Saturday, April 6, 2013

Dead By Dawn : A Review of Evil Dead (2013)

Detoxing is a bitch. The body pains and aches for a fix. Your sensitivity of all your senses increase to painful levels. You can hallucinate, seeing movements out of the corner of your peripheral. The woods start to chase you. Dead animals appear around you, and family members begin to lie to you. They say you killed them. They say you're dangerous. You can smell their filthy souls. Dead by dawn ... dead by dawn ... you'll rot in hell you filthy bastards!!

OK, maybe detoxing off drugs isn't exactly like that, but it makes for an interesting metaphor. You certainly battle demons both internal and external. That's exactly what the new heroine of Evil Dead goes through in this 2013 remake of the 1981 original. Mia is a struggling addict who, with the help of her friends,organizes a "cold turkey" getaway at her family's old vacation cabin to get through her detoxing period. It creates for an interesting plot device to motivate the characters to stay at the cabin, despite the odd events that occur around them. They assume most of the hysteria by Mia (Jane Levy) is just manipulation to get back to the city to get high again. Oh how wrong they are ...
Now as far as biased reviews go, I'm a big fan of the original Evil Dead. It's a monument achievement in independent horror films. It launched the careers of both Sam Raimi (Director of the Spider-Man Trilogy) and Bruce Campbell (Burn Notice). For the past 30 years, Evil Dead has set the standard for campy horror movies. Even if you've never seen Evil Dead, chances are you've heard a few of it's hero's one liners.

With a fan base as strong as Evil Dead's, and it's lead actor Bruce Campbell, it's a challenging move to produce a remake with new characters and motivations. When I first read about the new lead character's drug detox plot, I started to lower my expectations. I began to fear for a CGI gore fest. While that could be entertaining, Evil Dead deserves better.

Thankfully Director Fede Alvarez felt the same way. Not only did he recreate many of the classic scares of the original, he did it all without the aid of CGI. As a student of film, you must see this movie to see how well this is done. Certain scenes that I assumed were done with CGI now confound me as to how they were done without it. The soon to be infamous Tongue scene comes to mind here, where the Demon Possesed Mia splits her tongue licking a razor blade.

Alvalrez stayed true to Evil Dead form in other ways besides classic gore techniques. The movie had a great pacing and soundtrack to it. It felt like an Evil Dead movie, and that's not an easy feat. All the little pieces of technical development have to flow together. The writing, while a new original take, had many winks to the classic. Especially in some of it's running gags. My favorite gag was how Mia's brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) always fixed major wounds on people with duct tape. 

The one issue I had during the movie was the lack of an obvious hero. Where is Ash? Is Mia the new Ash? Can't be, since she gets possesed early on. Is it her brother? It seems so until the very end. Before I spoil these questions, let me point out that Ash isn't the obvious hero in the original either. He was a very scarred and unlikely hero until he finally cut up his girlfriend to bits and started carrying around a chainsaw.
* Spoiler Alert!! *
In retrospect, the hero of the film should have been obvious considering the show stealing performances of it's star. Jane Levy lead this movie forward like a rock star! It's hard to believe she had never seen Evil Dead until after she got the part. I can understand why she would want this role without prior knowledge of the series. Mia is such an entertainingly diverse character. Levy got to be a loving sister, a struggling drug addict, a frightened woman, a possessed killer, a taunting demon, and in the movie's epic finale she gets to pick up a chainsaw and kick some undead ass. She even gets to drop a few demon killing one liners then. Best part of the movie is how she loses her hand. Sorry Ash, but Mia just outclassed you.

While a movie like Evil Dead isn't for everyone, I do highly recommend it. It's a reminder of what can be done without CGI effects. It's a resurrection of the fun of a campy horror film done right. For women, I also point out the achievements of Jane Levy. As an actress, Levy brings Mia to the levels of Sigourney Weaver's Ripley. She just flat out kicks ass! 

For the sake of your soul, which smells filthy by the way, go see it!

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