Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Evil Dead

  A long time fan of the franchise, I was keen to see what they'd done with this remake back in 2013, and without fail, I immediately saw it, and reviewed it. But, I wasn't thrilled with it. It was just 'okay' to me. Yet for some reason, it seriously stuck in my head and I've been nursing a desire to see it again for well over a year. Given that it's October, and I'm all about seasonal viewing this month, I figured... why the hell not? I've mainly been shooting for movies I haven't seen before, but I was really going to dig into this one and give it a good thorough once-over. I can safely say it was one of the best picks I've decided on all month. This movie was simply begging to be let out of the cellar.

  Right off the bat, one of the first things I noticed, that I was too preoccupied to really see last time, was how gorgeous this movie is. The visuals knocked me on my ass. Every frame of this movie has been obsessed over and meticulously crafted to be striking. The director and the cinematographer really had a strong vision for this movie and that's important. It'd be easy to lump this movie in with any other modern remake of an 80's classic- but that's unfair. The director clearly has nothing but love for the original, but also seems to understand that he couldn't just do a stale do-over. He started making this his own movie with the look of it.

   The colors, the lighting, the framing- all of it was just amazing. Every scene had a shot that stood out to me and caught my eye. I'm a really big fan of the original movies, but none of them were this visually striking. Sure, they all had exceptional flair- but this is more than that. This was a total control over everything that was in frame, this was care and dedication. It all shows on screen, I only wish I had seen it sooner. Not 12 minutes in, and already I was impressed. I took a bunch of screenshots to illustrate my point.

  You gotta admit, those are some pretty stunning shots. The movie is full of them. I made an album of screenshots you can scroll through here at your leisure. (Minor spoilers in there.) As an artist myself, well crafted visuals score mucho brownie points with me, yet that wouldn't be enough to make this movie great in it's own right. It would have to have a lot more than that. Right? Right. The good news is that it does. I don't think I fully appreciated how much of an upgrade the plot is over the original. See, in the original Evil Dead, it was about a bunch of college brats going to a cabin in the woods for some partying and some such. Simple, but effective. This one wouldn't have been blamed for going the same route- yet it doesn't. It does something much more creative.

  The group of friends this time have all gathered at this cabin to help a friend kick her dangerous drug habit. That's a scary and emotional process by itself, this could've been a horror movie even without all the demonic witchcraft and bloodshed- but hey, this movie isn't called Cold Turkey, it's called Evil Dead. That's a big name to live up to. The plot allows for a much stronger core dynamic between the two leads, Mia and David. Mia is the one with the drug habit to kick, and David is her often-absent brother who's come back to help her get through this. All the other characters serve a function and little else, which is kind of sad that they're all kind of... cardboard cut outs, but it's a minor gripe in the bigger picture of things.

  I think David and Mia's dynamic really help the movie overcome heaps of potential weaknesses. They have a genuine brother/sister vibe that infuses the movie with an unexpectedly strong emotional core. The more you care about the characters, the more invested you become in their survival, thus the scares become scarier because you want them to live that much more. I think the movie's third act twist is fantastic, and until that point you're kinda wondering what the payoff is going to be between the David/Mia situation, because Mia is the poor soul who gets possessed after one of the others reads from a creepy book they found in the cellar.

  Let's talk about that fucking guy for a moment. This character, Eric, played by Lou Taylor Pucci, (who I absolutely loved as the lead in last year's Spring) is one of the most dense, insensitive, annoying, and irritating characters I've ever seen. I know that's saying a lot, but I really hated his guts. Not only is he the dickhead who decides to open the creepy-ass book, that's actually bound shut by barbed wire, he ignores the dozens of warnings scrawled into the pages that the book is evil and you absolutely should not read it under any circumstances. I refuse curiosity alone would have someone go far enough to painstakingly decipher and read a passage from the book. Especially since this is the guy who first insisted it was probably witchcraft in the first place. He's got to be like... mentally touched. Right?

  There could've been a bunch of better ways to handle this part. His sole function in the movie was to fuck everything up, but it's not even done creatively. He just decides to read from the book because... he's bored I guess. Idiot. But, more than that... it's just poor writing. Thankfully, it's one of the few instances of poor writing to be found in this flick, thankfully. Beyond that, Eric is just a massive whiner, exploiting every opportunity to be a real Captain Obvious, bringing everyone down when they try to be even the littlest bit optimistic. This is the kind of guy who should've been first to go. Unfortunately, he wasn't. Ugh.

  Aside from Mia and David, played with genuine gusto by Jane Levy and Shiloh Fernandez, respectively, the other characters are just demon fodder. They're not interesting enough for us to really care what happens to them either way. Not that they deserve what happens to them in the slightest, so in that sense we can still feel the tension and suspense when they're in danger, but it's nowhere near as compelling as when the lead characters are the focus. Having said that, the lack of compelling material, character-wise, is made up for by some of the sickest gore effects I've seen in ages. Truly vile stuff. They went the whole ten years here with the blood and guts, but all that would've been for naught if it wasn't also creative and unique- which it is.

  Self mutilation is a big theme in this movie, and it's horrifying. There's an oppressive feeling of hopelessness and desperation that builds throughout the movie, one that doesn't let up until the last act when things take a 'fight back' turn that works really well. But, damn. The special effects are expertly and carefully blended with old school practical effects and it's amazing. I could never tell if I was ever looking at CGI or not. I have a feeling there was some, but probably not as much as naysayers might think there would be. Director Fede Alvarez clearly wanted to please fans with this bloodbath of a movie.

  The protagonist mantle seems to rest on David's shoulders for the majority of the movie, but it's not just his to bear. Eventually Mia has to take charge and fight back, and boy... when she does, it's a thing of blood-drenched beauty. I loved her as a character, and the actress clearly gave it her all. My hat is off to her, because this couldn't have been an easy role. As exhausted and spent as I feel after watching it, I can't even imagine what it must've been like making it. I'm also slightly sad that it's likely we won't see her character anymore, not now that franchise poster boy, Bruce Campbell has returned to the property. Alas, alack. Oh well.

  Anyhow, Evil Dead is an exceptionally well crafted flick, dripping with atmosphere and raw scares. Jump scares and low blows aren't the flavor of the week in this bloody shock fest. This is movie that thrives on an old school vibe to deliver new scares. For every nerve jangling door slam (and there's a lot of those) there's a sick and gory set piece that'll work hard (and succeed) to get under your skin. I don't think this is one that should be passed up. I think it's visuals and it's emotional strength place it head and shoulders above the original. Only nostalgia could interfere with that opinion at this point. It's rousing and exciting climax are the explosive icing on the proverbial cake. This one is one that had me on the edge of my seat the whole time, and will continue to in future re-watches. What more can I say? This one is... well...


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