By Michael Kaye
Evil Dead 2013 (Review)
Over the summer, I started a weekly series of posts on my personal Facebook page called "Say Something Positive," where I put the spotlight on films/filmmakers that are generally not well received, or have simply not been given the attention they deserve. Now, normally those posts won't turn into fully fleshed out reviews, but this week the timing was just too perfect. Not a whole lot of new releases are opening this weekend except for the new horror/thriller Don't Breathe, and in honor of that, I'm taking a look at director Fede Alvarez's feature film debut, the 2013 Evil Dead reboot.
Here's the story. Five friends head to a remote cabin, where they discovery of a Book of the Dead leads them to unwittingly summon up demons living in the nearby woods.
I love this movie, warts and all. Don't worry, I totally understand why some hardcore fans of the original trilogy didn't like it, and I too have some problems with it, but for the most part I really enjoyed the experience. Here are my positives and negatives.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
First off, the cast is great. With the exception of an awesome cameo in a post credits scene, there aren't a lot of big name actors in the film, and I kinda like that. Our leading lady is Mia, played by the brilliant Jane Levy. She was definitely my favorite character in the film, with her brother David, played by Shiloh Fernandez, and Eric, played by Lou Taylor Pucci, following right behind. This is both a positive and a negative, but I like how nobody in this movie tried to be "the next Ash," since there's nobody in the world who could ever replace the ever awesome Bruce Campbell (Hail to the King, baby)! Instead, these are all new characters with their own stories, that just so happen to stumble across the same Book of the Dead.
For a directorial debut, Fede Alvarez made one hell of a first impression. Believe it or not, this was my first horror film that I ever saw in theaters. It took me quite a while to break into the genre, and even after I saw this movie it would take me until the following year's The Babadook to get me fully on board. That being said, this movie kicks ass, and the best part is that everything you see on screen is actually happening. It'd be easy for Alvarez to simply exploit the use of CGI due to his background, but that just wouldn't cut it for an Evil Dead movie. Practical effects in modern horror films are hard to come by, and that they look this amazing is even less common. Seriously, this is some of the best blood and gore I've seen in a very long time. The one scene that will stick with me forever is the climax where Mia is fighting off an army of Deadites while it's raining blood. As a big Slayer fan, that definitely put a smile on my face.
The last pure positive I have goes to the music, composed by Roque Baños. This guy knows exactly what each scene needs, whether it's to build tension and suspense, or to cool things down in between the scares. Aside from the "Raining Blood" scene, other moments where the music enhances the film are when Mia first gets possessed in the woods, Eric's first exposure to the Necronomicon, and Natalie vs her infected arm.
Now here's the grey area, my one negative that still kinda counts as a positive.
I'll start with the positive half first, and that's the screenplay, written by Fede Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues, with uncredited assistance from Diablo Cody. One of my friends on Facebook described this movie as the Jurassic World of the Evil Dead franchise, and he isn't wrong. In other words, while it's not a total reboot, it's also not exactly a direct sequel either. That gives them plenty of room to create new characters, as well as an updated story. It's also cool how this movie comes full circle for producer Sam Raimi, who had his first major hit with The Evil Dead, which will be celebrating its 35th anniversary come October 15th. Unlike the sequels, the original Evil Dead wasn't meant to be a comedy, and neither was this new iteration.
That being said, the one thing that unfortunately does hold this movie back from being anything more than really good is the lack of humor. I find the best franchise that I can compare to Evil Dead would be Godzilla, as both started off with a pretty serious first installment, then just got sillier over time, until their most recent reboots returned to a more grounded tone. And if we're to be completely honest, nobody really remembers the first installments, as the sequels have become ubiquitous to those franchises. As for Evil Dead specifically, it really doesn't help much that it came out a year after Drew Goddard's directorial debut The Cabin in the Woods, which audiences felt was more in line with what people loved about the original Evil Dead trilogy.
Evil Dead (2013) works just as well as a stand alone horror film as it does as a legacy-quel to Sam Raimi's original trilogy. It's by no means perfect, but I had a ton of fun with the story, the new characters, and especially the loads of practical effects. I have no idea what the future holds for this franchise, but if it was at all possible, I'd love to see a crossover featuring Ash and Mia.
Now I want to hear from you guys. Have you seen Evil Dead (2013), and if so what did you think? Also, what are your favorite moments from the entire Evil Dead franchise? Drop your thoughts in the comments below, and stay tuned for my next review, where a group of delinquents break into the home of a blind Stephan Lang in Don't Breathe.