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[SXSW ’13] Corey Mitchell’s Day 1: The World Premiere of ‘Evil Dead’!

Evil Dead baby!

Forget Jim Carrey and Steve Carrell parading down the red carpet at the Paramount Theater in lovely downtown Austin promoting their little magician flick. For the 1,200 or so blood-thirsty ravenous horror fans circling the entire city block, it was all about the Evil Dead last night.

When word first leaked out that the remake of the The Evil Dead was indeed going to happen, the internet exploded. Disgust, disdain, and dastardly dismemberment were the order of the day. The main question on everyone’s split bifurcated tongues was simply, “Why?” Why the fuck would you mess with a classic horror film that has meant so much to so many and truly helped usher in a new era of ultra-intense gore and insanely creative shoestring budget filmmaking? For many, like me, it was akin to cinematic treason.

Now let’s be honest here. Most of you never saw the original The Evil Dead on a big screen during its initial theatrical run way back in 1981. Some of you, like me, may have been lucky enough to catch the brilliant 1987 remake Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn on the big screen during a very, very limited run (Alameda Theater in Houston, Texas with about seven other brave fanatics in the audience!). The less said about ED III: Army of Darkness, the better. At least for this article.

In reality, most of you were privy to the hellish wonders of the Necronomicon via one of the many versions on VHS or DVD and in the safety and comfort of your own home. While still awesome, not the same thing as sitting in a crowded theater with a bunch of strangers who have all purposefully chosen to spend their hard-earned money to have the shit scared out of them.

It’s obvious my reticence at the announcement of the ED remake was palpable. That is, until the unholy triumvirate of director Sam Raimi, producer Rob Tapert, and human punching bag and star Bruce Campbell’s names were attached (detached?) to this updated rebirth.

Now I am not one to dismiss horror remakes out of hand. Classics such as John Carpenter’s The Thing and David Cronenberg’s The Fly being the two most obvious and successful examples of remakes done right. More recently, I actually enjoyed The Last House on the Left remake (until the microwave scene at least) and I Spit on Your Grave. So, I approached the world premiere of ED with an open mind.

My open-mindedness was expanded even further after I was able to ask several of the key participants in the new version about the pressure of re-making a true genre classic. It’s one thing to remake a reviled lesser film such as I Spit on Your Grave (though I am a big “fan” of the original), than it is to tackle a monster like ED. I wanted to make sure that the new blood valued the original as much as I still do, and that they were aware that there are, obviously, going to be a shit-ton of skeptics out there. Naturally, everyone involved sang the praises of the original, while stressing that theirs was a new entity altogether. So far, so good. Then, a quick chat with Rob Tapert drove the point home that he, Campbell, and Raimi simply felt that the time was right to unlock ED upon a new generation of horror fans.

Red carpet done, time to mosey on in and grab a seat inside the Paramount. The house was packed. Bruce Campbell was in attendance, as were Rob Tapert, new director Fede Alvarez, and the five lead actors, Shiloh Fernandez, Jane Levy, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, and Elizabeth Blackmore. SXSW Senior Programmer Jerod Neee came out, giddy as hell, and said picking ED was a no-brainer. The crowd was pumped, the excitement was tangible, and then…

…we get a period piece prologue that held no tension whatsoever for me. The reveal was obvious and the much-ballyhooed claim that “this is all practical effects!! No CGI!!” is absolute bullshit. I guess they made that widely reported claim before they tacked on this wholly unnecessary intro.

Sadly, my enthusiasm was immediately dampened. Of course, the audience was lapping it up and cheering. That’s part of the fun of attending film festivals — hanging with other film lovers and cheering on the films you are all witnessing together. Being a hardcore horror fan is soooo much different though. We are enthusiastic, pumped, ready to accept anything as long as it is well-written, earnest, and most important of all, scary!

The next 45 minutes did not fare much better. So concerned about differentiating itself from the original film, the ED remake spends far too much time establishing a fairly interesting reason for the presence of five seemingly smart young adults in a cabin in the woods. The way this is achieved is by turning Mia (Levy) into a drug addict who is trying to kick, and her friends are determined to not let her leave until she makes it through the initial withdrawals. A fairly creative way to keep everyone intact and isolated.

As such, the first act only serves to show that actresses Levy, Lucas, and Blackmore, and to a lesser extent, Fernandez, aren’t quite up to snuff. Most important is Levy’s task of playing a convincing hard-core drug addict who is agonizing while going through the most painful experience OF her life. She doesn’t pull it off and opts for the stereotypical junkie tics and not much else.

The lone exception, however, is Lou Taylor Pucci. He is cynical, bitter, and dismissive, and also the funniest character in the film. The tortures he endures in the final third of the movie bring to mind Bruce Campbell’s days as Ash, but to the nth degree.

It’s this amped up attitude throughout the final third of the film that almost saved it for me. As with the first two EDs, the remake pumps up the gore to absurd levels and is truly the main calling card for this version. While the make-up jobs are stellar, I had difficulty getting over the Regan-esque demonic voices and the Samara-like wet hair. Also, so much of the film is shoot way too dark making it extremely difficult to fully appreciate the make-up. Frankly, not being able to see it at times made things less scary.

Ah, scary. The big stickler for any hard-core horror fanatic. We’ve seen so many horror films that we know all the beats, all the tricks, and are seldom, if ever, scared any more. In lieu of good scares, I seek out films that fill me with a sense of dread. Unfortunately, ED does neither. I actually only jumped one time during the entire film after a car crash scene. Otherwise, it’s the same old loud noise scares and jump scares, just like the ones that have ruined so many mainstream horror films during the last 15 years or so.

On the plus side, the effects were pretty sweet. They’re not scary, at all. But I can absolutely appreciate the artistry on display.

Does the new ED appease old school ED fans like me? They try to by incorporating several iconic images from the first two original films such as Raimi’s always-present Oldsmobile, the skeleton necklace, and the chainsaw, amongst several others. But they almost feel a bit too forced. If you’re going to go out to the world and boldly assert that you are Frankensteining your own creation, then do it all the way.

When I watch a horror film, I want to be transported for 90 minutes into an ethereal hellscape that makes me appreciate my life even more. With the remake of Evil Dead, I mainly sat in my seat and simply thought, “Why?”

That question was answered during a lengthy, late-night Q&A by none other than Mr. Bruce Campbell his own bad self. He said that during the filming of the original that he, Raimi, and Tapert could not afford to buy a pack of gum between them at the end of the day. I appreciated his honesty. He also added that the old fans need to move on and unlock hell’s door for a new generation. “Besides,” he added, “you can dust off your DVD any time you like and watch the original.”

Seeing this remake makes me want to do just that.

(Read Evan Dickson’s Evil Dead review by clicking here.)

Corey Mitchell writes best-selling true crime books, watches and writes about horror movies, and listens to and writes about heavy metal. He is also the co-founder and director of the Housecore Horror Film Festival and co-author of Philip Anselmo’s upcoming autobiography.



  • Aaron Emery

    Okay, I’ve read your review, Evan’s, and the wonderful Devin Faraci over at BadassDigest. It seems the reception is completely mixed. I think the plan for myself is going to be read no more reviews and go into it like I try to with any other remake; get the original out of my head completely, keep an open mind, and lower expectations. I’m still super excited for this, if anything the mixed reviews are helping to not over-hype this.

    • Corey-Mitchell

      I read Devin’s review after you mentioned it here and he and I almost seem to be in complete agreement except he praised Jane Levy’s performance. I hope you enjoy the film better than I did.

  • djblack1313

    i respect anyone’s opinion and i would never say that “Corey is wrong” (or whatever) for not loving/liking the movie but for every review i’ve read like this today (which didn’t really care all that much for the movie, which IS a valid opinion!) i’ve read 3 or 4 PRO-Evil Dead reviews to counter it.

    Corey, i admit i haven’t seen the move yet but i find it impossible to believe that Jane Levy wasn’t fantastic in this. i’ll never believe it. EVERY review i’ve read today (and i’ve tons and tons of them) said Jane was excellent. if you are basing your whole review of her on whether or not she played a heroin junkie well enough then we need to talk. LOL. i can tell you that just going by the trailers she conveys true terror/pain better than most Oscar winning/nominated actresses. i’d love to get some clarification on the performances Corey.

    we all aren’t going to like/love the same things and that’s ok.

    • Aaron Emery

      I’ve said that since the first trailer, coming from someone who’s been there I would say (from what I’ve seen) she did a damn fine job.

    • Corey-Mitchell

      Hey djblack1313. One half of the film Jane Levy is supposed to be portraying a heroin junkie trying to kick. She just doesn’t pull it off in my estimation. The second half she does a fine job playing a Deadite and then something else entirely in the closing 10 minutes. Pulling of the physicality is great, but if you don’t buy into the character before then, the emotional attachment is severely lessened.

  • eagleye25

    This movie’s gonna rock!

  • Kroork

    A movie could be awful, but everyone likes it, or a movie could be awesome, and everyone Hates it. Everyone has a different opinion of what they like and want to see.

    Personally, I think this movie will become my all time favorite movie ever ! But, that’s just me 😀

    • Corey-Mitchell

      Hey Kroork!

      The crowd definitely dug it. Just didn’t do it for my old jaded cynical self.

      As for being your favorite all-time movie ever, see it first. Then, if it still is, I will be happy to give you a huge list of simply horror films that are way better.

  • dr.lamb

    Sorry to be so negative, but the review sounds just like I expected the film to be. I do not want to be the seen-it-all, know-it-all wiseass here, but there if you followed the horror movies of the last 15 years you cannot deny the pattern and I just cannot go in innocently another time. My heart was broken too often already !
    And CGI FX again, really ? I always thought that practical FX blood should be easier to do and looked better. “Indiana Jones 4”, “The Thing” (2011), they all promised us practical FX and how I fell for their lies (those were lies- they did not tweak the truth a little, those were blatant lies).
    Fool me once…

    • Corey-Mitchell

      Hey dr.lamb!

      The overwhelming majority of SFX were practical, but the claim that there is no CGI is false. Indeed, the majority of the opening sequence is rampant with CGI. Caveat emptor.

      • dr.lamb

        Ah, I took that statement for the whole movie. So sloppy reading on my side.

  • lucscs100

    “1987 remake Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn”, stopped reading it right there…

    • Aaron Emery

      While I agree with you (re: ‘Evil Dead II: Remake) there has never been a clear statement, that I know of, on Raimi’s intentions with that one. I see it as a quick recap followed by a sequel, but others see it differently. Who knows.

    • Right there with you. Any moron who says that I have absolutely no time for. IT WAS NOT A REMAKE, ONLY THE FIRST 10 MINUTES.

      • Corey-Mitchell

        Glad you are so tolerant. I’ll refrain from calling you names.

    • Scorpionsy

      Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn is NOT a remake for sure…there was an old British making-of show on TV when I was visiting the UK about the movie back when the movie came out…and Raimi said that this was a sequel.

      Raimi just simply retold the events of the first movie with a couple instead of a couple of couples and a the first 10-15 minutes…right until the Sam-O-Cam Evil Presence (Camera Monster) goes right upto Bruce’s face…then that is the start of the sequel. It is as simple as that.

      • Corey-Mitchell

        Yes. I know. I typed in the wrong word. It is as simple as that.

    • Corey-Mitchell

      That’s a typo. You should be a copy editor.

  • Nothing333

    This seems like an honest review from a fan of ED and the horror genre. It doesn’t lessen my excitement for the film, but presents a realistic view for fans who have decided the movie is the second coming of Christ without having even seen it. For that I thank you.

    • EvilHead1981

      I actually agree with you Nothing333. I think horror fans are a depraved bunch. We’ve been scorn by horrible sequels and equally shitty remakes/reboots, so any small sliver of a sign of something good, we tend to hype it up to god status, and in turn, get scorn again. That’s what happened with Drag Me to Hell. Remember, all the fuckin critics and reviews on how it was the “Best thing since sliced bread”? Damn, that movie didn’t even equal up to HALF the hype it got.

      I’ve read the script to this movie, and didn’t care for it, but I will give these guys the benefit of the doubt and watch it. I’m not going to put it on some pedistal. I’ve been burned by too many reboots, and burned by Raimi more than once(his credibility’s shot, IMO). I’m give a proper judgement of how this movie fairs after I watch it in theater.

      • djblack1313

        EvilHead1981, i’ve read the script as well. what was so bad about it? i understand you guys wanted to keep expectations in check (i can respect that) but let people get excited for something!! lol. the last time i saw this many people excited for a horror movie was PIRANHA 3D and tons and tons of reviews gave the movie high praise (for the fun over the top gore yes but they were still positive reviews). seeing all the good reviews/good fan comments (from non-movie critic reviewers) is awesome. our horror community rarely comes together like this. we’re a really bitchy douchey niche of people to please (and i say that including myself! LOL). we’re actually (for the most part) united in our excitement. don’t quell that. 🙂

        • EvilHead1981

          I wasn’t feeling some of the dialog in the script, though who’s to say it wasn’t touched up from the time that script was written and the final draft? That’s why I’m willing to give this movie the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes a good director can do wonders with a mediocre script, and sometimes good actors can make bad lines sound great.

          Taht being said, I’m not trying to take your joy and anticipation down away, but I’ve seen this all before, time and time again. I’m pretty sure you have too(you’re just as much a vet as I am). I think we are so starved for something good, the first signs of something that COULD deliver us from stagnation revvs up the hype tenfold. And interesting you brought up Piranha 3D, the movie that came out to waves of gore loving fun, then died off considerably with many looking back at it as being one of Aja’s worst movies.

          I think it happens quite often, and others can back me up on this. When you see a bad movie in theater, most of the time, you don’t initially think it’s bad, more than, “Eh, it was alright…”. Then, hours later, days later, weeks later, months…, you think about it and after some time, you come to the realization that maybe it WASN’T “alright”. Maybe it was a steaming pile of bullshit. I’ve seen a lot of people turn from Piranha 3D in that sort of fashion. I liken it to taking a good hit of something and getting drunk off your ass, having stupid fun, then the next morning, you feel like shit and you can’t even look at a beer bottle without that bile rising in your throat.

      • Scorpionsy

        I can understand what you are saying being a hardcore horror fan myself. Evil Dead (part 1) has always been and will always be my favorite horror movie of all time…for old-school horror sake and because of its originality. (Actually, I believe it was not all Raimi’s original idea…the idea of the book and monsters from another dimension/time were VERY obviously inspired by this little movie called “EQUINOX”). But nobody EVER made a movie like the original Evil Dead. Tell me one movie that was a constant barrage of horror and jump-scares one following the other for an entire 3 quarters of a movie (after the first 15 minutes or so setting the tome and characters up)??? Nothing like that existed back then…and nothing existed like that ever since…until maybe this remake (but I don’t know until I watch the movie anyway).

        I hated really the direction it started taking when dark comedy was introduced in Evil Dead 2 and then fully in Army of Darkness (even though they are still entertaining movies). Evil Dead was DESIGNED originally to be a Full-No-Holds-Barred Horror movie…so when Raimi ended the trilogy with Army of Darkness it really hurt my love of his direction (I understand he loved the Three Stooges but that should not be incorporated in a Horror franchise). So I know what you mean when fans get their hopes up (like I did) only to get burned. I remember when Army of Darkness was being shot..Raimi said in an Interview that he created the ugliest / scariest deadite monster ever (I was presuming he meant the Pit Deadite??) but nothing was scary at all. The ugliest and scariest looking Deadite award goes to Cheryl from Evil Dead one (my avatar).

        Now, reviews like this hurt me because I really want this remake to be successful…but I respect other people’s opinions nonetheless. I ALWAYS go to movies with lowered expectations…and although I am excited for the remake…I have my self-guard on. I do not want to be disappointed by THIS horror movie more than any other horror movie every made since the original Evil Dead. I have reservations about the makeup used for the movie…not the self inflicted wounds…but I really HATE the none-scary none-puss-filled red/white eyes of the Deadites from the trailer. Those eyes look like a cross of contacts from the Twilight-movies/Sith from the Star Wars prequels/and The Exorcist all rolled into one. In fact the Cellar Deadite makeup in the remake looks almost identical to Linda Blair’s Exorcist makeup.

        I a hope the deadite deterioration of their faces and bodies gets ALOT worse in the remake or this will be pretty disappointing to me at least from that aspect. Fingers Crossed. 🙂

    • Corey-Mitchell

      Hey Nothing333! Thank you for the open-minded response. My job is not to dampen anyone’s enthusiasm for a film, but rather share an opinion. And as a published author who has been on the receiving end of the occasional stinging criticism I understand what it’s like to not have your work liked by everyone. As such, I always try to make sure my negative critiques have something positive to say about the work. I derive no pleasure in simply bagging on art. A perfect example of that was DEAD SUSHI. It was so bad that I decided against reviewing it because it would have brought nothing to the table as I could not say anything positive about it.

  • Evan3

    That’s too bad. I will still see the film (I want to support any horror product that isn’t a cynical cash in), but I have read many more reviews echoing Corey’s sentiments rather than Evan’s in the official BD review. Still, the fact that it isn’t an unmitigated disaster given the absolute greatness of the source material is an accomplishment in and of itself.

  • dirtyghettok

    I agree with Corey’s review (good one by the by) and Levy’s portail of someone kicking the white horse was by no means believable. I’ve had friends including myself kick and the acting, directing or whatever didn’t pull it off.

  • Scorpionsy

    I totally agree with Corey’s review, unfortunately, and I wrote my review that reflects basically the same feeling. I now understand what Corey meant after I watched (2 screenings of the movie).

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