Movie Review: “Evil Dead” – A Lively Resurrection

Written by Travis Pulchinski April 25, 2013

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“Evil Dead” is an article-absent remake of the 1981 cult horror hit “The Evil Dead”, Sam Raimi’s definitive low-budget ’80s horror film that led to a string of hugely successful sequels and now to the inevitable modern revival.  With the blessing of Bruce “Ash” Campbell himself backing 2013’s version, “Evil Dead” stays faithful to its predecessor with gleefully horrid exhibitions of blood and brutality to back its simplistic story.  While this reanimation may walk a little stiffly at times, it’s still both undeniably evil and dead.

Same Places, Different Faces

The story of “Evil Dead” follows the same basic premise as the original, unfurling the familiar set up that savvy horrors fans will know all too well.  Five archetypical teenagers wind up in a secluded cabin in the wilderness, accidentally unleash an ancient evil, and one by one fall victim to its wrath. In a post-“Cabin In The Woods” world, “Evil Dead” finds itself somewhat handcuffed by the need to stay true to the original movie, which depicts the near exact scenario that “The Cabin in the Woods” satirizes, right down to the “black room” in the basement. “Evil Dead” rightly compensates for its cliché-ridden premise by graciously gliding through the mandatory buildup with the assumption that we all know exactly where this is all headed, and without incessantly winking to the audience while doing so. From the unleashing of ancient evil onward, the exact order of who gets butchered and how, varies somewhat from the original, giving the story a certain familiarity but also distinct identity from its predecessor.

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“Ok, I’m drawing a line in the f*cking sand. Do NOT read the latin!”

Warning: May Contain Practical Effects

Like the original film, “Evil Dead” counts on the extremely graphic and profuse use of excessive mutilation and gore to score its thrills.  There’s not a ton of suspense or jump scares, no subtle hiding of the monster to incite fear. It’s all in your grill, limb-hacking, face-melting, tongue-splitting terror – and it works.  The practical effects are top notch and reduce the need for excessive CGI or editing trickery.  The film delicately toes the line between realism and excess, turning human bodies into playthings that can withstand plenty of punishment as to be afflicted by enough horrors for blood-lusting audiences to get their fill, without ever plunging into utter absurdity.  If the main draw of this film is its promise of spilling guts and gore, bloodthirsty viewers will undoubtedly find themselves inundated.

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Wrong Blood Type

With these positives in mind, “Evil Dead” suffers terribly from a serious case of remake-induced tonal confusion. The moments of stylized content that “Evil Dead” transplants from its much hokier and goofier 1981 ancestor are rejected by the host, standing out as sometimes bizarre and gangrenous amidst the otherwise fairly consistent tonal package. Not to say that the uninspired visual aesthetic or dull performances were the best choices, but if you’re going to play it straight you might as well stick with it. The few schlocky moments that are undoubtedly serving as callbacks to the original film feel out of place in this contemporary interpretation, and should have probably been either rejected or embraced more frequently throughout.  That said, when everything is red and bathed in blood, small flaws are easily overlooked.  “Evil Dead” tweaks the plot of the original movie just enough to feel fresh, and implants a stock storyline into a fun and brutal new body. While you may recognize it from the onset, don’t turn your back on “Evil Dead’s” familiar face, lest you find yourself a victim of its sadistic ocular onslaught. 

My Rating: 7/10

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