The Fede Alvarez-directed Evil Dead played like gangbusters as SXSW earning a ton of great reviews (and a few mixed ones, to be fair). But that’s not the only place it’s been playing – the film is currently on a multi-city tour that is garnering a lot of good word of mouth. BD Reader Scorpionsy caught up with the film on one of its’ stops and was kind enough to shoot us this review – a mixed take on the film that prefers the 1981 original.
If I may, I think Scorpionsy is doing himself a little bit of disservice by comparing every nook and cranny of it to the original. While Alvarez’s film is very much of the Evil Dead universe, it’s not the exact same. Nor should it be. It’s very much its’ own experience. As far as stuff like the make-up being different, that’s a change I appreciate. Far better for Alvarez to do his own thing than fall on the sword of those pronounced ocular cavities. Read my review here. I stand by every word. Then again, it may come down to the fact that the original Evil Dead, IMO, left plenty of room for improvement. But it’s Socrpionsy’s favorite movie, so naturally the remake starts out at a disadvantage for him.
Head inside for the Scorpionsy’s reader review! SPOILERS Inside!
Evil Dead (2013 Remake) – Review / Comparison to the original movie / Analysis by: Scorpionsy
I was invited last week to the premiere screening of the new 2013 remake of the horror cult classic The Evil Dead. The good news is that the remake FEELS like an Evil Dead entry as it delivers on the gore (gallons of it) and the creepiness. The bad news (for me at least) is that it did not live up to my expectations, and is still not better than the original movie (the 32-year-old flick from 1981 is still scarier and creepier in my opinion). This is a good Evil Dead but is not THE Evil Dead I was hoping it would be. Still, it’s a solid introduction to this world for a new generation of horror movie viewers.
Basic Movie Plot (just like the original version):
“Five friends head to a remote cabin, where the discovery of a Book of the Dead leads them to unwittingly summon up demons living in the nearby woods. The evil force/presence possesses them until only one is left to fight for survival.”
This will be a lengthy review and I will dissect this movie and cut deep into the MY Pros and Cons of it like a Chainsaw [pun intended for all you fans out there] and I feel that I have a right to because the original Evil Dead is my favorite horror movie of all time. There might be some spoilers (I will try not to include many) but I will give a warning and highlight the text in white if you do want to read those parts.
First off, this is a welcome entry into the TRUE horror genre that was missing from major studio releases after a barrage of watered down teeny horror flicks for the Scream-type-movie generation. This movie brings back what was sorely missed in horror movies… HORROR! And I anticipate that the big studios will now realize that this is what horror fans want and start releasing big-budget quality films and not just leave it up to the indie scene. I really hope this does well at the box office so we can get more.
First time director Fede Alvarez, who only previously did a short sci-fi robot invasion movie called “Panic Attack” (search for it on Youtube) and a Macaroni Commercial was a strange choice for me when Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell selected him to helm the relaunch of their franchise. After seeing the film, I think he did a pretty got job for a first timer. I still have reservations about some of the creative decisions (my main gripe is the make-up effects of the possessed Deadites), but he does a good job overall maintaining the creepy isolated feeling of the 1981 original. Alvarez doesn’t have Sam Raimi’s original/genius style of photography, so do not expect the Raimi-stlye crazy camera work that was part of what made the original so unique. Another one of my issues is the excessive use of a blue/green tint post-production filter throughout the film to try to give it a creepy look.
The good thing is that the new Evil Dead is 99% practical special effects which is amazing. Almost NO Computer CGI effects are used. After the first 10-20 minutes or so it goes into high gear horror/gore mode and stays there. The movie maintains the shock-every-few-minutes (or attempt at shock) style from the original version (and that was never ever done again by any other horror movie after that). They also don’t skimp on blood here, exceeding even the original in that department. There’s a scene at the end where they actually used 50,000 gallons of blood (they basically ordered a truck full of blood for that scene alone).
Now, my worries from before watching this remake were mainly about the make-up used on the possessed people (called Deadites for you non-Evil Dead fans out there) in this new version compared to the original version. From the promo pictures released and the trailers, I was not a fan of the direction they took with the new make-up and for me the original Deadite make-up was WAY more scary and effective in the mood/scare factor of an Evil Dead movie. I did not like how the possessed Deadite trapped in the Cellar (I will not mention the name) looks almost exactly like the possessed girl from The Exorcist in the pictures and trailers. It does not look scary to me with normal looking eyes (in fact those eyes looked like the Sith-style eyes from the Star Wars prequels). I wanted the scary white/red puss-filled eyes back, they would have definitely made the existing make-up look more terrifying. The only redeeming factor for me before watching the remake is that I read (from your set-visit interviews) that their faces and bodies go through different changes as they deteriorate (and from self-inflicted wounds) getting worse. So I thought to myself maybe that Cellar Deadite will be REALLY freaky looking later on.
Well, unfortunately my fears came true, the new Deadites and their make-up does NOT look scary at all to me (maybe it will be scary for non-horror fans or regular viewers). The Deadites not looking as scary as they did in the original was huge factor in making the new film not really scary for me. It’s not only the way they look for me but the way they MOVED and SPOKE or SCREAMED in the original that completed the scary/creep factor. None of that exists here. Only ONE Deadite spoke… the others did not. They just shuffled along and moaned (sometimes). In a world of zombies like we have now in “The Walking Dead”, it is sad to see that this TV show had better zombie makeup and movement than this new movie does. I am sorry to say and it pains me… it really does. I wanted the decomposing and puss-filled red/white eyes of the Original Deadites with a 2013 upgrade BACK into the new movie…but that is too late. I hope other fans speak up and they fix this element in the potential sequel. They should have hired Tom Sullivan (the genius behind the original Book of the Dead and Deadite makup/effects from the original movie) again for this remake instead of going for young-blood makeup/sfx artists.
You be the judge…What looks scarier to you as a Deadite?:
This one from the new 2013 film?
Or this one from the 1981 original?
Even a TV Show’s (“The Walking Dead”) zombie makeup looks scarier than the new remake’s makeup:
Another gripe for me with the effects was that the “Evil Force” (Camera swooping though woods) monster is actually downplayed here and is longer and much scarier in the original film (mainly because the original movie used a growling-monster sound effect while the Camera goes through the woods while this new one uses a weird non-scary and toned-down snake-like rattling sound). The movement of the camera through the woods in the new remake was not also as menacing (the original Sam-O-Cam one is better).
There is a tree-rape scene that was WAY more graphic and scary in the original than in the remake, and it involved a tree branch in the end swiftly violating the victim. In this remake (even though they had to cut some part of it for the film’s rating to be dropped to an R-Rating) was just not as violent or scary as the original was and it involves a black slug-like tentacle thingy instead. The scene felt like torture-porn, but I will reserve final judgment for that scene when the unrated Blu-ray comes out because I know this one was toned down.
Also, in the original, when someone turns into a Deadite (possessed) they may get de-possessed and look normal again iftheir body/face DID NOT get messed up or decomposed (for example Linda from the original Evil Dead was a laughing maniacal Deadite and turned back into normal Linda (for moment), but that was BEFORE any major face decomposition/damage). However, in this remake, it appears you can get possessed, mess-up your face/body and get de-possessed back to your normal pre-injury state (even after you have half your face burned off for example). This is a hindsight and mistake that the Director/Producers should not have overlooked. They claimed in the set-visit interviews that this remake’s version of Deadites and the events that happen to them are taking a more Realistic-based approach than the original movie (i.e. less supernatural..so no floating in the air etc.), but then having someone’s face/body messed up only to have that MAGICALLY go away/disappear later on is NOT realistic at all. Besides, we are dealing with Demons here…so it IS Supernatural.**
The Evil Book…the Book of the Dead….in this remake had its’ ancient technical name changed from “Necronomicon Ex Mortis” (from Evil Dead 2) back to “Naturan Demanto” (which was the name in the original movie, so that is cool). Also, it does not have a dead/demon-like face on its’ dead-leather-skin cover anymore. If you have seen the pictures and trailers, it instead has dead-leather-skin that looks stitched together. It still looks creepy and the pages inside are also pretty creepy with some disturbing images and text. We get to see a lot more pages from this new book than we did in the original.
Again, I am happy with the amount of gore, violence and blood in this Evil Dead. That all does the original justice. My only gripe was, again, the Deadites were not scary-looking or behaving scary to me at all. In the original version, the Deadites looked scarier, sounded scarier, moved around scarier and were WAY more violent (one even chewed though it’s own partially-severed hand in one scene). This new version’s Deadites are pretty violent but they prefer to use weapons they can get their hands on throughout the movie instead of their bare hands most of the time. In the original, they did use some weapons, but nowhere near as much as in this version. There is a scene in the remake that is sort of a homage/fan-nod to the original that involves an attack with a steel crowbar (sort of like the steel hot poker from the original movie). Fans should be happy that there are a few vocal and visual homages to the original throughout the movie for them to spot (more on that later).
Now as for the story, this is a different take on it but with the same basic background story. Mia, her brother David and 3 other close friends (Olivia, Natalie and Eric) go to a cabin in the woods to help her kick her drug addiction. Someone finds the Book of the Dead and then all hell breaks loose. There is no depth to the story here folks. The concept is simple (and was original when the first movie came out) yet effective for the tone and setting of this movie. Unfortunately, the only characters you care for are Mia and her brother David. You really do not care for the others, especially that you know one of them is the person who unleashed this Evil on the group.
The acting, while not as cheesy/amateurish as the original Evil Dead (even though it is part of what makes the original work well as a Grindhouse/Drive-in type horror so well), ranges from good to not-so-good. Jane Levy (Mia) and Lou Taylor Pucci (Eric) were the best/most believable performers of the group, followed by just OK acting from Shiloh Fernandez (David). The other 2 actresses (Jessica Lucas as Olivia and Elizabeth Blackmore as Natalie) were not so great in my opinion. Maybe it was of their roles/parts but I did not feel anything for them.
The last scene is pretty cool and will satisfy gore/horror fans. Also, fans of the original Evil Dead trilogy (especially last 2 parts of the trilogy) should sit through the End Credits (which has a couple of cool sound clips paying homage to the original movie also) for a pretty short post-credits fan-nod (teaser??). The music (by Roque Baños) in this remake was OK and went well with the mood but felt like a downgrade from the original’s score (by Joseph LoDuca…aka Joe Louca). The original Evil Dead‘s score was chaotic and terrifying at the same time mainly because it used disturbing violin string-plucking, other neat instrumental tricks and freaky piano tunes. They should have brought Joseph LoDuca back to this franchise really because his score made the original way scarier.
Overall, I was thoroughly entertained by this Evil Dead remake but NOT Scared one bit by it at all. You could hear the audience’s “ooh’s” and “eww’s” during the gross scenes but I do not recall hearing anybody scream out of fright. That is not to say other viewers will not be terrified – I am sure many will – but it just did not work for me. In a post-Hostel/Saw movie world maybe I have become too desensitized that I do not scare easily anymore and I am not happy about that (I am sure some other horror fans will feel the same way). Also, something that irritated me was that the trailer showed clips that were shot and taken out of the final theatrical cut and re-edited back into the movie.***
For example: (Highlight the below text to read)—->In the trailer they pay homage to the original Evil Dead (probably to excite the original’s Fans) by showing the Deadite in the Cellar saying “We’re gonna Get you…We’re gonna Get you…Not another peep…time to go to sleep!” (just like Deadite Linda sings in the original movie). But then they cut that entire scene out of the movie. Also, they re-edit a scene in the trailer where she is telling the non-possessed girl who is about to cut off her arm to “Cut it!! Cut it!!” but in the movie she is shown saying instead “Don’t Cut it!!! Don’t Cut it!!” (probably because the Deadite wanted the possessed infection to spread on the vicitm’s body. Also, there is a scene in the Trailer (and movie promo stills) which shows David (Shiloh Fernandez) getting a bloody face while using a chainsaw. However, this scene was also cut. David never uses a chainsaw in the Theatrical release. These are just misleading and an annoying thing to do to Fans who are expecting to see something that does not exist anymore in the final cut of the movie.
The good news is that the original The Evil Dead (from 1981) is STILL the undisputed King of Horror movies and STILL the SCARIEST MOVIE EVER, not this remake, and that is just fine with me. However, I am still looking forward to a better sequel to this remake and I hope they get the same Fan-Feedback with the same issues that I had with this movie and fix them in the sequel. I am keeping my fingers crossed that the Producers/Director hear us out.
Overall, this is an Evil Dead film but not THE Evil Dead I was hoping for. I think it designed to be an Evil Dead for an newer younger generation of viewers who get scared from movies like Scream, so this would the for them “The Most Terrifying Movie They Have Ever Seen.”
Either way go and watch this! It’s the first time the studios have taken this genre seriously in years. Help make it successful so we can get a hopefully better sequel!
**Editor’s note: From my viewing of the film, all the damage incurred upon the skin appeared permanent. IE – if someone becomes a deadite and burns their skin, when they go back to normal they don’t look like a deadite but the burns do indeed remain.
***2nd Editor’s note: A common practice in movie marketing. Trailers are usually cut long before the film is completed. And there’s a lot in the film that isn’t in the trailer – which is a nice surprise.