Review: “Evil Dead” (2013)

Sam Raimi‘s 1981 low-fi masterwork The Evil Dead is at this point a load-bearing horror movie:¬† if you were to yank on it too hard, the entire modern horror genre would collapse. From its now-iconic (and brilliantly spoofable) “cabin in the woods” concept to its visionary use of POV and camera movement to its demonic-possession-as-rhythmic-ribbon-gymnastics-routine zaniness, it has inspired countless other filmmakers to go for broke and let it all hang out in their genre storytelling.

Hell – it was such an inspiration that it even inspired Raimi himself to remake his own movie as a splatter comedy as Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn. (Note: while lots of folks writing about this new remake seem to remember that the original Evil Dead was played for laughs, we know it wasn’t – it’s a pretty straightforward horror flick with a few gonzo flourishes, not an all-out horror comedy like the second movie.)

So, naturally, most of us were on tenterhooks waiting to see if the remake of the film – which sounds like a really bad idea for any number of reasons, the biggest of which being that the original is actually a really good film that still holds its own – would be a cynical cash-in, a pointless retread, or a total bastardization of everything that we hold dear.

In my opinion, Evil Dead is none of these. It’s actually pretty awesome. In fact, Evil Dead may well be the most fun I’ve had this year trying not to vomit.

I don’t want to spoil too many of the film’s clever nods and riffs on the original formula and legitimately shocking gore setpieces, so I’m just going to say that the movie isn’t perfect, but it’s a hell of a good time. I encourage you to go see the it for the following reasons:

1. Jane Levy is a fucking goddess

Seriously, this chica is the real deal. I’ve loved the lass since Shameless (and I still watch Suburgatory every week) and here she knocks it out of the fucking park whether she’s grounding a heart-to-heart with her distant brother, freaking the fuck out about getting attacked in the woods WHILE DETOXING FROM HEROIN, or doing all sorts of unladylike things while possessed of the bile-spewing denizens of the Book of the Dead.

Her wild-eyed, balls-out performance is one part Carrie White, one part Regan MacNeil, one part Courtney Love, and all parts awesome. It’s a horror heroine role and performance for the ages.

Oh – I also love Jessica Lucas (seen below – well, most of her, anyway) from the so-bad-it’s-good CW series Cult, so it was doubly awesome to see her here as well.

2. It’s gross as hell without being mean

Odd distinction, perhaps, but I think an important one. Many folks haven’t been on board the Midnight Meat Train that is the relatively new “torture porn” trend – an oftentimes proudly mean-spirited defamation of flesh and humanity. While the Evil Dead movies were as gory and bone-breaking as they come, they always somehow managed to rip flesh from bone with a smile.

I’m glad to report that Evil Dead manages to capture the original’s “we’re all in this together as we are gradually dismembered” spirit – and while it delivers some of the most visceral, stomach-turning gore of recent years, you never feel bad about yourself enjoying it for what it is.

And don’t get me wrong, sometimes mean is good – but here it would have seriously dampened the crowd-pleasing nature of all this glorious carnage.

3. It hits all the familiar notes, but it’s its own tune

In navigating how to create a new film and experience while paying tribute to the earlier films, the filmmakers had to make some very tough choices – but in the end, I think they made many of the right ones. The resulting film is sort-of a remake (same setup with many of the same basic plot points of the earlier films), sort-of an homage (there are many visual and aural nods to the earlier films slipped in at unexpected points) and sort-of a commentary on the somewhat limited worldview of the first Evil Deads. I won’t go into any more detail than that, but I will say that this film finally washes away some of the undercurrents¬† of misogyny (very possibly unintended or naive) of the original film and delivers a much more satisfying overall arc.

4. It’s fucking Evil Dead.

And if it gets Bruce Campbell’s okay, it’s good enough for the rest of us. I think that’s really all there is to it.

Rating (out of 5):

Evil Dead is Rated R for strong bloody gore, gratuitous Shiloh Fernandez, and whatever the hell is going on with Lou Taylor Pucci‘s hair.

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Buzz created in 2003 to meet a need for a safe place for weirdos of all stripes to discuss horror movies from a queer perspective. Now that the campers have overtaken the Camp staff and locked them in the Arts & Crafts cabin he is questioning that decision.