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Evil Dead (2013)

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    Ian Jane
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  • Evil Dead (2013)



    Released by: Sony
    Released on: July 16, 2013.
    Director: Fede Alvarez
    Cast: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore
    Year: 2013
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    A pretty high profile feature debut for Fede Alvarez, who had previously made a few short films, 2013's remake of Sam Raimi's ultimate experience in grueling terror, Evil Dead, was met with a nearly instantaneous backlash from the fan community. While it now goes without saying that big studio remakes of classic horror films are here to stay, this one was different. The original film was made independently and without major financial backing. As such, the filmmakers were afforded a freedom and creativity that would be next to impossible to recreate not only because so much time has passed but because this remake was going to be backed by a major Hollywood studio.

    When the movie begins, a young man named David (Shiloh Fernandez) and his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) have just driven from Chicago to a cabin in the woods where they meet up with David's old friends - a nurse named Olivia (Jessica Lucas) and a long haired guy named Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci). They're there to help David's younger sister, Mia (Jane Levy), kick her drug addiction. They figure there's going to be some withdrawal symptoms and that this old cabin, a place their late mother found so calming, would be the ideal place to go through with it. As Olivia is on hand to help administer sedatives and deal with medical issues, they feel pretty confident about all of this and as Mia dumps her bag of junk down the well, they settle in for the expected emotional turmoil.

    As Mia's withdrawal kicks in, she and David's dog, Grandpa, start to notice a strange smell. Everyone chalks it up to the drugs but once the dog starts scratching at the rug, they find a door to a basement which, when they open it, they find littered with the corpses of dead cats and showing evidence of something having been burned there. Eric also finds a package wrapped in plastic and barbed wire. When he opens it, there's a strange book bound in human flesh just waiting to be perused. As he does just that, he recites three words, completely unaware as to what they will do. Mia, on the other hand, has enough. She takes the car keys and drives away from the cabin but as she makes her escape she swerves to avoid hitting a 'woman' that appears suddenly in the middle of the road. From there, the forest attacks her and after that, she seems to have become possessed by whatever it is that the book unleashed.

    When this one hit theaters, it seemed very much to be a 'love it or hate it' scenario and it's easy to see why this would divide audiences. Alvarez has made some fairly drastic changes here, the most obvious being the lack of an 'Ash.' In Raimi's film, Ash carries the film. Not just because Bruce Campbell's icon making performance is so over the top that you can't help but love it but because he's got some personality. While attempts at giving the characters here a back story are admirable, we don't know much about most of them. David and Mia have a trouble past, we learn that he left her alone with their ailing mother and left for Chicago and that she and the others resent him for that, but this doesn't necessarily make us like either one of them. Eric is… a guy with a beard and some glasses. He seems nice enough, but he's really just some guy and the same criticism applies to the characters of Natalie and Olivia as well. They don't matter, and we realize very early on that they're mainly just there to die.

    Thankfully Jane Levy turns things around. While her character still doesn't have a whole lot of personality she is convincing in what is essentially a dual role (possessed character versus not possessed character). In a turn that is impressive not only because it had to have been insanely physically and emotionally demanding but also because she is at times legitimately scary, Levy carries the picture. In the extras Campbell alludes to her being 'the new Ash' - she's not. But she's very good in an underwritten part, so good in fact that it's only after thinking about it that you realize there's really not a whole lot to her character.

    So with the characters more or less a wash, how does the rest of the movie stack up? Rather well, actually. Some will take issue with changes made to the book itself. Here we see a tome well read, one littered with profanity scrawled in ballpoint pen over the years to stand as a warning to anyone unfortunate to come across it. Those warnings obviously go unheeded, but it adds a possibly history to the book that ties into an opening scene in which we see how it's affected those who came before our five unfortunate friends. With all due respect, however, the artwork and design seen in Raimi's film are far more interesting.

    It's because those warnings go unheeded, however, that the story turns from one of Mia overcoming her addiction to one of possession and bodily dismemberment, which brings us to the gore, something that Alvarez and company deliver in spades. It's probably safe to say that had this movie been released by anyone other than a powerhouse studio, it would have been given an NC-17. The violence and bloodshed that takes place in the last half of the film is not only some of the strongest stuff to come out of a major studio production ever, but it also happens at a relentless pace. Here Alvarez takes the splatter style Raimi employed in the original and turns it up to eleven, throwing in elements from The Exorcist to give possessed Mia (specifically in regards to her speech patterns and vocabulary) a considerably more diabolical personality than the original 'deadites' had, a move that actually manages to make her more menacing as a result. It would also seem that modern Japanese horror films have crept into his style as well, as there are a few shots of some of the female characters that, in their movement and framing, remind you of the Sadako character in Ring. The fact that Alvarez chose to rely more on practical effects over CGI helps these scenes feel more authentic (in the extras you can literally see people out of view holding hoses showering down blood and plenty of latex appliances used in different scenes) than they would have been had they been rendered entirely in the digital realm.

    It'd be easy to call this torture porn, to lump it in with films like Hostel or Saw that tend to be branded with that moniker by those with an aversion to more confrontational horror pictures. It'd be even easier to call this a horrible remake and dismiss it as such based purely on an unconditional love for the original (something this writer shares). In many ways this is a considerably less enjoyable film than what Raimi and Campbell put together decades back. It's not nearly as much fun nor will it likely hold the replay value simply because Campbell's insane performance in that picture can never really be recreated, nor should it be (meaning the choice not to have 'an Ash' was in some ways wise). The 2013 version of Evil Dead is, however, a fairly wicked horror picture in its own right. Some nods to Raimi's picture creep into this, sure to go unnoticed by those too young to have seen it but likely to be appreciated by the fans.

    The concept of the film being remade in the first place might still sting a little bit, but the reality is that original film isn't going anywhere and it's still there to be enjoyed over and over again. This new addition to the mythos actually plays well as a story that takes place in the same universe, there's no reason they can't or shouldn't co-exist. Alvarez finds his own voice here and delivers a picture that, while short on personality and based on the completely overdone 'teenagers are going to get slaughtered' cliché, actually manages to unnerve. The end result isn't perfect, it's too shallow to have the sort of lasting impact that a classic horror movie should have, but it is a growling bitch of a film, an unaffectedly visceral experience and, if style over substance, plenty entertaining.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Evil Dead arrives on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.39.1 widescreen. As you'd expect for a movie as recent as this, the image quality is excellent. Detail is outstanding in close up shots, this is one of those transfers where you can make out all of the pores on the faces of the actors or, in this case, the tendons of a hand being pulled from an arm. The basement of the cabin shows lots of dirt and filth, the charred pillar showing interesting burnt texture with a noticeable charcoal feel to it. Color reproduction is great, considering that the source is heavy on darkness and uses a lot of reds in the last half. There's no color bleeding and all of the hues used are well defined. Shadow detail is rock solid and black levels are strong. If you strain to look for it you might notice some really minor banding but other than that this is pretty much exactly how it seems the movie should look. The image is gritty without looking dirty, dark without looking murky and really just incredibly well defined here.

    Audio options are offered up in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Portuguese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 with Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound tracks provided in French, Spanish and Thai. There are lots of subtitles available here as well, not just in English and English SDH but also in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Indonesian, Korean, Traditional Chinese and Thai.

    The English DTS-HD 5.1 track on the disc is reference quality. There's a load of fantastic surround activity present throughout the movie while dialogue stays clean, crisp and clear. The growls of possessed characters have a really strong guttural quality to them while the score is spread through the mix perfectly. The sound of a chainsaw has strong rumble, gunshots pack an impressively realistic wallop and the roaring of the presence in the woods moves across the screen with a strong, powerful low end. Near constant surround use helps to build tensions even in the few quieter moments in the film where you'll notice a wind in the distant background or the creak of a cabin floorboard. For the most part though, this is a snarling, vicious, nasty mix, the kind that really serves to hammer home the horrible things that happen in the movie with a ridiculous amount of effectiveness.

    Sony have put together a good package of supplements to accompany a sterling A/V presentation starting with an audio commentary that includes cast members Jane Levy, Lou Taylor Pucci, and Jessica Lucas, director Fede Alvarez and writer Rodo Sayagues. This is an active track, lots of participation from all parties who obviously seem to get along with one another quite well. The track covers pretty much everything that you'd want to it - casting, effects and the problems that occur when dealing with them, scheduling, the more intense and grueling aspects of acting in a movie like this, time and money issues and more. There's also some discussion of how the project came to be and who did what. Fede has more to say than everyone else but his input is insightful so that's not a bad thing.

    From there we move on to a series of featurettes, starting with the seven and a half minute Directing The Dead, which is basically an interview with Alvarez who talks about what it was like coming on board to direct this picture. We learn of his initial hopes and plans for the movie, what it was like working with the different cast members, and how some of the technical difficulties that they encountered were dealt with (the arm shot being a good example). Some input from the cast members rounds this out, they all seem to appreciate what he was able to bring to the movie and speak kindly of working with him. The ten minute long Evil Dead The Reboot featurette includes interviews with producers Rob Tapert, Bruce Campbell, director Fede Alvarez, writer Rodo Sayagues and actress Jane Levy. There's a good bit of discussion here about the impact of the original Evil Dead and how those involved wanted to bring to the screen a remake that could do it justice. They talk about the decision not to have an 'Ash' character and discuss the importance of retaining the feel of the original movie without making a direct copy of it. They also discuss how and why Raimi chose Alvarez as the director and how Alvarez, Tapert and Campbell alike warned those appearing in front of the camera, a fairly young cast, just how intense shooting a horror movie like this can be both physical and mentally.

    Which brings us to the eight minute long Making Life Difficult in which leading lady Jane Levy and Alvarez go into some detail about how physically intense things got for Levy as the shoot progressed. We see, by way of some interesting footage, how some of the more memorable scenes she was involved in were shot and learn how Alvaraz directed her and in turn how she responded. This also ties into the nine minute long Being Mia segment, which is basically a collection of footage shot 'video diary' style by Levy during the shoot. We see her getting into makeup, dealing with prosthetics, and having to get ready for and clean up after a few particularly gory set ups.


    Last but not least, we get the five minute Unleashing The Evil Force featurette which shows off what went into creating the version of The Book Of The Dead that we see in this movie. There's some discussion here as to what makes it different than the original seen in Raimi's film and the significance of the writing inside the book. Rounding out the extras are some previews for other Sony titles, animated menus and an Ultra Violet Digital Copy. The fact that there's some bits in the trailer (frustratingly not included but easy enough to find online) and extras that aren't in the movie would indicate deleted scenes exist, but none appear on the disc.

    The Final Word:

    Remakes are a tricky thing, particularly when they're remakes of a film as universally adored amongst an insanely loyal legion of fans as Evil Dead. Compared to the original film, well… this isn't the original film. It's quite a different take on the premise, a reimagining in the true sense of the word. For those averse to the very idea of the remake, this won't change your mind. But when looked at fairly, as a horror movie on its own terms, Alvarez's Evil Dead is worth seeing, even if it is almost entirely devoid of personality. It's fast paced, nasty, gory and occasionally rises above its splatter film intentions to deliver a couple of genuine scares. Sony's Blu-ray has a decent selection of extras and offers up an excellent presentation of the movie. For those averse to the very idea of the remake, this won't change your mind.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!










































    • Mark Tolch
      #1
      Mark Tolch
      Senior Member
      Mark Tolch commented
      Editing a comment
      Sounds like you enjoyed it more than I did. I definitely didn't find anything worthwhile about whatshername's performance, and lack of any commitment to characters made this another dumb teen horror.

    • Lalala76
      #2
      Lalala76
      Senior Member
      Lalala76 commented
      Editing a comment
      Groovy!!
    Posting comments is disabled.

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