CATEGORIES Movie NewsThis weekend, "Evil Dead," makes its splashy debut nationwide. The new version, by first-time director Fede Alvarez, was produced by original "Evil Dead" confederates Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and Rob Tapert, and once again concerns a group of young people holed up in a cabin in the woods, who unknowingly unleash a terrifying evil.
Of course, the question is, has the original been updated sufficiently for contemporary audiences? And for a movie widely advertised as "The Most Terrifying Film You Will Ever Experience," just how intense is it? Read on, for the ten things you should know before seeing the brand-new "Evil Dead!"
1. It's Violent The first thing that anyone should know about this new version of "Evil Dead" is how truly, outrageously violent it its. There aren't just splatters of the red stuff -- there are geysers, fountains, cascading waterfalls, monsoons of it. What's more is the way the violence is inflicted -- it's usually up close and personal, for all to see. So if you ever wanted to know what tendons and ligaments hang loose after you've severed your own arm with an electric saw, be prepared to find out. If you are at all squeamish, this probably isn't the best movie for you.
2. Seriously: So Violent One writer friend was seen dashing out of her seat about a third of the way through the movie, before any of the really gruesome stuff starts to go down -- and she's pretty hardcore. When I texted her after the screening to tell her that she had literally seen the gore-dipped tip of the iceberg, she sent me back a one-word, three-letter text: "Ugh."
3. If You're Looking For a 'Cabin in the Woods'-Style Game Changer, Look Elsewhere When "Cabin in the Woods" premiered last spring, it came with an intriguing question: where, exactly, is the genre supposed to go from here? Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard had forcibly pulled apart the horror genre and reassembled it as a keenly observant, meta-textual puzzle box full of gags and monsters both nightmarish and metaphysically ordinary. The horror movies that would open in that film's wake would have to considerably up the ante, both in terms of cleverness and scares. What makes this remake so disappointing, then, is how utterly lazy it sometimes is. Sure, it delivers the blood. But elsewhere, it falters. It doesn't seem intent on expanding or embellishing on the genre (or the original for that matter), instead crawling into the relative safety of horror movie tropes and cliches.
4. It's Not Funny The original "Evil Dead" and its two sequels -- "Evil Dead II" and "Army of Darkness" (aka "Medieval Dead") -- were notable for their liberal mixture of horror and humor. There were just as many gags set up to evoke laughter as there were to evoke screams. As the series wore on, the ratio tipped more in the favor of humor, but the horror was always present. There is nothing in this new "Evil Dead" that is even remotely humorous, which is kind of a shame. Nothing alleviates tension like a good laugh (it's sometimes hard not to giggle on an extremely scary rollercoaster) and quite frankly a movie that's unrelentingly intense is just as phony as one that is purely goofy.
5. There Are References to the Original Films Sprinkled Throughout Eagle-eyed "Evil Dead" fanatics are going to have a field day with the new movie -- there are references and easter eggs hidden throughout the movie that reference not only the first film but the two sequels as well. Some of them are obvious (gee, that Oldsmobile sure does look familiar!) but most are subtle and harder-to-spot, with a few easy-to-overlook sound effects or camera movement. If you aren't closing your eyes of the gore, be sure to keep an eye out for all the references.
6. There Is One Truly Brilliant Plot Point There are a lot of things that don't work in the new "Evil Dead." But there is one thing that the new movie has that is so undeniably brilliant that it must be shouted from the gargoyle-covered rooftops. In the original movie, it was just young people retreating to a cabin in the woods for a long weekend of relaxation and premarital sex. In the remake, director/co-writer Fede Alvarez made the brilliant decision to have one of the characters (Jane Levy) trying to kick a heroin addiction, with her friends there for support and guidance. It makes the "demons" that she initially sees questionable -- are there actually spooky things in the woods or is this just a symptom of her withdrawals? Genius, right? Sadly, not enough is done with this.
7. The Cast Equips Themselves Gamely For a movie largely defined by unrelenting torture, the cast, for their part, handle themselves pretty well. No one is going to mistake this movie for a character piece, but Levy, Lou Taylor Pucci, Shiloh Fernandez, Jessica Lucas, and Elizabeth Blackmore are likable enough and compelling in their own ways. This is true even when they're doing things that young people of their age -- who have seen any number of horror movies -- will realize is the absolute worst thing to do.
8. It's Not Exactly a "Feminist" Piece The gender politics of "Evil Dead" are problematic, which is a weird thing to talk about after watching "Evil Dead." But it's so obvious that anyone, even those in the audience without a women's studies degree, will probably be rubbed the wrong way. The men are the ones who unleash the ancient evil and the women are the ones who pay for it, largely by truly vile acts of self-mutilation. The hipster doofus college professor who initially reads from the cursed book doesn't even admit to wrongdoing until well into the second act, and by that time the bodies and severed limbs have been piled so high that the rickety cabin is going to need an additional story. In short: it would have been nice for the punishment to have been doled out more evenly between the sexes.
9. Diablo Cody Cannot Be Heard Some of you might be aware that Diablo Cody, national treasure and screenwriter behind "Juno," "Young Adult," and sorely underrated horror movie "Jennifer's Body," had something to do with the "Evil Dead" screenplay. To what degree she aided the script remains unknown (when we asked her a couple of years ago she minimized her involvement but that could just be her humbleness talking), but there is no real evidence here. Unlike, say, in "Burlesque" (another movie that benefitted from her script doctoring skills), when one of the characters, while describing a manicure/pedicure, squeals, "Paws and claws!" A bright neon sign that said, "DIABLO CODY WROTE THIS" might as well have lit up at that very moment. No such moments exist in "Evil Dead" and you kind of wish they did.
10. It's Super Violent Did I mention that yet?
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