“Evil Dead” Review: Blood Stains Can’t Cover Up Everything

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“Evil Dead” Review: Blood Stains Can’t Cover Up Everything

By Wesley Emblidge

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Evil Dead

About a month ago I saw Sam Raimi’s new film, “Oz the Great and Powerful,” and took note of one specific shot that reminded me of the fun, creative camerawork in the 1981 horror classic “The Evil Dead” that made Raimi a star. In the shot, Oz (James Franco) is in a hot air balloon that has been whisked up by a tornado, and has to move quickly out of the way of a number of jagged chunks of wood stabbing into the basket. It was a fun, inventive shot that felt like Raimi returning to his roots.

Now, that original film has been remade, this time with Raimi just as producer. Yet it felt like director Fede Alvarez almost wishes he was Raimi, with a shot very similar to the aforementioned one. In Alvarez’s film, a character is hiding behind a table and is almost stabbed with nails that come flying through the wood. The difference is, Raimi knows how to make that moment fun and exciting, and Alvarez just sort of throws it in, not really knowing what to do with it. That really characterizes a lot of what’s going on in “Evil Dead,” although it does still manage to remove itself from the original in many ways and be it’s own film.

The first of those differences is the plot. The original film was very simple, with friends going up to a cabin and then discovering something evil. There wasn’t much backstory, to characters, the trip, or the cabin itself. The new film changes all of that. This time, the trip up to a cabin in the woods is in order to help Mia (Jane Levy) get over her drug addiction. Along for the trip are her friends Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), Olivia (Jessica Lucas), her older brother David (Shiloh Fernandez), and his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore). The cabin is David and Mia’s family’s cabin that they haven’t been to in years, and discover a variety of strange witchcraft items hidden in the basement, including one very strange book bound with human skin. Eric reads from the book and unwittingly releases an evil upon Mia that sends this weekend of going cold turkey into something much, much worse.

The other thing that sets the film apart from its source is tone. Raimi’s film is arguably a comedy, full of slapstick and crazy over-the-top gore (and its sequels “Evil Dead II” and “Army of Darkness” reaffirm this). Alvarez’s film plays it completely straight, not a moment of joking in it. This film is meant to scare you, not make you laugh.

The tagline on the poster boldly proclaims this as “The most terrifying film you will ever experience.” Sadly, the film just really isn’t scary. It’s incredibly violent, the kind of film that certainly should be rated NC-17 for gore, but of course since this is a studio release the MPAA wouldn’t dare let it lose money that way. I can’t remember the last big studio film that was as sadistically violent as this, so I suppose it does deserve points for that. The thing is though, the gore is gross, but not scary. It’s impressive from a technical standpoint I suppose, and thankfully it’s mostly practical rather than CG, but that doesn’t really end up being enough. The few scary moments from the film that I can remember didn’t even involve violence, and only one of those even made me jump.

Everything else is just very standard. No one in the cast is especially good or bad, although some of their characters or just terrible. David’s girlfriend Natalie is…David’s girlfriend. That’s as far as her characterization goes, she’s essentially just there for disgustingly violent things to happen to her. Her character is so weak that it makes Olivia seem interesting, even though her only characteristic is being a doctor and knowing doctor things.

As a director, Alvarez ranges from somewhat inventive, to very standard horror movie, to trying way too hard to be the new Raimi. He has at least made a film that is miles and miles better than most of the bland horror movies studios churn out for halloween each year, but does that mean it’s good? Not really, but for fans of horror movies it’s a doable way to spend 90 minutes, and is even different enough from “The Evil Dead” so fans of it can enjoy this remake.

2.5/5 Stars