Mark Reviews Movies

Evil Dead


1 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Fede Alvarez

Cast: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore

MPAA Rating: R (for strong bloody violence and gore, some sexual content and language)

Running Time: 1:31

Release Date: 4/5/13

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Review by Mark Dujsik | April 4, 2013

The singular goal of Evil Dead is to cause us to reflexively raise our hands to our eyes to block out a string of gruesome images of people causing all sorts of pain to themselves and others—all of those scenes foreshadowed with the convenient appearance of various tools of potential carnage. Its excuse is some nonsense about demonic possession, which screenwriters Fede Alvarez (who also directed) and Rodo Sayagues take far too seriously.

Yes, it's a remake of Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead, which was itself a splatter-fest obsessed with blood and ooze and dismembered limbs, but the 1983 original had a sense of atmosphere, an innovative execution (more impressive given the film's miniscule budget), and the good mind to inject a little humor into the presentation of overkill (also, in part, because of its budget restraints). In a reminder of what a difference tone can make, Alvarez' movie, on the other hand, is mean-spirited from its prologue, which gives away the game far too early, and only offers tension in the form of dreading just how far it will go in ensuring we witness every detail of every moment of the ensuing bloodbath, whether it's a close-up of a woman slicing through her cheek with a shard of mirror or a relatively long take of another woman using an electric carving knife to amputate her arm.

Perhaps it's old-fashioned to raise this point, but surely we get the picture of the latter act from the moment the character starts moving the blade toward her arm. Alvarez, though, isn't satisfied to cut away from the shot of self-surgery until the woman is finished, and as if that weren't enough, there's a follow-up shot that makes sure we understand she didn't quite complete the job. If the first part is cruel, the punch line is malicious; the end result—that the entire process was for naught—is just downright vindictive.

The handful of characters range from stock types whose sole purpose is to increase the body count to a pair with a trivial back story of addiction and familial misery, and one character in the former group has the thankless task of explaining every piece of the movie's mythology that the screenplay believes is important (It's not in the slightest). The one thing they all have in common is the movie's apparent hatred for them. There is no other explanation for level and detail of physical violence they must endure.

As in the original, five friends arrive at a cabin in the woods for a weekend getaway. The impetus for the trip here is to help Mia (Jane Levy) quit her drug addiction cold turkey. Her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) has been out of town with a job commitment for a while, and Mia resents him for leaving her alone as their mother died. With them are their old friends Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), a too-curious English teacher, and Olivia (Jessica Lucas), a nurse, and David's girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore), who spends most of the movie standing silent in the background.

While there, they find a room in the cellar that smells of death and holds an old book—its cover made of flesh and enclosed in plastic surrounded by barbed wire. Eric goes against the very specific and repeated warnings in the book and recites an incantation that sends a demon careening through the forest toward the cabin. It possesses Mia and, through her, tells the rest of the group that they're going to die.

And die they do. One by one, the demonic possession spreads like a virus, or at least that's the way Eric eventually sees it (In case it's not clear, they're all slow learners). The plot has something to do with a demon trying to resurrect what turns out to be a lame, inefficient abomination from Hell by claiming the souls of five people (how convenient for it).

Mia vomits copious amounts of blood on one of them and bites the hand of another when she unwisely ventures into the unlocked cellar where they eventually try to contain her (again—and again—very slow learners, these people). The safety warnings of a pneumatic nail gun are ignored. One demonically possessed individual stabs her friend repeatedly in and around the eye with a syringe (followed by a gratuitous close-up—though, to be fair, that's the only type of close-up in this movie—of the friend removing the needle). Skulls are bashed. Limbs are removed. At least David knows how to make wise use of duct tape, that all-purpose fixer-upper.

There is so much wanton spilling of the red stuff here that a literal rain storm of blood in the climactic sequence—where the movie finally finds a little energy outside of bloodletting—seems subdued by comparison. Evil Dead is a geek show masquerading as horror.

Copyright © 2013 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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