Sunday, April 7, 2013

Film Review: Evil Dead

It's safe to say that no other horror movie "remake" has polarized fans in the way Evil Dead has. The original Evil Dead films exist as a perfect example of cult horror cinema. The films expertly melded horror and comedy, with the horror aspect growing as the series went on. While many fans eagerly awaited this film's release, there also existed a set of purists that adamantly opposed this film from the start. They couldn't support an Evil Dead film without Ash, or  to be more specific, Bruce Campbell.

Thankfully, this new film doesn't attempt to replace Bruce Campbell as the chainsaw-handed, shotgun toting king of one-liners. Instead of trying to update the original film, director Fede Alvarez wisely decided to make an homage, with a film that can stand alone on it's own.

Seeing this film on it's own, without comparing it to the original is the best way to enjoy it, however, for any Evil Dead fan it is impossible to avoid comparison. Regardless of the film lacking an Ash, the ultimate question remains: is Evil Dead a good film? The answer is yes, Evil Dead is a good horror film that makes for quite a fun experience, however it is far from a great horror film like it's namesake.

I found the slight difference in premise to work well. The five friends in this film are not seeking a fun-filled, weekend getaway. They decide to spend time at the cabin to help one of the girls kick her drug habit. This makes for a setup that has tension from the start. It also allows the friends to rationalize the craziness earlier on, before things spiral completely out of the realm of reality.

Once the magic words are said, the madness begins and doesn't let up for a second. Besides the premise, the plot is much the same as the original: an evil book leads to demonic entities possessing the living, with bodily dismemberment required to stop them.

Gorehounds should take especial note: this film has great effects, and is one of the goriest and most graphic films I've seen in awhile. The possessed are absolutely disgusting looking, yet are more reminiscent of Regan from The Exorcist than the demons from the original film. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, although some of the phrases they spout are rather silly.

So what keeps this film from being great? Why is it in the end inferior to the original? This film lacks the charm of the original. While I agree it was wise to not attempt to replace Ash, it became clear early on that the characters were lacking. Besides Jane Levy and Lou Taylor Pucci (Mia and Eric, the bearded guy) the acting is far from impressive. Not to say that the acting in the first film was any better, but Bruce Campbell had the energy to make for a likable, effective character to root for.

The film's plot had some holes in it that were hard to overlook as well. My main point of contention being the way the demons were spoken. In the original, the friends are playing a recording, which reads the "magic words". In this film, Eric reads the words aloud for apparently no reason at all. It wouldn't be bothersome if they somehow worked in a way for it to make sense. Now I realize that people in horror films do stupid things, and I also know that my fascination for the macabre would also lead to me reading the book. But the problem remains, after seeing what Eric sees, there is absolutely no reason for him to read those words aloud. If the filmmakers could have worked in something, even some earlier hints as to his character, anything to give reason to speaking those words. To me it seemed like they simply wanted to get to the action as fast as possible, but at least in the original it made more sense.

The book was also a point of frustration. As wonderful as it looked, everything was broken down in the book. Whenever something happens, Eric looks in the book and there is a picture and caption. Everything. And a page saying how once the "demon" feasted on five (yes, five, just like the amount of people in their group) souls then it would gain physical form and crawl out of the ground. I found all of this exposition to be unnecessary, and slightly insulting to the audiences intelligence. Since I don't want to spoil anything, I'll leave off with my plot point criticisms by pointing out that the big twist later on in the movie didn't totally work for me either.

By the end of the film, I had quite enjoyed myself, despite the flaws in storytelling. The bloody fun with nailguns, chainsaws, electric carving knives and box cutters was almost enough to make up for the plot holes. Almost.

Fans of the original should still give the film a chance, as there's a good bit of fun to be had. Looking at it as it's own film as opposed to part of the Evil Dead canon might make it easier to swallow for the Ash purists. There are definitely enough little nods to the original film without always being too overt. The gore from the original is turned up to 11, and the action does not stop once it starts. Viewers must be warned, there is none of the original's charm and humor to be found in this blood-soaked homage. It was fun, but I'd be more excited to see a new entry to the series with Campbell in the lead and Raimi at the helm. Hopefully they won't make us wait too long for Army of Darkness 2.

Has anyone seen this film? Do you agree or disagree with my assessment? Comment below.

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