Yet it never ventures into the likeness of torture-porn films like Saw or Hostel. Sure, these characters are forced to grab a chainsaw and hack off parts we couldn’t otherwise bear to lose, but it does so with a devilish grin. Evil Dead boasts its own wicked sense of humor as a means of diffusing any tension on the viewer’s part. So when the horror reaches to a point where it’s damn near overwhelming, Evil Dead has the decency to acknowledge the absurdity and outright silliness of the whole thing. It almost seems to wink right at you before severing its own tongue in half and then making out with an unfortunate young woman (talk about tongue action!). Through these numerous sight gags and vile punch-lines, the film creates some much needed distance for us as an audience so that we never take the movie too seriously. In my opinion, both horror and comedy walk the same, twisted road. If you go too far in one direction, you could end up with some unintentional moments of hilarity. Evil Dead recognizes this weakness in the genre, laughs at it, and uses it as an advantage to a full and satisfying effect.
Being that this is a remake (insert groan here), a lot of people had certain reservations about the film. Will it stay true to Sam Raimi’s classic? Will Bruce Campbell be in it? But why worry about fidelity when the slaughter is so much fun! The film itself isn’t so much a remake as it is a reboot. This is due in large part to director Fede Alvarez. By borrowing key elements from the original, he makes it immediately recognizable to the hardcore fans of the cult classic. From there he adds his own stylistic flair to distinguish this incarnation from the previous one. The classic POV shots, hyperkinetic zooms, and offset camera angles still manage to find their place in the new film. Though these techniques are taken right out of Raimi’s playbook, Fede is smart enough to use them only as references before he adds his own visceral punch. And he never settles for cheap scares. This is straight up, in-your-face-horror that never shies away from the brutality. This also means that the slapstick humor is gone, along with the campy atmosphere. Instead, Fede incorporates a grim color palette that makes the use of practical effects all the more colorful. Believe me, the mutilations are so convincing that you may even fear for the well-being of the actors. Nevertheless, Fede is a painter, and by the end of the film he makes damn sure that his canvas is completely covered in red.
The horror genre has become a bit redundant over the years and it’s reached a point where it’s not even scary anymore. It’s just tiring, stale, and largely predictable. Evil Dead is a bold attempt to upset the status quo, daring other filmmakers to take ambitious leaps rather than settle for a dull affair. After all, if the point of a horror movie is to bring fear to the audience, why not go all out? Fede Alvarez knows exactly what his audiences came to see and indulges every bit of their demented fantasies, while offering a little more on the side. In fact, he plays against expectations when the film switches protagonists, thus paving the way for a crowd-pleasing finale that will get fans salivating for more. I myself cannot wait to see it again. Evil Dead is a bloody brilliant film that needs to be experienced in the theater. See it – preferably with a crowd.