Review: Evil Dead 2013

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Evil Dead (2013)

Whenever a remake is announced, the internet inevitably explodes into a sea of histrionics and bitching. This usually carries on through most of the production of the film, but quiets down a little as the film gets close to release, as the director, screenwriter, stars or producers begin to do the media rounds, talking about how great the film is, how reverential to the original they’ve been etc.

And then the reviews start to roll in and it’s either an affirmation of everything everyone expected, or it’s a surprise hit that only the truly diehard curmudgeons will continue to bitch about just for the sake of bitching.

Evil Dead was no different, with great waves of fury rolling throughout the internet for months on end. And then the first trailer hit and the word that no CGI had been used and things started to quiet down, and was that Rob Tapert, Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell producing this thing? Well damn, maybe this will be awesome!

Sadly, while Evil Dead manages to heap gallons of gore and nasty practical effects onto its audience, it never lives up to its own advertising as “The Most Terrifying Film You Will Ever Experience”.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, five friends head out to a remote cabin in the woods.

Alright, while it’s not like the remake was going to stray that far from the original film’s set up, they at least put a new twist on things, giving us a reason for the group of friends to be out in the cabin, as Mia (Jane Levy) is reunited with her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez), his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore), and his high school friends, Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) and Olivia (Jessica Lucas). Mia’s got a nasty heroin addiction and the friends, along with her brother have vowed that this time she’s going to get clean.

Of course something sends the group into the basement, where they find the Necronomicon, someone reads from it, tree rape, possession and bodily mutilation ensues.

This isn’t for the faint of heart, that’s for damn sure, as the special effects in this film are nasty, and I found myself impressed with what I was seeing in an R rated theatrically released horror film. But while the special effects are a highlight, the film suffers from any number of other problems.

Levy is easily the best member of the cast, and while some might roll their eyes at the idea that the friends take as long as they do to realize that she’s not just faking to get out of the cabin and something horrible is actually going on, it worked for me.  Not to mention Levy really gets to shine when she’s possessed.

Unfortunately I can’t say the same of the rest of the cast, as Fernandez’s David is painfully dull to the point of stupidity, Blackmore’s Natalie is so far into the background that I forgot she was even in the movie on several occasions and Lucas’s Olivia is just as poorly fleshed out, but at least she gets a bit more dialogue. Pucci’s Eric is the only other stand out of the group, but more than once his dialogue stood out as not feeling quite right to my ear, and I suspect that may be due to the Diablo Cody punch ups (in my defense, I had forgotten she was involved in the film at all until I sat down to write this review).

While the film is incredibly pretty to look at, with some fantastic visual effects and atmosphere, I still found myself bored through parts of it, knowing where the film was going without having to think too hard about it, not to mention that most of the “Money Shots” are given away in the trailer.

Hey, that scene where the possessed Mia cuts her tongue in half on the razor blade was gross in the trailer right? Sure it was, but it’s not as effective on the big screen when I’ve already seen it replayed a thousand times in every TV spot for the movie.

Evil Dead isn’t a terrible movie, but I left the theater feeling underwhelmed. This was supposed to be the big bad Evil Dead remake that was supposed to rock our worlds? This was what got cut down from an NC-17? Yes, it’s bloody as hell, but personally I had only one moment where I found myself cringing, and it was at an incredibly minor bit of violence involving a machete being dragged across a character’s knee, not the tree rape, not the razor tongue bit, nothing except a simple machete gag.

Evil Dead gets the FX right, but in the wake of a film like Cabin in the Woods, it’s hard to watch any horror film coming out after without wishing it stacked up a little better. I’m not trying to say I think every horror film needs to be a carbon copy of Cabin in the Woods, just like I don’t think we needed the wave of copycats that came in the wake of Scream but both of those films were wake up calls to the genre that things could be done differently and better than they had been, and sadly Evil Dead plays on too many clichés and lame writing while leaning too heavily on its FX and name value instead of trying to give genuine scares instead of just gross out.

Also, the little “bonus” after the credits was stupid, out of place, and unnecessary.

Evil Dead should have been better than it was, and the pieces are there, but the puzzle never quite seems to come together.

Final Grade:

C+

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