THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
Evil Dead is an uncompromising, hardcore, balls-to-the-wall fright flick. As I've stated numerous times before, my criteria for a horror movie is pretty simple: Is it horrific? In this case, the answer is a resounding yes!. A remake of the 1981 Sam Raimi classic, the new Evil Dead similarly announces the arrival of a significant new talent: director Fede Alvarez, who gives the film a relentless pace and a mounting sense of dread. The two versions make nice companion pieces. Whereas the original is beloved by horror fans, this new version does some different things with the source material while still occasionally paying subtle homage to it.
Because it was a low-budget effort designed to attract attention, Raimi's Evil Dead was very streamlined. It didn't do anything especially deep with plot or characterization, opting instead for a quick set-up, followed by non-stop terror. The remake sticks to that formula. Jane Levy plays Mia, a young woman just out of rehab. To help keep her clean, her estranged brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) and a group of friends take her to a remote cabin in the woods, far away from temptation. In the dingy basement, they find the Book of the Dead, which one of them, Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), stupidly opens, unleashing a demonic force that proceeds to torment them. A word of advice here, folks: if you come across a creepy-looking book that has a cover made of human flesh and is wrapped in barbed wire, do not open it under any circumstances. No good can come of that, I promise you.
It's worth saying right here that if you hate blood, gore, puke, and dismemberment, this will not be a film for you. The level of those things is astronomical. The film thinks up gruesome things to do to people that I've never seen before. All of it is done in a playful manner, though. (Wow, it felt weird to type that.) The violence is so far over the top that it's hard to take it too seriously, even as you're recoiling in disgust. Perhaps a better way of phrasing it is to say that Evil Dead is strictly about giving you a visceral thrill. There's not much to read into. Everything is done to provide a quick, intense jolt, not unlike a ride through an amusement park haunted house. And it works! When the movie was over, I felt the muscles in my body suddenly relax; I hadn't realized how much they had tensed during the film. The guy seated directly behind me, meanwhile, kept giddily yelling Ohhhhh HO HO HO HO HOOOOOO! every time something gross happened (which is about every 90 seconds). Gore has a long and interesting history on screen. It can be used to intentionally upset the audience – the Saw flicks and The Human Centipede 2 are good examples – or it can be used to elicit that reaction where you get grossed out and then immediately laugh at yourself for getting so grossed out. Evil Dead does the latter, but it does so to an extreme rarely seen in mainstream studio fare.
I love the little details in the picture. The cheerfully unhinged performance from Jane Levy. The way Alvarez occasionally throws in a trademark Raimi-esque camera movement. The audio effects which, if you listen carefully, contain an amazing variety of eerie noises that, when mixed together, sound like sheer terror must certainly sound. I also love the occasional nods to Raimi's version. Evil Dead doesn't go out of its way to call attention to them, but fans will notice them immediately. There is a layer of dark – very dark – humor running underneath, as well. The line “My face hurts” will certainly go down as one of the year's grimmest laughs.
It cannot be stressed enough that Evil Dead is very simply a ride. The film puts the pedal to the floor, racing the audience through fast-paced bits of carnage and blood-soaked mayhem. I'm sure there are psychoanalysts out there who could devise official sounding explanations for why people enjoy this stuff. I reject them all. Rides are fun. They give you an adrenaline rush. Evil Dead is one hell (pun intended) of a ride.
( 1/2 out of four)
Evil Dead is rated R for strong bloody violence and gore, some sexual content and language. The running time is 1 hour and 31 minutes.
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