DVD Review: Evil Dead

Evil Dead is one of many horror classics that have been rebooted for a new generation of genre fans. Some of these remakes have hit the mark (2003’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) whereas others have fallen flat (2005’s The Fog). Still, there’s no denying that they’re more often than not a proven source of profit for studios – even if they fail to set box-office ablaze – and because of that, no horror classic is safe, and the best fans can hope for is that justice is done when the screaming begins.

Now I’ve only seen Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead once before, and it was at an age where I found it to be more laughable than scary. That seems to be the case with a lot of horror films from the 1970s and ‘80s. Today’s audience is so desensitized to blood and gore that one has to remember that it’s been 30-40 years since many of these movies were made, and back then they did their job and gave moviegoers nightmares. So I don’t blame studios for taking these ideas from the vault and updating them in an attempt to once again scare audiences and make a quick buck while doing so.

Evil Dead takes the same rough outline of Raimi’s film and adds its own spin on the characters and story itself. There’s still a secluded cabin, a book of evil and an ancient curse. But instead of five friends looking to get away from it all and have some fun, this time there are four friends having an intervention to help their drug addicted friend, Mia (Jane Levy), quit cold turkey by locking themselves away in this cabin for a few days. We’re also informed that this isn’t the first time the group has tried to do this for Mia, and the last time she quit the process eight hours in and overdosed soon after. Because of this, the group vows to keep her out there no matter how much she wants to leave, or how often she complains.

This idea is one I really liked, as right away it gives the film a great dark atmosphere, and a reason for not up and running away right when things start to get a little weird. Okay, maybe there’s one point when they should’ve upped and run away before things got “demonically” weird (finding a trail of dried blood that leads to a dark, locked up cellar can never be a good thing), but overall the idea fits in perfectly with the story.

Everything takes place in the cabin and surrounding area at night (or in the very foggy day), so it’s a very eerie setting, and it’s one of the films major highlights. In fact, the atmosphere and set design are both incredibly well done throughout, and give the film a very unsettling feeling from very early on.

The direction by Fede Alvarez is really well done, and it pays homage to quite a few of the shots from the original Evil Dead (such as the POV of “Evil” moving through the forest) while coming up with quite a few intense shots of his own. He’s also come up with some great old-school horror tricks with the special effects crew, not relying on CGI, which helps give the film a raw, gritty feel that it needs.

On the violence front, this film is extremely graphic, with buckets of blood, loads of gore, constant stabbings and plenty of dismemberment. Some will enjoy this, while others will cringe at certain aspects of it. Lets just say that if you’re squeamish when it comes to this type of thing, well, steer clear of Evil Dead.

One of the main places the film falters is in its characters. Now this is a horror movie, so it’s easy to write them off as simple demon fodder; however, even films in this genre benefit greatly by creating characters audiences care about or don’t want to see die. Here, nobody really matters. The closest person audiences have to care about is Mia, and that’s really only because Levy does such a great job playing her.

The rest of the characters are there to simply go through the motions until their time is up. Because of this, the film relies heavily on scares in order to keep you interested, and unfortunately if you’ve seen even a handful of horror films, odds are you’ll know when the scares are coming long before they happen. That’s not to say the film isn’t creepy at all, it’s just not one that will have you jumping out of your chair, or leave you making sure the nightlight is turned on before going to sleep after watching it.

Evil Dead isn’t a complete misfire; it simply proves that when you hype up your film with promotional posters that simply say, “The Most Frightening Film You Will Ever Experience,” you better deliver on that promise or you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment.

The film looks fantastic, with a great DVD transfer that keeps things looking gritty and atmospheric, while never feeling grainy, or poorly lit. The audio is also really well done, with both the music fitting in perfectly, as well as the dialogue coming through nice and clearly.

Making Life Difficult – This featurette comes in at just over eight minutes in length and sees Alvarez and Levy talking about some of the more difficult tasks they faced on set.

Directing the Dead – This featurette comes in at just over seven minutes in length and mainly sees Alvarez talking about taking on the franchise, and the hardships and joys of directing such a film.

Being Mia – This piece comes in at just over nine minutes in length and sees Levy take viewers on a tour via a camera she’s holding. It’s a bit like a day in the life on set, though it’s pretty brief on just how daunting certain aspects must have been. Overall it’s still an interesting watch, and definitely shows how tiring filming parts of this film would’ve been on cast and crew.

If you’re looking for buckets of blood and a solid level of gore, Evil Dead is for you. While it lacks in character development, the film delivers in atmosphere, set design and make-up and effects that help make it a passable re-imagining of the 1980s classic.

Tristar Pictures FilmDistrict and Ghost House Pictures Present Evil Dead. Directed by: Fede Alvarez. Written by: Fede Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues. Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore. Running time: 91 minutes. Rating: R. Released: July 16, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.

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