Director: Fede Alvarez
Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore
Oh, not this old argument again! Just like with 1987’s “Evil Dead 2,” we’ve got yet another instance of an “Evil Dead” movie which can either be looked at as a remake/reboot, or as a sequel, or both. This one’s just a little bit different. While “Evil Dead 2″ created a controversy because its first six minutes are little more than a recap “The Evil Dead” in re-shot, slightly altered scenes, 2013’s “Evil Dead” creates an entirely new set of characters who stumble upon familiar territory. That would seem to point the way towards a remake, but as the great Lee Corso is so fond of saying: “Not so fast, my friend!” There are so many visual callbacks to both “The Evil Dead” and “Evil Dead 2″ within this one that it implies a more intimate connection with the trilogy that put Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi (credited as producers on this one) on the map.
“Evil Dead” gets off to a lackluster beginning. We’re treated first to a prologue, where a possessed girl is taken into the cellar of that cabin we know so well and burned like the “witches” of Salem. Somehow, this is supposed to save her soul. What of those who are committing the deed, her father among them? …Never mind. Theological arguments make me tired. Truthfully, these first five minutes should never have made it to the final cut of the film, nor any of the subsequent references to it. I’ve seen this movie two times now, and I think any future viewings will involve skipping past this part to the other 86 minutes, the portion of the film that (for the most part) is worthy of your time.
Heroin addict Mia (Jane Levy) is in for the intervention from hell. In the latest of many attempts to get her to kick the habit cold turkey, Mia has been brought into the woods by three of her friends: Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore), Olivia (Jessica Lucas) and Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci). Joining them this time is Natalie’s boyfriend, Mia’s absentee brother David. He’s in hot water with the group for leaving Mia to care for their institutionalized mother, and for failing to visit while she was still alive. The first time we see Mia, she’s sitting on the hood of a 1972 Oldsmobile that looks to have seen some (medieval) battles in its time, and she’s wearing a Michigan State sweatshirt like the one worn by Linda in “The Evil Dead.” Mia’s not the only one wearing clothes that are familiar to this series. Eric wears a plaid shirt like the one worn by Scotty, and David wears the blue shirt that Ash wore until it was torn to shreds. Topping it all off, David presents his sister with a necklace virtually identical to the one Ash gave to Linda.
Once the Deadite action gets going, it does not relent. “The Evil Dead” may have been recognized for its level of gore, but since the 2013 version was in possession (no pun intended) of a much larger budget… $17 million, to be exact… we could be sure it wasn’t going to be faced with the same limitations. In that respect, it wasn’t. All five friends are put through hell. They are puked on, shot with a nail gun, “kissed,” stabbed, sliced, burned, bludgeoned, and fooled into hacking off their own limbs by the possessed. Eric, who is the one that stupidly recites the passages which bring forth the evil, is also the one who is put through the most physical trauma. You’d think he’d have realized that any book that’s been covered in both a trash bag and barbed wire wasn’t meant to be opened, much less read aloud. I mean, my god, there are even warnings written by someone on each of the crucial pages that tell you NOT TO READ IT. He welcomes death by the time it finally comes to him. Mia spends the majority of the movie as the one who is possessed first and then locked in the cellar. With all that’s going on, there’s also a bait-and-switch in the final 20 minutes that fools you into thinking you know who the final survivor is meant to be. Whether or not it’s a clever move is entirely up to you (I would say it is). Though it may not be the most brutal movie I’ve ever watched, the fact that the skies actually open up and rain blood could technically qualify this as the bloodiest of them all.
If, once the movie is over, you’ve found that you enjoyed it but still feel like something is missing, then don’t hit the STOP button quite yet. In an era where post-credit scenes have become the norm, “Evil Dead” offers one up that both caters to fans and hints at this movie’s place in the series’ lineage. While this is likely to be the last film in the franchise for the foreseeable future (even though discussion of another entry keeps coming up), the answer to the riddle seems to be that 2013’s “Evil Dead” is both its own entity and a continuation of the original timeline. Calling it “Evil Dead 4″ would have been a smidge risky, I suppose, given the 20+ year gap since the release of “Army of Darkness.” Opting for even more hardcore horror than the original, it features none of the humor which made “Evil Dead 2″ and especially “Army of Darkness” so well-loved. It’s also a very dark movie, in that the color scheme is faded and gloomy. As a result, “Evil Dead,” while not one of the worst horror remakes or even a bad horror movie in general, is still a step down from the original. Long story short, Bruce Campbell is still the champ. Hail to the king, baby!