What I really think:
First of all, let me make it clear that this isn't a zombie movie, okay? A long, long time ago, before the dark cloud of the undead trend swept across the suburban shopping malls and sports bars of America, there was an elite cadre of occultists who understood that walking whilst deceased was only a symptom for any number of unholy conditions, the very least of which was that of being an undead servant. To be fair, Romero himself muddied this up a bit with his kind of walking dead. With the odd exception of films like Plan 9 From Outer Space, before Romero the walking undead were made by all manner of dark incantations and workings. They had no singular will and they were usually the tools of a profoundly dark master. Zombies were enslaved by evil masters, and corpses possessed by demonic forces were another matter entirely. The dark spirits which possess and transform the hapless living in Evil Dead are far more spirited than the shambling rot of zombies old and new.
Evil Dead is, of course, a remake of The Evil Dead (1981), the low-budget sensation which launched the careers of Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and may have given a boost to a young filmmaker by the name of Joel Coen. Both films concern a group of five friends who uncover an arcane leather-bound book while visiting an isolated cabin in the woods. This book, written using human blood and skin, summons a horde of demons when its contents are verbalized. The original summoning is slightly more innocent, as the voice which raises the demons is a recorded section of the cabin's original resident reciting the satanic passages. In this updated version, a school teacher with an interest in arcana willfully reads the text out loud, despite all the bloody warnings to the contrary.
|If only someone had tried to warn them!|
|Mia (Jane Levy) don't wanna go to rehab, no.|
Overall, the performances are a cut above the standard for theatrical horror films. Relative newcomer Fede Alvarez allows the actors to invest a little more humanity into the roles, without making them bog down in dramatics which would only distract from the real tension in the story. Actors in a film like this have to walk a fine line between playing it for laughs and playing it straight; a balance that the original didn't completely achieve, but this version gets a little closer to the right equilibrium. David scrambles to cover yet another wound with duct tape, it is supposed to be funny and is delivered as a joke.
|Olivia (Jessica Lucas) knows how to handle the demons some addicts have.|
|She thinks it's funny, anyway.|
|Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) discovers what happens when you read books!|
|This is not a zombie.|
Unfortunately, the Evil Dead soundtrack is completely overwrought. Gone is the plain but effective instrumental hints of the The Evil Dead's score. The soundscape of Evil Dead is unfortunately dominated by an inappropriate and ill-timed orchestral sound. Soaring strings, epic chants and driving percussion make this sound like an overblown religious horror film and not the claustrophobic trap it is meant to be. This isn't a world-shaking battle of good vs. evil, really, it's about trying to survive a satanic onslaught with your soul intact. Ash survived The Evil Dead by getting down, dirty and mean, there were no angels on his side. His character arc was closer to that of a noir hero, or maybe even Travis Bickle. While the arc in Evil Dead is less maniacal, it still ends in a bloody, wet, and fiery mess. Lavish and distracting music only deflates the danger and doom which circles around this cabin in the woods. Sadly, the score pushes the scale of the film's tone closer to camp than it should be.
|Just keep telling yourself those are only branches.|
There is a saying that the Devil will fool you into believing it doesn't exist. Maybe the Devil has been too successful in this regard, maybe it is time to open that cellar door and take a long look at what waits in the lower chambers of our isolated homes. Evil Dead doesn't make it all the way down, but it points a failing flashlight towards the bottom, shines just enough light to make you wonder if what you saw is worse than what waits unseen. Article first published as Movie Review: Evil Dead (2013) on Blogcritics.