Directed by Fede Alvarez
Sony Pictures Entertainment
By Rick Hipson
Admittedly, I had some trepidation about seeing a redo of THE EVIL DEAD. Not because it risked hurting the original franchise like so many fan boys feared – ridiculous! – but more because the pillar on which the original trilogy stood, the Almighty Bruce him self, would remain absent from the picture’s billing. No Bruce? Hell, even Ash’s former vehicle, Sam Raimi’s trademark ’73 Oldsmobile Delta 88, got a respectable cameo. I feared this lack of heart and soul that made the originals so much bloody fun would no doubt translate into a less than engaging experience. At least director Fede Alvarez promised to go light on the FX in favor of a more realistic, prosthetic approach which I’m always in favor of. So I took a chance.
The film’s central plot – that’s right, a slasher with a plot – centers around a group of thirty-somethings who decide to hole up in a secluded cabin in the woods as a makeshift intervention headquarters for their heroin addicted friend. Throw in a strained relationship between our junkie and her brother, who had abandoned her years earlier when their own mother went off the sanity range, and maybe we’ve got ourselves a slasher movie with some heart after all, albeit without the comedic angle we’ve so far come to expect and love. Now, I’m not about to suggest that this updated, dare I say matured, plot theme added to the overall substance of the film, but the makers’ desire to lead us in with a more structured plot than we’ve been used to, to go along with the gore soaked terror we viewers crave, deserves to at least be appreciated.
The actors seemed to bring their A-game to the table and managed to pull off some pretty solid performances and genuinely looked repulsed or scared out of their minds when called for it, which was often. I also soon came to appreciate the lack of “cheap scares” that could have easily watered down the more serious approach taken in this film. No off-camera cats jumping around here. Whenever the spooky score begins its fevered pitch, expect some very bad shit to hit the proverbial fan.
As the film progresses, it’s clear the film makers had set out to create something a few notches more serious than we’ve come to expect and love from the franchise. If anyone has ever watched a low or no budget backyard film and thought, that was fun, but I’d love to see what these guys can do with an actual budget, well, I suppose this is that film.
A round of kudos is in order to the FX team for giving the terror an updated face lift. Sure, nothing will beat seeing Ash’s hand flip him the finger as it scampers laughing across the cabin floor, but once the doomed group start to turn from scared and clueless to a murderous, zombified resurrection of their former selves, it’s clear the film decided to push for terror over campy. Which isn’t to say it won’t manage to pull a few chuckles during some of the more over the top kill scenes. Apparently some of the more violent stuff was deemed too intense for public audiences and was therefore saved for the director’s cut. I’m thinking if they got away showing what they did including an ode to the original tree fucking scene from the original. I can only imagine what goodies might have been saved for the DVD release. Luckily, the film is now available on DVD and blue ray format so you can go straight to the Director’s cut.
While die hard DEAD fans won’t be hailing to the king for his endearing trademark campy contribution this time out, most shouldn’t have any qualms about sticking this latest installment on the shelf next to the almighty Bruce and the EVIL DEAD trilogy that started it all. After all, this might ultimately be Bruce’s world, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn to have a good time in it without his severed hand there to flip us off at the gates.
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