Review: Evil Dead (2013)

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“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.


The Last Exorcism Part II: Electric Boogaloo

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It is a genuine shame that there’s a lag between the time a movie is released and the time the RiffTrax for that movie is released. Because if there was ever a movie deserving of such immediate attentions, it is The Last Exorcism Part II.

The movie opens up where it left off- literally. Like a serialized TV show, it begins with a confusing montage of the first film. During this last-week-on-The-Last-Exorcism nonsense, I realized that (with the exception of a giant CG fire demon) I had almost no memory of the first film at all. That probably was a good thing, though. Nell is trying to get over all that shit now; there’s no sense in me drudging up the past.

So Nell has moved into a halfway house for friendly teenage girls in a G-rated re-imagining of New Orleans during Mardi Gras. She’s exploring the world with new eyes since her whole town ate it in a big way at the close of the last film. Unfortunately for her, Abalam, her demonic admirer, is totes still into her and is trying to bring her back over to the dark side.

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a movie with a higher number of cheap scares. I reckon it averaged close to four per minute. Every time Nell turned around, a window was breaking, someone was screaming, a car was exploding, or a door was being shut rather too firmly. It was nerve-wracking at first, but it quickly grew to be hilarious. I was laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes. For serious. One of the scares was a gorilla throwing a tire. That’s a spoiler. I’m not even kidding.

There was a strange anti-pagan subtext to the movie. It was very obvious that Nell was exploring this world her father had so carefully protected her from and was turning against everything she knew in the process. Her clothing became more revealing, she stopped wearing her crucifix necklace, and she started kissing boys. She decides that Abalam wasn’t actually real and kind of turns her back on Christianity. When her problems don’t go away, she receives some help from some kind voodoo practitioners, but that doesn’t turn out so well, either. The confusing thing was that it seemed as though the movie was simultaneously pro-Christianity and anti-Christianity. I’d say it was a commentary on the futility of organized religion in dealing with spiritual problems, but it wasn’t. It was just confusing.

So why did I see it? Well, I landed some pre-screener tickets to the new Evil Dead remake, but, even though I waited in line for an hour, the theater reached capacity before I got in. It was either go big or go home. I chose the former. You should, too. The Last Exorcism Part II is a must-see, but not for any of the reasons its creators intended.

Zombie Lake

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You’d think that a movie featuring Nazi zombies would be worth watching, but you’d be wrong. This 1980 French snoozefest tells the story of a lake infested with four or five really persistent zombies. Why are they zombies and not just German corpses? No clue. All I know is that when you dump a body into a French lake, it will reanimate forty years later with green paint on its face.

These zombies are unique in that they are very choosy about their victims. They will only eat fully nude young women (with a clear preference for volleyball players) who venture into their murky pond. Of course, it serves them right, as any woman willing to drop her skivvies to jump into that stagnant green slop is asking, bare minimum, for an infection of some sort. It demonstrates really bad judgement. They’re almost begging those Nazis to rub their weird green faces on their necks until the poor gals’ throats start to bleed. It looks uncomfortable enough to be horrifying.

I advise skipping this one. You don’t see a lot of French VHS transfers these days, but still. It barely even counts as a zombie movie. Watch Dead Snow instead.