October 11: Double Feature Friday (The Evil Dead [1981] & The Evil Dead [2013])

movie reviews

Any Evil Dead film is a perfect Halloween film. They’re campy, funny, and scary. What’s more, they consistently deliver after repeated viewings. I can’t say how many times I’ve seen each one, but every time I am guaranteed a rewarding experience. It takes all the will I have to ever watch a new movie.

It goes like this: a group of friends travels to a remote cabin in the woods for a weekend getaway. They venture into the basement and come across a strange book. It’s written in a foreign language, but, luckily, there is an audio transcript available. They play the tape and release a demonic force form in the woods. As the night progresses, the entity takes out the group one by one until just one man is left standing.

And you know who that is, right? Of course you do.

For years, there has been talk of an Evil Dead remake and a new sequel. Every year, the films got pushed back or cancelled. Then, seemingly out of the blue, a remake took shape. How would it hold up? Would it ruin everything I know and love?

The new film is amazing. It is probably the goriest movie I have ever seen (and I’ve seen more than my fair share of gore). Fede Alvarez, the director, made it a point to keep up the DIY ethic that Sam Raimi set in the original. There’s no reliance on CG, and, as a result, the whole film feels more organic and real. This movie is the real deal.

So watch them back-to-back. Though it stands on its own, I don’t think anyone has any business watching the remake without first being familiar with the original.


Review: Evil Dead (2013)

movie reviews

“The most terrifying film you will ever experience.”

For once, a tagline that doesn’t lie. This movie has been scaring me since I first heard about it entering pre-production two years ago. A remake of my favorite movie of all time? That’s some scary stuff.

I was lucky enough to land pre-screener passes for the movie a couple of weeks before it was released. I stood outside a theater in an enormous line of hopefuls for more than an hour, only to be ultimately turned away because the theater was at capacity. Rumor had it that some folks had camped out. That’s not an option for this guy over here; I have a job.

So, instead, as I related here a little while back, I saw The Last Exorcism Part 2: This Time It’s Personal. To add insult to injury, the trailer for Evil Dead was the first to hit the screen during the previews, in all of its demonic, knife-licking glory. I felt a pain inside and fought the urge to cry.

This weekend, it actually opened to the public. I made sure to buy my ticket early. Upon entering the theater, four employees stopped me, checking IDs (unfortunately, not mine) and ticket stubs. They told me there’d been a lot of underage kids trying to sneak in. The theater thought the movie was too graphic to treat this subversive viewing passively. I was intrigued.

When the film actually started, I started to sweat a bit. The film was crystal clear, nothing like the grainy awesomeness of Sam Raimi’s original. But then there was the Necronomicon. When the title hit the screen, I got chills.

The movie, in keeping with the original, had some absurdly good, non-CG gore effects. In fact, I’m willing to say that it’s the best gore I’ve ever experienced. It’s grisly and over-the-top. Fede Alvarez takes you places you just don’t want to go. Nail guns, shotguns, shards of glass, syringes. Never before have so few people experienced so much pain. The impulse to cover my eyes stayed with me until the end.

Contrary to what a lot of folks are saying, this isn’t a humorless movie. Comedy certainly doesn’t take the center stage as it did in the latter two films of the original trilogy, but it’s definitely there. You see it when a roll of duct tape is used to staunch bleeding, when one character is singled out for an inordinate amount of abuse, when a demon vomits in the mouth of a helpless nurse. This is all stuff straight out of Raimi’s catalog. Alvarez never forgets where this material came from.

To its credit, this film felt more like a sequel than a remake. There is no Ash, because, well, who could possibly play him? The nods to the original are plentiful, but not heavy-handed. I would have included more of them, but, then again, it’s not my movie. As it stands, it’s pretty much perfect.

I never dreamed that I would be able to say that.