CATEGORIES Movie NewsThe poster claims Evil Dead is "the most terrifying film you will ever experience." At SXSW, there were reports of audience members seeking shelter in the theater lobby midway through the premiere. And recent trailers show night-vision footage of audiences recoiling in fear, a marketing tactic used by a great many horror movies looking to prove their pants-soiling cred.
So just how scary is the new Evil Dead, directed by first-timer Fede Alvarez with the blessing and backing of original masterminds Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell? Well, it's probably safe to say it's not the most terrifying movie ever made. But after all the hype, if you're wondering if you'll be able to handle the 91 minutes of bodily dismemberment and geysers of blood, I put together a handy guide to help you decide whether to line up or run away.
1. Are you a fan of the original Evil Dead films? Alvarez's remake ditches the campiness of Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness, instead going for a more straightforward retelling of Raimi's original, not exactly a laugh-a-minute tale of five friends trapped in a remote cabin and tormented by the ancient evil they unleashed. Nods to the original film abound, but prior knowledge isn't necessary.
2. Would you consider demonic possession to be a compelling allegory for drug addiction? The lone major new wrinkle from Alvarez and co-writer Rodo Sayagues is the reason our heroes opt for seclusion: to help Mia (Jane Levy) kick her heroin habit. Which means when she starts seeing things in the woods, it's conveniently explained away as withdrawal symptoms. At least until she develops a husky demon voice and starts blood-vomiting on people, at which point we've officially left any allegory behind.
3. Do you expect your movie characters to be fully fleshed-out? If so, Evil Dead's ultra-violence is going to be the least of your worries; you might not even make it through the relatively blood-less first act. Because while horror movies aren't typically known for their three-dimensional characters, the ones in Evil Dead exist solely to be de-fleshed in increasingly graphic ways.
4. Do you find hanging dead cats from the ceiling really spruces up a room? Then not only will you enjoy Evil Dead's grimy aesthetic, but you might also have a future as a horror movie set decorator. When Mia and her brother (Shiloh Fernandez) return to their now-rundown family cabin, they find their fruit cellar decked out with goodies from the Martha Stewart Satanic Ritual Collection. (Bonus points if you've always thought human skin would make for a fine dust jacket.)
5. Are you terrified by expository dialogue? If nothing's scarier to you than listening to characters recap pertinent information and spout unprompted dramatic backstory, expect to spend most of Evil Dead cowering in your seat and covering your ears. It's enough to make you wonder if a character cut her own tongue in half in protest.
6. Have you ever wondered how a person's forearm would hold up against a nailgun, crowbar, and/or shotgun? Well, get ready to find out, because for some reason, the characters in Evil Dead seem to think that their forearms make for an indestructible shield against all manner of weapons. And that's to say nothing of the electric carving knife, hypodermic needle, boxcutter, and mirror shard that join the iconic chainsaw in Evil Dead's arsenal.
7. Do you believe dumb horror characters deserve what's coming to them? Don't confuse the new Evil Dead with a modern meta horror movie like Cabin in the Woods. These characters do increasingly dumb things -- like open a book wrapped in barbed wire and ignore multiple warnings written in blood, or crawl into confining spaces as an escape route -- not because they're being ironic or self-aware, but because it moves the plot along. Expect to root for justice to be served.
8. Have you always thought an air-raid siren would make a good musical instrument? Evil Dead's full-scale sensory assault doesn't just stop at graphic self-mutilation and buckets of blood, it also extends to the movie's score, which makes use of an air-raid siren in several key scenes. It's enough to make the Inception "brahm" seem subtle by comparison.
9. Do you trust the MPAA? The new Evil Dead doesn't just push the boundaries of the R-rating, it practically obliterates them. And with each graphic full-frontal dismemberment or disturbing image of self-performed oral surgery, you can practically hear the cries of horror from every director who ever had to clip down a sex scene to avoid a dreaded NC-17.
10. Do you find gore scary? Getting back to the movie's superlative boast, Evil Dead isn't exactly terrifying in the same way a good ghost story is. Apart from a few requisite jolts, this isn't a movie designed to make you jump as much as recoil in disgust. Instead, what it lacks in creepy atmosphere it makes up for in sheer volume of blood until, by the end, the movie's literally raining the red stuff. And where the Raimi original (and significantly more so, its sequels) mixed horror with a sense of humor, the only tension-relieving laughs come from just how absurdly over-the-top the nonstop blood and guts becomes. The new Evil Dead is certainly epically disgusting and hard to watch at times, but as far as horror movie scares go, it's actually surprisingly tame.
Evil Dead opens in theaters on April 5.
[WARNING: Graphic images and some spoilers ahead!]