Saturday, April 13, 2013

Jofo @ The Movies: Evil Dead

Is this movie"groovy", or is it just another hacked up remake?

Personally, I am not exactly a fan of Sam Raimi's writing or directing work. While I do have to respect him and his fanbase, I particularly dislike just how cruel he is to his movies' main characters, and while I do not believe that all movies must end happily, it's a bit much to see his characters completely brutalized and tortured in practically every movie he has ever made (that I have seen) with many either meeting a grisly fate, or being scarred physically and/or mentally for the rest of their lives. I do enjoy the dark, campy humor of Evil Dead 2 and Army Darkness, but I am not too fond of the original Evil Dead movie. However after hearing some good things about this movie, and hearing that Raimi was only a producer on it, I decided to venture to the theater to see it for myself.

Plot Synopsis
Our story begins with five people meeting at an old cabin in the middle of the woods. This group consists of David, his girlfriend Natalie, his sister Mia, and their friends Olivia, a registered nurse, and Eric, a high school history teacher. Having nearly died from an overdose brought on by an addiction to opiates, Mia is using the cabin as a retreat to detox with her friends and brother coming along to support her endeavor. However, things begin to take a turn for the terrifying when a foul smell leads the group to a hidden basement, with dead animals hung ritualistically on the ceiling. Eric stumbles across a book bound in human skin, and bearing multiple warnings to not utter the words within, however curiosity (and stupidity) get the best of Eric who obliviously utters a spell that summons a great horror to the cabin, and with a rainstorm blocking the only way out, the group must fight for their lives against the unspeakable terror that seeks to claim their souls.

For the most part, Evil Dead is a remake of the 1981 cult classic The Evil Dead, though there are subtle hints that suggest the events of the previous movies still occurred. Although The Evil Dead was meant to be a horror movie, its sequels followed a more comedy/horror approach and are remembered more fondly as such. This movie attempts to present itself as a straight-up horror movie as opposed to horror/comedy satire, which ultimately hurts it in the long run.

For starters, the plot relies almost purely on its protagonists being as stupid as humanly possible to set up the situation that they will find themselves in. This annoying trope is as old as the horror genre itself, and often leads to audiences slapping their head in frustration and eagerly awaiting their grisly demise, rather than covering their eyes in terror and praying that the characters make it through the danger. In addition to being suicidally dumb, our 5 main characters are not in the least bit interesting, well-acted, or even likable, in fact, after the movie I could barely recall their names or characteristics beyond what each of their final fates were, and just referred to them by their stock archetypes including, neglectful brother, junkie, long-haired douchebag, blonde girlfriend, and nurse.

The plot is also incredibly inconsistent and explains very little, which usually isn't a problem in horror movies, since a lot of the fear comes from not knowing what the protagonists are up against, but this movie goes out of its way to provide a specific prophecy, and establishes rules regarding what needs to be done in order for the protagonists to fail or succeed. But at the eleventh hour, this movie ignores its own rules, resulting in gaping plot holes that not even die-hard fans would be able to hand-wave away. Also, this movie is just vastly unpleasant, as many moments feel mean-spirited and overly cruel (including one rather ghastly scene from the original movie remade with "glorious" new effects and occurring in way more graphic detail).

But now lets get into the most distinguishing part of the horror genre, the scares. Like practically every other horror film out there, Evil Dead heavily relies on jump scares punctuated by incredibly loud orchestra stings, or synthesized booms to startle the audience, and while this isn't bad when used in moderation (thus cutting down on their predictability and increasing effectiveness) it grows very irritating when practically every five to ten minutes something is screaming in your ear, which will of course make you jump, though not in real terror as much as instinctual startling, that is until you learn how to predict when said jump-scares will occur,which in this movie becomes rather easy. I will say though that when this movie has one of its genuinely creepy scenes, you will turn white as a sheet and most likely many shades of green after that.

Art Direction and Cinematography
The camera work in this movie is passable, but is also incredibly lackluster in certain scenes, particularly near the end when the view gets to seizure inducing levels of shaky-cam. Music is also incredibly unmemorable and serves little purpose other than to punctuate jump scares, and remind audiences of the tone of the situation.

But I've spent enough time on the bad of this movie, so lets talk some good. The special effects in this movie are simply incredible, and serve once again to show how a well used practical effect trumps CGI every time. The gore effects are a wonderful homage to the campy, over-the-top violence of Sam Raimi's original movie, but show just how much effects have progressed in the last two decades by bringing a visceral believablity to  many graphic scenes. You genuinely believe the many brutal injuries that the characters sustain throughout the movie, which adds a level of fear in an otherwise, stock horror movie.

While there are some good things about this movie, without the campy humor that made the originals the cult classics they are today, Evil Dead is just another stock horror movie almost indistinguishable from the other 10s of lackluster horror flicks released each year, albeit with some exceptional moments. It'll give gore-fans what they want, and is an excellent point to bring up in a practical effects VS CGI debate, but I'd just catch a matinee or rent it.


  • Great special effects and set pieces
  • Respectful towards its original
  • Has a few good scary moments
  • Stock characters, and cliches
  • Weak, inconsistent plot
  • Over-reliant on predictable jump-scares, and mean-spirited moments
  • Mediocre camera work
  • Weak acting from most of the cast

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