Evil Dead (2013)

APRIL 5, 2013


"It's better than good - it's good ENOUGH."

That's a Community quote that I'm pretty sure I've used before in a review, but I'm not sure how well I explained how it applies to movies like Evil Dead. In the episode, it's used to describe a commercial that Abed put together for the school, which was less impressive than the epic that the Dean was trying to create, and thus the school board is happy. No one will be upset or challenged, it does exactly what it needed to do and nothing more, and you run the risk of coming off like a stuffy intellectual if you point out its very basic flaws. "Who cares? It gets the job done and that's all we need it to do."

See, it's not that Evil Dead is a BAD movie by any means, but I never got the idea that they were trying to be daring or inventive with the audience (the MPAA, on the other hand...), nor did I even get the impression that director Fede Alvarez (in his feature debut) was the sort of guy who would work on the film without sleep for days on end, sleep in the freezing cabin to make sure no one stole the equipment, or put his actors through any real danger in order to get his shot. Sam Raimi's original The Evil Dead is not just a terrific horror movie; it's a testament to the dedication a filmmaker can show on a single movie (if you haven't read the "Evil Dead Companion" book, I highly recommend it) and how much can be created out of nothing.

Obviously, that sort of thing isn't the case this time - Alvarez is backed by a major studio (Sony) and the guiding hands of not only Raimi, but his cohorts Robert Tapert and Bruce Campbell. I'm sure limitations cropped up from time to time as they do on any feature, but it feels a bit like cheating to have this much at your disposal - he may get the same result, but without the elbow grease required for the spectators to sit back and say "Holy shit, he BROUGHT it!" (and with the original creators on board, it's almost like we're supposed to assume it's as good as it can be or something). And that's even worse when you consider how many unnecessary callbacks there are to the original film; yeah, of course you need the chainsaw in there, and I doubt anyone was surprised to see a hand get lopped off, but did they really need to bring back the tree rape? Or someone getting shot in the shoulder with the shotgun? Christ, at one point a character even seems to be playing "guess the card" by himself.

It also brings back the buckets of gore, which is easily the highlight of the movie and also pretty much the only reason to recommend it (even if you aren't impressed with its execution, it's almost just as satisfying if you imagine the censorship board having to watch it - and somehow giving it an R!). It's depressing as all hell to have to praise a horror movie for relying mainly on practical effects, but that's the sad reality - it was a breath of fresh air to see a modern film utilizing the same tricks that were available 30 years ago instead of their inferior "replacements". Original reports had the film at being 100% practical, but that's not really the case - it's somewhere in the 90s, though, which is good enough. A lot of them have an extra bit of nastiness to make them truly impressive, too; I particularly loved the arm hanging from a single tendon, and the way the piece of skin pulls along with a needle when it's removed from a person's face. Everyone goes through plenty of abuse to their person, with Lou Taylor Pucci getting the brunt of it - I actually felt sorry for the poor bastard after a while, as he started to make Bruce Campbell's abuse look pretty tame in comparison.

But that's also one of the movie's biggest problems - it almost seems to want the audience to guess who our new Ash is (whole next paragraph is potential spoiler to those who don't know how these movies play out, so skip it if you haven't seen the original. And go watch the original instead), when it's obvious that it's Jane Levy's character Mia... who disappears for the entire second act. There's a hefty attempt to make us think it will be David (Shiloh Fernandez), since he's the brother of the girl who got raped by a tree, but they split his "Ash-ness" with Eric (Pucci), who is the one to read the book and also (again) the one who gets the most abused. But it doesn't quite work, and by the time Mia finally takes over the hero role, we're already long past the point in the movie where they could afford to put any effort into making her someone interesting - she just becomes the hero because (spoiler, I guess) by now everyone else is dead, not because of anything she actually DOES. The two males are the proactive ones, which I found disappointing - I was hoping that the new one would let the girls kick a little more ass (one of the other girls does something pretty badass as a human; the other does something similar as a demon). But Levy only really does so in the final scare scene, and that's only after one of the males sacrifices himself to let her live. They were certainly wise to not try to cast a new Ash, but they SHOULD have retained a few of the others (Scotty, Cheryl, etc) to allow us to A. automatically assign some character to them, and B. let us be surprised by their deaths if they occurred in a different order. "Oh shit, Scotty is the first to go this time?" type plotting would have been beneficial, as opposed to these blank slates being offed more or less in the order you'd expect.

It also lacks any camaraderie or "quiet bits" that would endear them to us. The characters in the original were hardly the most developed in the world, but they had SOMETHING - Ash's cute little "fell asleep" gag when giving the necklace to his girlfriend, Scotty and Ash busting each others' balls in the basement, the dinner scene... nothing spectacular, but enough to give us some reason to care about them when the bad stuff started happen. Not so much here; I honestly can't tell you one thing about Elizabeth Blackmore's character beyond "she's David's fiance", and she's not even the first to go. And it's a modern horror movie, so of course they're all distant from each other and ready to bicker at the drop of a hat, though at least there's SOME rationale behind it - they were a close group until Mia's heroin addiction started to become a burden on all of them, resulting in their present day strife as they try to get Mia to quit ("Let's play cold turkey!" Mia sarcastically says, one of the thankfully few times where Diablo Cody's script punchups were obvious). Granted, we know they're all pretty likely to die, but it still seems unnecessarily mercenary to basically say "Why bother? They're goners!", and it's quite telling that one of the few complaints you could levy at the original (that the characters were one-dimensional for the most part) is not only retained here, but actually made worse.

The other thing that bugged me was the lack of momentum. There's an interesting idea early on, with the other characters assuming Mia's deranged behavior and claims of being raped by a tree are just the mother of all withdrawal symptoms, but almost as soon as they bring it up someone else is possessed anyway. And then it's all fits and starts; there will be an isolated (and terrific) bit of gore and violence, and absolutely nothing scary or exciting in between. The original was RELENTLESS, just tossing one thing after another at these poor bastards, not to mention offering an engaging energy that made up for its shortcomings, but here there's just filler - I found myself just waiting until the next "cool" bit arrived, and never once felt tense or scared in the slightest. I know it was just part of the remake-ness since the original had a similar tagline, but if you're going to put "The most terrifying film you will ever experience" in giant letters on all the posters, you should at least be able to get a rise out of guys like me (and a hefty number of horror-loving pals - it was someone's birthday - many of whom had the same "Yeah, it was fine." response I did). Even my wife didn't find much to scream or cover her eyes about, as she was during the damn TRAILER for The Conjuring.

So, again. "Good enough". It does exactly what was expected from it and nothing more, resulting in a film that will probably play well with the younger audiences who have a. never seen the original and b. are used to their R rated horror films being much more time. And perhaps Cabin in the Woods has deflated some of its appeal the way it was hard to take a straight slasher too seriously post-Scream (something they don't exactly try to make us forget - the book even claims that five souls are needed for whatever the villain wanted! So says the "scholar" to the "athlete"), so I'll cut it a little slack. But ultimately I just don't get why it was made (and produced by the original creative team to boot) - it's pretty much the exact same movie, albeit with even less interesting characters and practical effects work that no longer has the power to impress as much as it once did.

What say you?

P.S. I won't spoil the post-credits stinger, but I can tell you that if you're the type that likes the original a lot more than Army of Darkness, you should just beat the traffic.


  1. The second to last paragraph really sums up most of my problems with it--there's just no overarching sense of atmosphere, pacing, or escalation to the thing. When your movie features a girl being set on fire and having her head blown off within three minutes, where do you go from there? Granted, a lot of the bits DID top that (and that last kill is completely rad), but it just never really flowed in any meaningful way.

    It's a good example of a movie that's overstuffed for no good reason--in the original, they play back the tape, and BOOM, that's all you really need to know about the Necronomicon. In this one, the stuff where they read from it some more just felt like filler that never went anywhere and made for a choppy experience. I mean, it's a pretty good movie in a lot of ways, but it also feels like a big missed opportunity, too.

    Also, welcome back! I kind of feel like it's appropriate that HMAD should return with a remake. ;)

  2. I actually found the Evil Dead porn parody released last year slightly more entertaining than this.

  3. Hey, B.C.

    Great to see you back so soon!

    You really nailed my thoughts on this movie (as you always seem to do). I enjoyed it, didn't hate it and didn't absolutely love it. I'm going to go back Monday and see it again with my niece who had to work last night, so I guess I enjoyed it more than I realized I did at first.

    For a remake, it is definitely one of the better remakes I've seen.

  4. Solid review. It’s a fun movie that loves using all of the blood and gore they can, but there is a lot left to be desired in terms of story and scares.

  5. I didn't find this movie to be much better or worse than the original. I saw the original Evil Dead when it came out and found it to be cheap, badly acted and crudely made. There was good stuff there, some real scares I suppose and the film-makers definitely seem to be trying, but perhaps due to budget, a first feature film and less than ideal circumstances to film in, the movie just kept being a little to bad for its own good.

    I also think the first Evil Dead seems to have more atmosphere in retrospect than it did originally. It was shot on 16mm and has a nice dark low-budget charm to it, especially when viewed through nostalgia glasses.

    Still, I think I was ten when this movie came out and I didn't find it particularly frightening, just more bad than good. Over the years though, I came to like it more.

    As for the remake, I mostly agree with your assessment. There wasn't enough character development. As simple as the first movie was, at least there seem to be a camaraderie between the characters and certainly the first film was more inventive. And like you, I would probably recommend the remake solely for gore and effects work.

    I also didn't care for the ending. There was suppose to be a buildup to the abomination, but it just seemed to be like another possessed girl, except maybe stronger.

    Oh well. Still enjoyed it overall. Can't say I was disappointed at any rate.

  6. In comparison to other remakes recently this seems like Citizen Kane (Michael Bay I'm looking at you) I'd rather see this than another Nightmare, Friday or Chainsaw any day of the week.

    Just my two pennies though.


  7. I actually felt the characters were developed just enough (with the exception of David's girlfriend) to make me care when the bad stuff started. But you're absolutely right that this movie is simply "good enough". I do think though that the opening scene of the movie is unnecessary and losing it might have helped the overall tension and atmosphere for the rest of it.

  8. The original Evil Dead was 'lightning in a bottle'.
    This one is Ketchup at best.

    Good review.

  9. The sort of creature at the end was perfect for this kind of movie...not even interesting. The lead up was for THAT?

  10. How come all of a sudden Brian and everybody else became so worried about character developement? Can anyone really deny that this one has more than 80% horror movies?

    I liked the fact that they actually had a REASON to be in that remote shack better than deciding to "hang out". David and Eric were anything but one-dimensional, the dialogue they have with each other proving it. I liked both the male leads. And Mia has that nice backstory in the first half hour that... as you pointed out, is forgotten.

    Overall, the only criticism I agree with is that the pacing is bad. But if this wasn't a remake of a classic, I am sure you guys would be praising it, as it compares very well to the vast majority of horror movies out there.


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