I Saw A Film Today… Evil Dead

The first time I saw Sam Raimi’s horror classic The Evil Dead was in July 2oo8, around the time I started to really explore film seriously. I remember seeing that it was coming on IFC, back when the channel was still commercial free, and deciding to give it watch. Immediately the creepiness set in as the camera swoops across a swamp, a camera technique used throughout the film that for me is one of the more memorable moments of the film, among many. It was raw, heart-pounding, sadistically funny, and it was a favorite immediately, as was its sequel/retelling Evil Dead 2. Army of Darkness, not so much. And now, as is the trend of today, it is getting a revamp.

Mia (Jane Levy) is a junky who wants to kick the habit. To do this a group of her close friends (Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore) and her neglectful brother (Shiloh Fernandez) decide the best place to attempt this is at the decaying family cabin in the middle of the woods. Because simply admitting her to a sterile hospital is too easy.

But when a stench leads the group to explore the basement, they discover dead cats hanging from the ceiling, a boomsti- I mean shotgun, and a book bound in human flesh. Within the pages of the book is a scribbled and simple instruction: Do not read or say these words. So, naturally, one of them reads and says the words.

What quickly follows is hell descending on the cabin as a demon possesses Mia. With their route blocked and evil hiding behind every shadow, the group must rally together to survive.

Evil Dead is a pretty good horror film. It’s not great, but aside from the satirical and now ironical The Cabin in the Woods, what was the last great American horror film you saw? It’s not terrible either. What Alvarez brings to the table here is a revitalization of sorts to a sagging genre. It’s a mix of old and new. There is no CGI here. Every bloody dismemberment and demonic face is real people with real prosthetic bits.

I guess the best way to describe it is a typical run of the mill, cabin in the woods horror film with real scares. They’re not cheap scares, like a ghoul popping out of nowhere or random primal squeals. But they are not top of the line either. If anything, they are moments that will satisfy the blood lust of a gore fan and make you squirm in your seat at least once or twice. From graphic self-mutilation to seemingly small stuff like a machete dragging across a thigh, I’m sure there is something in this film to make even the most die-hard fan uncomfortable.

Take what happened at the showing I attended. I saw it with my friend Cody, along with three other separate couples scattered about the theater. By the time the credits began rolling, there was only one of those three couples left. The other two walked out at the height of the gore, not from disappointment I imagine. If anything, Evil Dead earns it’s R-rating easily, and I hear it had to be edited to avoid an NC-17.

Which brings me to a slight deviation, which I’m prone to do from time to time. A common trend I’ve noticed from working at a theater is that parents suck. I mean, you suck as a person if you are willing to drop your pre-teen child off to see an R-rated anything and then just drive away. I agree, the MPAA is filled with a bunch of prudes, but really? Is two hours to yourself worth your precious cargo seeing a woman willingly split her tongue in half with a box cutter (in the instance of this film)? Or, for that matter, dragging your one-year-old into a film they clearly have no business being in just because you couldn’t find a babysitter? No argument you have will stop me from calling you a moron. A damn moron.

Performances here are what you expect from a horror flick. Nothing good. Everything is on overdrive, like a soap opera with decapitation (a.k.a The Walking Dead). Jane Levy and Shiloh Fernandez are unbelievable as siblings. But at least Fernandez shows some form of range. As well as Lou Taylor Pucci, who you would believe is more of a stoner than a teacher. The rest, forgettable.

Fede Alvarez took this franchise and put his own spin on it, while retaining enough from the original to make it a pretty good film. It’s not really original or anything you haven’t seen before, but it’s better than most of the rubbish lately.

Verdict: See it!

*Rated R for strong bloody violence and gore, some sexual content and language. 90 minutes. Directed by Fede Alvarez (Directorial Debut).

**Poster by Midnight Marauder. Amazing work, eh?

***Thanks to my friend Cody for sharing this cinematic adventure with me.

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