Mania Review: Evil Dead -

Mania Review

Mania Grade: B+

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  • Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Jessica Lucas, Lou Taylor Pucci and Elizabeth Blackmore
  • Written by: Fede Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues
  • Directed by: Fede Alvarez
  • Studio: Tri-Star
  • Rating: R
  • Run Time: 91 minutes
  • Series:

Mania Review: Evil Dead

Congratulations guys: you get to keep the name.

By Rob Vaux     April 05, 2013

 There’s plenty of reasons for Evil Dead fans to worry about the new version hitting theaters this Friday. The era of superior horror remakes (The Thing, The Fly) vanished over two decades ago, and while we’ve had our share of decent ones lately (Dawn of the Dead, The Hills Have Eyes), most of them act as admirable also-rans rather than brilliant visions of their own. The Evil Dead reboot definitely falls into that category, content to follow the lead of its predecessor rather than blazing its own trail. But at the same time, it takes advantage of a higher budget, a more talented cast (none of whom, admittedly, answer to the name of “Bruce Campbell”), and a desire to give hard-core horror fans something they can rely on. In those terms, Evil Dead has more than earned the right to stand by its followers.

One is tempted to cite the presence of producers Sam Raimi, Robert Tapert, and Campbell himself for its success. They can ride herd on newcomer Fede Alvarez, preventing him from boiling their baby while still giving him the freedom to pursue his own vision. But it’s Alvarez himself who deserves credit for navigating the dangerous waters of re-creating this franchise. He knows exactly what to keep in order to make it an Evil Dead movie – kids in the cabin, the Necronomicon, the outrageous gore sprinkled with just a dash of knowing humor – while adding enough of his own to set his version apart.

His best conceit is a great one, and in fact could have done with a little more development in the final product. The five young people arrive at that sinister cabin in the woods not for a weekend of relaxation, but as a way of helping a buddy. Mia (Jane Levy) has decided to kick her drug habit by going cold turkey. Her friends are there to help her through it… that is, until one of them finds a suspiciously familiar book in the basement and starts to read from it. You can guess where things go from there.

The drug addict angle puts a rather brilliant twist on the formula. When a girl in full-bore withdrawal raves about getting raped by a tree, who would possibly believe her? Or, conversely, when someone starts shuffling around in a suspiciously Deadite manner, who’s to say they didn’t get into her stash and decide to take a hit? By the time the truth comes out, it’s far too late. More importantly, it gives the characters a viable reason to be there, as well as giving them a personality beyond just getting chased by a Raimi-esque steadicam.

And yes, the steadicam is in attendance, as well as numerous other nods to the first film. (You know what they say: if a chainsaw shows up in Act One, it needs to hack off a limb by Act Three.) Alvarez expertly skirts the line between homage and rip-off, keeping the essence but making it his own. Evil Dead definitely trends towards the more serious side of the concept; the winks and nods are there, but they don’t reach the Stoogian extremes that made Evil Dead 2 as much self-parody as horror film. (And believe me, that’s not a criticism.)

Instead, it amps up the shocks. Lots of fright flicks promise gore, but this one may set a new standard. It works because Alvarez doesn’t treat it as exploitation… or rather, he exploits it in the name of a roller coaster ride instead of an excuse for a dearth of ideas. The R rating is, once again, a joke, but hard-core gorehounds will love every minute of it. (For the rest of you, forewarned is forearmed.)

That’s beneficial, since the characters display a staggering case of the Stupids. Unlike Raimi, Alvarez doesn’t smirk when the know-it-all reads aloud from the Necronomicon to start the ball rolling, allowing us to encompass the full impact of his idiocy. And too often, people fall for obvious ploys like a Deadite imitating the good buddy he/she used to be, even though no one in their right mind would believe it. At times, Evil Dead clings to the original closer than it should, relying on Raimi’s inspiration rather than creating more of its own. We’ve yet to see whether Alvarez can work without a net, though flaws aside, his work here certainly gives him the right to try. The film’s biggest accomplishment rests in the use of that name: not the first to use it and certainly not the best, but still deserving of it regardless. That’s no mean feat in an era of quick-fix rehashes. Evil Dead earns every inch of it.

Oh yeah, and stick around for the credits. There’s a cookie you shouldn’t miss.


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Dazzler 4/5/2013 4:30:46 AM

No interest in this but I hope it does well enough to help Army of Darkness 2 the real Evil dead movie.

iceknight52 4/5/2013 5:34:41 AM

I too have no interest in this film. I'm all for a clever scare or suspense but just uping the gore and mutilation factor does not do it for me. Matter of fact, I can do without. Yet that's my opinion and hope that the true slasher lovers out there find this one to be great.

lusiphur 4/5/2013 6:06:11 AM

 I'm excited for this.  Everything I've seen or read about it makes it look like a winner.  I hope I'm not disappointed.  I loved the first one, laughed at the second one and rolled in the aisles during the third.  Hopefully this one has similar effect.

monkeyfoot 4/5/2013 6:17:25 AM

I'm with the above. Heavy gore isn't my thing but I hope its a big success.

I always hope something is a big success, even if I'm not interested.

DarthBob 4/5/2013 7:04:59 AM

If you like torture porn then I guess this is the movie for you; it looks like a bunch of gore and not a whole lot more.  Instead of being clever these days film makers try to one up with shock and gore.  It's a tiresome formula.

redhairs99 4/5/2013 7:07:30 AM

lusiphur, go in with extremely low expectations and you might enjoy the movie.

I tried my best to keep my expectations low for this.  I went to a free screening on Tuesday night this week.  It was terrible!  There were a couple of decent things they did with this, namely the "cookie" at the end of the credits that Rob mentioned.  

Also, there's a decent scene with some tension in the middle of the film that involves one of the guys in checking on his friend (not Mia) in the bathroom.  

The rest of the film is crap. Chocked full of fast edits that could, I believe, actually be seizure inducing.  I hate, hate, hate fast cuts as a substitute for good writing, choreography or actual tension/drama.  

The acting was just plain bad, and not "good" bad like Bruce and the rest in the original.  

I'm also not sure what exactly Rob was talking about with the humor.  I really don't recall very much real humor or "winking" in the film.  Sure, they telegraph some stuff and there's some call-backs or knods to the original.  Okay maybe one that involved a blonde in the kitchen and something evil happening, maybe.

I'm all for over-the-top gore, but I think you still must have likeable characters (at least somewhat memorable anyway, I can only recall Mia and Eric as characters in the movie, don't even know of the names of the other 3), serviceable acting, a good script, and good direction.  All of which are sorely lacking in this remake.

I think the one shining light of this movie is the practical make-up effects.  Those were good from the make-up to the gallons of blood on the screen.  But again, in comes the back acting and the people as deadites acted like they were rejects from the Thriller video or the Grudge half the time with all their little twitches and robot like movements.

Just my 2 cents as a HUGE fan of the Evil Dead films, Raimi and Campbell, very disappointing indeed. And to read interviews were guys like Bruce are just glowing about the acting and direction just makes me sad.

redhairs99 4/5/2013 7:08:34 AM

 Today, if you want a great Evil Dead/Cabin horror-comedy movie, catch Cabin In the Woods or the original Evil Dead movies.  Those know how it should be done.

joelr 4/5/2013 8:08:31 AM

This film is everything that's wrong with modern horror. It falls into every trap. The original got by on Raimi's ingenuity and style, and a charming lead in Bruce Campbell, this one has paper thin characters, obvious direction, and tries to get by on gore that literally gets boring and yamn inducing. I can only assume Raimi and Co. were not as hands on as we were led to believe, because they should absolutely know better.

extzero 4/5/2013 8:41:22 AM

 What are you guys talking about, this movie was great!! all the blood and guts and dead cats, well it was better than that stupid last exorcism part 2 thats for sure!!! (and dont get your panties in a bunch, the cats have no relevance to the movie, for those mad about possible spoilers!!)

redhairs99 4/5/2013 9:32:04 AM

I'm all for blood and guts, but you have to give me something else to latch on to as an audience and that ultimately is where this remake fails.

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