Finally, the demons are out… This mind is clear… for a minute. I can’t believe I actually got round to writing this after a couple of rants I had to go on in order to keep my brain working properly. It was a busy week film-wise and in order to make the most of it I ended up spending my entire Tuesday evening in the cinema watching movies back to back.
Ok, that would be enough waffle, thank you very much. I’m not very big on remakes and if you had the pleasure to read what I think about Hollywood at the minute, you’d know that going to see the remake of “Evil Dead” didn’t come all that easy. Especially when it comes to remaking the horror genre in particular, the effects are most often piss poor, but that’s not why I’m here now, is it?
What I think helped ease me into how Fede Alvarez envisioned bringing Sam Raimi’s debut feature back from the dead, was a simple fact that up until last week I hadn’t seen the original. I quickly corrected that little detail and thus went to the cinema prepared rather well (well, I failed to re-watch the sequels, but I’ll get on with them soon enough, just to keep the atmosphere alive for a little while longer).
Well, I should really emphasize that the final moments leading up the projection made my heart go a bit faster, as I clearly had fallen prey to “Evil Dead’s” viral campaign of ‘how this film is supposed to mess you up for life’. So, there I was sitting in silence surrounded a bunch of strangers. Some a-hole screamed, as if to reassure everyone that he wasn’t anxious. The lights went dim… I blinked… for one last time… And it was all over. All of a sudden, 90 minutes of my life just raced in front of my eyes and I woke up after the post-credit teaser (Yes, there is one. Stay there and look at it).
What I felt while leaving my seat can’t be easily put into words. The closest analogue of that would be the feeling you have having just left a rollercoaster ride, and not just a rollercoaster ride; it’s the rollercoaster ride you’d remember till the end of your days. The amount of adrenaline streaming down my veins could easily wake up a couple of corpses. “Evil Dead” made me feel happy to be alive, so to speak, as if I just had dodged death by an inch or something to that effect.
Emotions aside, “Evil dead” in the eyes of Fede Alvarez took Raimi’s debut made on a nonexistent budget and elevated it to the modern standards – in a good way. If anything, this is how remakes should be done, in my opinion. 30 years ago, the original “Evil Dead” scared the living poop out of countless thousands of people. Now, you can look at it only in two ways: either with reverential respect to a timeless classic, or with a weird grin on your face pondering, how something like that could have scared anyone in the first place. This is what time does to films like that – horrors especially. Films that draw on emotional responses (threat, fear, disgust) wear off after a while, and decades after, they’re simply dead. It takes a passionate individual who understands the matter he is sculpting to carve it out into a film that would revive said emotions and hopefully amplify them in a way, so that the remake can stand on its own two feet.
This time it worked in a phenomenal way.
2013’s “Evil Dead” starts off with the very same concept as the original. A group of friends travels to a secluded cabin in the middle of nowhere. Contrary to the original, however, instead of trying to kick back in the wilderness, these individuals are on a mission. They are trying to help one of them – Mia (Jane Levy) – tackle her drug problem. Some people say that the film spends far too much time establishing the characters, but I don’t really have a problem with that. Fair enough, maybe we could theorize that the film doesn’t need David (Shiloh Fernandez) to spell it out for everyone, how messed up his relationship with Mia really was. But then again, a horror needs to do that; otherwise the butchering that comes next would be irrelevant. If I don’t care about the characters, then it doesn’t matter how many appendages they will have chopped off. I believe Alvarez was fully aware of that, so he spent nearly half the film making me care. Good.
Where was I? Right, a handful of friends arrive at the cabin, where they discover a variety of tools (their existence is well explained, no plot holes there), which makes the whole cabin look like a gigantic Chekhov’s gun, as you know these tools will be used sooner than you think to torture our characters. They also stumble upon some nasty witchcraft-related things in the basement, among which they find a book. A book written in blood, with some really nasty imagery, with a cover made of skin (human skin), wrapped in plastic and barbed wire – clearly someone went to ridiculous lengths to make sure no-one would read it. And of course, among our protagonists there’s Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) – a self-proclaimed scientist who sees challenges where everyone else would see a warning. Therefore he un-wraps the book and takes his time to decipher some incantations found within. When he reads them aloud (as I would too, fellow scientists would understand) – the horror begins… A demon wakes up in the woods and he will not stop until he has feasted on their souls… starting off with Mia. Initially nobody wants to believe her, when she spouts nonsense about things she saw in the forest or the dark presence she felt in the cabin, dismissing them as detox-related hallucinations. Shortly thereafter, people start dying and the blood starts spilling. And it doesn’t stop until the very last second of the film.
Hands down, “Evil Dead” is by far the bloodiest, most violent film I have seen. However, contrary to what I had expected, my stomach handled everything splendidly. Maybe the fact I knew I was watching a work of fiction had something to do with it, but I had worse reactions to “127 hours” and “The Impossible” in recent memory. Anyway, when the gore machine started rolling, it didn’t leave any room for breathing. In all actuality, the pacing of the film felt a bit like a rollercoaster ride, wherein you spent 90 seconds going up very slowly in waiting only to spend another 90 seconds screaming like a little girl. It was exactly like that. I would never think a horror movie could be that exhilarating. And by the end it was just bananas. Blood everywhere, severed limbs, nails, chainsaws, box-cutters – the whole shebang.
In summary, I had a blast. The special effects were very (!!!) convincing, the blood and gore were properly disgusting and the sense of threat was unrelenting. Each minute of the film – once the slaughter had started – kept cranking up the gain on the horror. As a result the big finale was simply unforgettable. Due homage was paid to Sam Raimi (a couple of his signature close-up wide-angle shots and a handful of props pointing to the original), but as a whole Alvarez managed to keep a good amount of individuality. His take on “Evil dead” is seriously scary and violent, but it manages to be funny at times of the greatest carnage. In fact, the whole idea of Pucci’s scientist character borders on hilarious, especially when you consider how big of a beating this guy takes in the film.
If there are remakes that stand above the shameful crowd of knock-offs, “Evil Dead” is surely one of them. It’s a nearly perfect horror movie that doesn’t have the desire to join the club of any mainstream sub-genres. If anything, I would expect others to jump on the “Evil Dead” band wagon soon enough and start the wave of ‘torture porn meets The Exorcist’.