WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS.
Note: Johnny and Joanna wrote separate reviews for Evil Dead. They posted each review without having seen the other’s. View Johnny’s review.
It’s true. Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead (2013) does not fuck around.
A brother/sister duo (David and Mia) and three of their friends head to a cabin in the woods – not to party – but to help the sister sibling, Mia, detox. No matter how much she begs and screams, they vow to not let her leave the cabin. It’s for her own good, you know. Of course, we all know this will doom them in the end.
In a brief conversation, we learn that Mia and David’s mother passed away – fairly recently. Mia was by her mother’s side in the hospital, while David “couldn’t make it home.” Thus, estrangement between the two siblings is established. Aside from David’s extremely dispensable girlfriend (Natalie), the other weekend friends (Eric and Olivia) appear to be pretty pissed at David, as well, for being absent from theirs and Mia’s lives.
Okay, this is already kind of heavy stuff – not really your typical ‘cabin in the woods’ set-up. And by this point, we know this Evil Dead re-hash is going to take itself pretty darn seriously. No beer. No boobs. No camp-y slapstick. No groovy one-liners (with one big exception).
I have a theory that this is the type of Evil Dead Sam Raimi & Co. tried to make with the 1981 original. Due to lack of budget, the end result was an unintentionally funny flick with clever low-budget (albeit, cool) special effects — launching a cult phenomenon and two intentionally campy sequels. And because of this theory, I think this both hurts and helps the remake.
While, I greatly appreciate the severity and the intensity of this movie, I can’t help but think I would have enjoyed (or favorited) a campy remake more. But, I get it… not everyone’s favorite franchise-related flicks are Jason X and Seed/Bride of Chucky. With any luck, maybe the producers (Raimi, Campbell, Tapert) intend to follow-up with a couple less-serious sequels. One can hope, right? A $25.8 million opening weekend isn’t too shabby for an ultra-violent horror movie – so, a sequel seems likely regardless.
The serious debate aside, there were quite a few things I enjoyed about this remake. First and foremost, Jane Levy’s Mia made for an awesome Evil Dead-ite girl. Levy’s a great actress to begin with – so, throw in some gruesome make-up, creepy direction, a demonic possession, and you’ve got one hell of a performance. Not to mention, she was the most likeable character – even though she was the first to be possessed. In true horror fashion, the rest of the characters continuously made some stupid, STUPID decisions.
Second, this movie was almost the perfect definition of a remake – same story (almost scene for scene), more gore, different ending (yes, with a few plot holes – to be discussed at a later time). The best part of this remake’s efforts? The homage paid to the original. Quick editing cuts, the necklace, the chainsaw, Michigan – and the CAR! I can’t help but wonder if it was Alvarez’s decision to add those elements (as a fan) or Raimi’s… I’d like to think it was Alvarez.
The bottom line: Evil Dead promised and delivered some unflinching, non-CGI carnage. It was a tense viewer experience with satisfying nods to the original. But for those accustomed to the ED comedy, you will most likely be disappointed with this flick’s dour tone. And, I think you’ve heard by now — STAY UNTIL THE CREDITS HAVE FINISHED.