Evil Dead (2013): A Movie Review
Most people don't understand the point of movie remakes. I'm not just pointing to the people behind the camera here; there are a lot of movie goers who don't understand why remakes exist. So far as I am concerned, there are two legitimate reasons to remake a movie. In some cases, a movie is remade because the filmmaker's have something new to say (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Fly). In others, it is because there was something about the original's presentation that makes it unpalatable for an American audience (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Let Me In). A movie may even be remade simply because there was something lacking about the original, be it the acting, the special effects, or even just the directing, some marr on the original that would prevent people in today's day and age from being able to appreciate it. As far as I'm concerned, all of those are perfectly legitimate reasons to remake a movie and pretty much the only legitimate reasons to remake a movie.
Unfortunately, what you find more often than not these days is that the remake was made simply because people like money. There's nothing wrong with liking money. I'm sure every filmmaker in the world, regardless of how successful their film did, wishes they'd made just a little bit more. The problem comes when you're making a movie to get some cash in your pocket and you have absolutely no understanding of what makes a movie enjoyable. Then you end up things like the remake of Friday the 13th, which crammed three movie's worth of material into the span of ninety minutes and turned all the characters into unlikable assholes. Or maybe you get something like Prom Night, which got an R in 1980 for a good amount of violence, and the remake became a PG-13 in 2008 and was a neutered copy of the original. In a worst case scenario, you end up with Gus van Sant's remake of Psycho, a shot for shot of the original that added absolutely nothing to the original.
Remakes are not inherently bad. Take a look at The Fly or Invasion of the Body Snatchers or The Ring. I don't give two craps if a film is a remake. All that matters, all that I really ask myself when thinking about recommending a movie, is whether or not the movie is any good or not. It's precisely because of that reason that I will not spend this review comparing Fede Alvarez's Evil Dead to Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead. I don't care that the original movie had the demons being brought to life via the playing of a tape recorder and the remake has one of the characters read from the book directly. I don't care that the original was about friends on spring break and the remake is about a group of friends trying to help someone go cold turkey. I simply do not care that there is no Ash in the remake (in fact, I applaud that decision; I pity anyone trying to ape Bruce Campbell). If you're holding up the original as a movie that is simply untouchable and you consider any remake at all to be a blasphemy, maybe you should first explain to me why it is okay for Evil Dead II to remake the first film and jettison three-fifths of the original cast, hmm? All I care about when I am talking about Evil Dead is: is it any good? Would I like to watch it again?
The answer is yes, thankfully. Evil Dead takes the basic plot of the original (people trapped in a cabin in the woods and demons from The Book of the Dead are killing them one by one) and heads off in its own direction. In this case, Mia (Jane Levy) is a drug addict and she is trying to quit. To that end, she has gone to the family's cabin in the woods with her brother (Shiloh Fernandez), his girlfriend (Elizabeth Blackmore), and two childhood friends (Lou Taylor Puci and Jessica Lucas) in order to go cold turkey. Unfortunately, to the detriment of all of them, in the years the cabin has been abandoned, a demon was captured and burned to death in the basement and the Book of the Dead was left behind for our intrepid heroes to find and, despite the fact that the book is covered with warnings about how they should very much NOT READ THE BOOK, they do so anyway. As a result, a demon takes possession of Mia's soul and the evil begins spreading in increasingly violent ways.
Making Mia a recovering drug addict is a pretty inspired story choice, as it takes away one of the biggest problems people have with horror movies: why people don't leave at the first sign of trouble. In this case, once Mia has been impregnated by the evil, she wants to get out of the woods but, having already been through one failed attempt at detox with her, her friends refuse to let her go (indeed, the fact that Mia was infected in the woods during an attempt to flee back to civilization helps lend credence to the fact that the girl is just faking in order to get avoid facing her problems). However, once people start going insane and start self-mutilating in incredibly graphic ways, it is pretty obvious that Mia isn't just crazy but possessed. At that point, it's too late, though; the characters try to run, but the only way back to civilization has been covered by a raging river. From that point on, it's one act of violence after another until the end of the film.
Discussing this film with a friend, he asked if the move was overly gory for the ADD generation. While I can't deny that is overly gory (there's a reason this got slapped with an NC-17 on its first edit), this is not a brain-dead movie layered with the trappings of most current horror movies. There is no shaky cam here, no needless whiplash cuts. The directing here is top-notch and the cinematography is simply beautiful. The scenes that bookend the film are simply gorgeous. The special effects are no slouch either. Scenes of dismemberment, scalding, broken bones, and chainsaw fun (that's no spoiler; it's in the movie poster, sadly) are incredibly well done and look realistic even when the action itself isn't. The acting, for the most part, is good and Levy and Fernandez carry the movie with their strong performances.
Evil Dead is well-worth watching, despite a few deficiencies. Elizabeth Blackmore was not what I'd call a good choice for the hero's girlfriend, although she's never really called upon to do any heavy lifting. And I'm still a little hung up on the logic regarding the summoning of the film's final demon (if five souls were required to bring forth the demon, exactly which souls are they counting, considering one of the five human characters ends up getting their soul back at the end). But those are minor quibbles. Better than the original? Not going to say because it's doesn't matter. Did I like this movie?