Mon
Apr 8 2013 11:30am
Shut Up, Linda! Evil Dead

Evil Dead reboot movie review

I am a coward of epic proportions when it comes to horror movies. I also love them. I love Vincent Price and Bela Lugosi and Nosferatu and teen slashers Stephen King and Ray Harryhausen. I love it when a bunch of teenagers get themselves trapped in a haunted insane asylum where all the patients burned to death 50 years ago to this day. I love it when people are mysteriously summoned to an abandoned house on a hill and have to survive the night. I wasn’t always like this. In grade school, I spent my Saturday nights cowering under the covers while trying to get through an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? The first episode of The X-Files I ever saw was the one where Tooms chases Mulder under the escalator and it eats him and his goo spreads over the stairs. I’m 30 years old and I still have a mini-panic attack every time I take the escalator.

Most filmmakers don’t aspire to make art anymore, and that’s fine I guess. But it seems like the horror genre gets a bigger piece of that moldy pie, particularly when it comes to torture porn. Graphic violence for the sake of being graphically violent. No point, no artistic merit, nothing but gross shock-outs. Like, oddly enough, the romantic comedy, somewhere in the last decade filmmakers re-evaluated the horror genre, picked out its worst attributes, and highlighted them above all else. Their tactics haven’t failed. If people would stop wanting to watch Katherine Heigel make grumpy cat faces at Gerard Butler or young people getting sewn together, the world would be an altogether better place. And I wouldn’t have been sent to watch the pervasively unnecessary Evil Dead remake.

Mia is a heroin addict who enlists the help of her absent brother and their two friends and the brother’s girlfriend to help her kick the habit cold turkey. They trek out to their family’s abandoned cabin out in the middle of the wilderness and find it broken into, riddled with cat carcasses, and smelling of burnt hair. They decide to stay anyway, as you do. While discovering the dead cats hanging from the basement rafters, Eric, the Scotty replacement, finds a book that is clearly made of stitched-together human flesh (sans disfigured face) and does what NO ONE IN THEIR RIGHT MIND WOULD DO and reads from the damn thing. Despite the myriad warnings for him NOT TO DO JUST THAT he freaking does it anyway because he’s an asshole. He summons up a demon who has to take five souls down to hell in order to open the door for her master. How convenient, then, that there are five idiot kids in that stupid cabin, just ripe for the picking.

If you have made it to 2013 without knowing one of the characters in the original Evil Dead gets raped by a demonic tree, then I’m sorry but don’t come crying to me about spoilers. That scene is re-enacted here, and it’s even worse than you think. Mia spreads her possession around like an STD—seriously, she passes it through kissing, bloody vomit, and a bite which, sadly, doesn’t result in the girl staging a battle sequence with her hand. People die, then come back and die again, and the whole thing is resolved in a way that is somehow even dumber than the original. They didn’t even have the decency to toss in a solid cliffhanger for the inevitable sequel.

Evil Dead reboot movie review

I can’t decide if Evil Dead is too graphic for traditional horror or not graphic enough for torture porn. The original did a lot of things poorly (a good 30 minutes of the movie was nothing but Linda laughing maniacally and Ash standing around looking shocked and vaguely squeemish). It’s easy to throw shade at a movie whose main aspiration is to trap five attractive people in a confined space and kill them off in increasingly vicious ways. But even the modes of dispatch aren’t all that creative or innovative. At least Final Destination had the decency to knock off a character by hitting them with an exploding neon sign. Evil Dead wants to make its audience uncomfortable, and for that it succeeds in spades, but that’s less to do with the violence and more to do with the characters being the dumbest people on the face of the earth. When Mia’s eyes change color and she goes crazy and vomits a good 10 gallons of blood on Olivia—who is a nurse and therefore not supposed to be this dense—she chalks it up to Mia going through withdrawal. This is also the same chick who not 10 minutes before convinced the group to commit a felony by illegally imprisoning Mia in the cabin to prevent her from leaving.

The thing that made the first Evil Dead movie so good wasn’t the horror, but Raimi’s filmmaking earnestness. He didn’t set out to make a campy schlock-fest but real horror. It doesn’t matter that he failed spectacularly at it. What matters is the craft he poured into the creation of that film. There is an artistry to it. If you watch the first film, there is genuine skill in the way the shots are constructed, the way the suspension is built, the way he uses light and darkness, shadows and colors, everything. One of my favorite shots in any film ever is the upside down shot of Ash where the camera starts over his head and turns to face him and his terrified, adorable mug. The remake pays homage to that shot but wastes it on a bunch random, non-raping trees who haven’t done anything, not even threaten Mark Wahlberg with their sinister happenings.

There is no talent in front of or behind the camera in the remake. No one took any time to make something with this picture. They threw in a ton of Easter eggs for fans, but they served no purpose except to say, “Hey, look, a car that looks like Ash’s! But this one is rusty and doesn’t run and you’re old.” The actors do the best they can with shoddy material, but they aren’t good enough to pull it off. Jane Levy (Mia) does competent work as a victim, but Ted Raimi made a much better possessed chick. Remember how pathetic Ash was in the first half of The Evil Dead? That’s the entirety of the character of David, Mia’s brother, and Shiloh Fernandez plays him like he’s auditioning for a late-90s WB teen drama. Eric’s only job is to ruin everyone’s day by releasing the demon, and Lou Taylor Pucci isn’t completely terrible at playing that part. The other two are insignificant insofar as characters; they exist solely as cannon fodder.

If you insist on seeing Evil Dead, at least have the sense to see it in a packed theatre on a weekend night. Don’t wait to Netflix it or sit through a mostly empty screening like I did. At least in a crowded screening you have a better chance of getting swept up in the action. Ultimately, it’s not a horrible movie—here’s looking you, House of Wax remake—but it’s pretty far from good. It’s biggest crime is not making a point for why it should exist. A remake should try to do something new with the material. All the 2013 version did was become more stomach-churning, and even that aspect wasn’t as gross as it could be. The tag almost, almost, almost makes the whole affair worth it. Almost.


Alex Brown is an archivist, research librarian, writer, geeknerdloserweirdo, and all-around pop culture obsessive who watches entirely too much TV. Keep up with her every move on Twitter, or get lost in the rabbit warren of ships and fandoms on her Tumblr.

16 comments
Walker White
1. Walker
This was a problematic movie. Some of the concerns above are genuine, but others less so.

The biggest concern is the the characters. They tried to make the characters much more believable, and less shallow than the original. Unfortunately, they also had to move the plot forward. The only way to do this was to make the characters do incredibly stupid things (much more stupid than the characters in the original). At one point in the theater, a woman behind me said "I want to kill this guy myself. How do I reach into the film to kill him?"

What the film does extremely well, however, is the effects; the return to physical effects was a major plus. It is also the reason why the reviewer feels that it is incredibly gory. Honestly, if you look at Reanimator, or From Beyond, or the 82 Thing, this film is not any more gorey than those standard horror films. Indeed, when watching this with a very reactive audience my main thought over and over was "have any of you ever seen a horror film before?" The problem with this new film is that the gore was the only thing going for it, while the 80s classics had other elements; gore was intended to enhance, not be the focus.

The effects are so strong (for the given budget) that, when the film has to use CGI, it is really telling. I have never been a fan of the tree rape scene (in either movie), but I found the one in this movie far less disturbing. As obvious CGI, it was the worst effect in the movie. I still find the visceral practical effects in the original film to be more disturbing that this (also that rape scene is significantly longer, while the new movie has thankfully shortened it).

Despite the flaws of this movie, it would be great if it causes a resurgence of make-up effects in supernatural horror (as opposed to the horrible CGI we see in the World War Z trailers).
Eric Saveau
2. Eric Saveau
Yeah, this movie would lose me at the same point the first movie did - "raped by a tree". I like the second film and Army Of Darkness is possibly my favorite guilty pleasure of all time, but rape-as-entertainment just doesn't fly for me. I'm not objecting to it as subject matter, but the sensationalistic way it's depicted in some movies, and especially cheap horror movies, is something I draw the line at. I get that this particular scene is "iconic" but that doesn't excuse or justify it.
Walker White
3. Walker
@Eric Saveau

I get that this particular scene is "iconic" but that doesn't excuse or justify it.

Ironically, Raimi has said in several commentaries that he realizes it was too much. I am not sure why they wanted to embrace it again. Most of the fan base prefers ED 2 over ED1 anyway.
Eric Saveau
4. Eric Saveau
Also, The Evil Dead has already had a good remake; The Cabin In The Woods. It's a brilliant deconstruction of everything about schlock horror films and the audiences who love them.
Eric Saveau
5. Eric Saveau
@Walker

Yes, I've heard that from Raimi, and Bruce Campbell spoke of it queasily in his autobiography. I think the filmmakers re-included the scene because of its iconic status and because, from everything I can tell, schlock horror movie fans just lurve their rape scenes.
Eric Saveau
6. Megpie71
Why bother remaking Evil Dead? Sam Raimi already did that - he called it Evil Dead 2 (it's the one with four colours of blood gushing out of the walls). Seriously, watch Evil Dead (the original), and then Evil Dead 2, and you quickly realise the second film is basically a remake of the first, with Sam Raimi cheerfully embracing the schlock in "schlock-horror" and Bruce Campbell being encouraged to leave toothmarks in all the sets.

A new remake (and from the sounds of it, a half-hearted po-facedly serious one) just defeats the purpose.
Eric Saveau
7. Tinsel & Tine
Director Fede Alvarez was a huge fan of the original and tried to pay homage with his version. We got a chance to interview him on Tinsel & Tine - http://www.tinseltine.com/2013/04/candis-corner-interview-with-new-evil.html
kevin syers
8. kevsyers
I guess I stand alone when saying that I thought the movie was very good. Maybe it was the audience reactions or just my general good mood at the time but I had a blast watching it.

It was over the top and a bit corny in some parts but that just lent to the overall throwback to the old horror movie genre that it was recreating.
Eric Saveau
9. mama7926
Wow! What a horribly negative review. I love horror. My husband loves horror. Our 2 daughters 14 & 7 y.o. (although not allowed anywhere near this movie ) love horror. The great thing about horror movies is there is such a broad spectrum, from OMG that might really be based on true events, to comedic, to 80's gore type that don't have to make sense really. Or have great acting so to speak. It's gore. If u take the gore out what do you have? Blair Witch. Which was a good movie for what it was trying to do. If you start out a dragged out pessimistic review for a movie by saying you were forced to see it, perhaps someone a little more unbiased should have done it? I know for me &my husband ws have been counting down the days since the first trailer. Not because we want to see superb acting, because we want to see a reboot done right, we want to see the blood & guts in our face paying homage to a movie that scared the crap out of us as kids (& made us laugh ). I want to plan my annual elaborate Halloween costume possibly based on the main character . (Both of my kids have been zombies & Samara from the ring. It took me 6 hours to do my own zombie make up last year, & my neice won't go trick or treating w/us anymore...lol) my point is, you should be more responsible when you possibly have influence on other people's decision making. People don't get how we have family walking dead night. We let the kids stay up that night & watch together. We also educated on the MAKING of it. Which we do with alot of horror we let them watch. Its fake. We know it's fake as an audience. But its also fun to be scared if that's your cup of tea. Please in the future. Maybe you could say you don't like it because.... but for those who like.... you'll love it! Obviously fhere are more of us than you considering the opening weekend results.
Eric Saveau
10. Eric Saveau
Unbiased, mama7926? You clearly have a bias towards horror, therefore we cannot give your comment any particular weight, yes?
Eric Saveau
11. NickM
@Eric (at various points)

-I suppose I'd be classified as a schlock horror fan (at least in part), and I can be quite happy without the rape scenes.

-Agreed, "Cabin in the Woods" was a great deconstruction of the genre. And I could see it as a sort of "ED" remake.

-I don't know how many folks there are in the 'media' who are truly unbiased towards what they review, and whose reviews are worth my time or consideration. I think most everyone's got them leaning a noticeable amount to one way or the other. And while I gain some value on occasion from the "against" side, there's plenty of times where I don't.

When I have to orient the compass (so to speak) against a reviewer in a genre where I'm a fan, I usually get more valuable results from the positive bias than the negative one.
Eric Saveau
13. Eric Saveau
@NickM

Mama7936's comment was essentially "If you don't like what I like, that means you're biased! And it's wrong for you to write your reviews the way you do; instead you should write the way I want you to! And there are more people like me than like so, so there!"

Which was offensively childish. AlexBrown started her review by self-identifying as a fan of horror films, and stated clearly what her take on this film was from that perspective. Mama7926's reaction to that wasn't the interested disagreementof a fan with a contrary take; it was merely reactionary scolding. My use of "biased" and "unbiased" in my subsequent comment was merely to note the irony of the preceding accusations.

I also self-identify as a horror fan, though perhaps a very different sort than most. I cannot abide torture porn; I have little or no tolerance for films that delight in torturing, debasing, degrading, and butchering helpless people for entertainment. Which is not to say that I shun violence or gore, I do not. But I do shun the mysognistic and the misanthropic.
Alex Brown
14. AlexBrown
@Walker: I disagree with the physical effects being well done. That rape-y tree branch thing that slithered up Mia's leg looked like something off a network TV movie. But I will agrree in your hopes that it triggers a resurgance in using "reality" as an effect over CGI. I wish they had pushed the envelope with the gore. They wanted to make it gross and shocking, but there was nothing innovative or out there about it. It wasn't gorey/shocking enough to be really frightening. They didn't need to go the torture porn route, but they did need to take it up a notch.

@Eric: Tree rape makes me uncomfortable for a variety of reasons, but the only feminist rage thing for me was why is Mia the only one who has to get raped? If the demon spreads like an STD, then why can't it just bite or kiss Mia? Or, if it has to go through rape, then why didn't anyone else get violated? Pick one or the other.

And yes, Cabin in the Woods is a FANTASTIC deconstruction of the genre, but I'd argue that Raimi treads the same Evil Dead grounds to better results with Drag Me To Hell. Love that movie. And I absolutely hate torture porn. That is a personal bias if there ever was one. I won't review it, I won't watch it. I watched Twilight even though I hate its entire existence, but I reviewed it because I knew I'd be able to look at it objectively at least from a craft perspective. I'd never be able to separate out my revulsion of Human Centipede from my evaulation of the filmmaking itself.
Alex Brown
15. AlexBrown
@Megpie: It's funny: a lot of the scenes that people remember from Evil Dead - the laughing deer head, Ash's crazy hand - are from the "sequel," not the first. The 2013 remake never made a case for why it exists. If you're going to redo something, don't just redo it, make something new out of it.

@kevsyers: That's exactly why I recommended seeing it in a group. Much easier to get swept away with the action. One of my favorite movie experiences was seeing Jeepers Creepers in a full house at 11pm on a Friday night. Every singel audience member was shouting at the screen and everyone jumped at the same time. Took a bad movie and made it a hell of a lot of fun to watch.

@mama: Enjoying a movie and it being "good" are two different topics. (And I'd like to point out that nowhere did I make any claims to being unbiased. Reviews are always subjective...anyone claiming anything else is lying.) I don't watch teen slasher movies for the good acting, but because they're fun. But that also doesn't mean that My Bloody Valentine is in any way, shape, or form a good movie, Jensen Ackles or no. I did not care for the experience of The Evil Dead remake, nor did I care for the film itself, and not because I don't like horror (please, read the article before trying to take me down a peg).

@Nick: I really am a huge horror fan...tried to make that clear with the opening paragraphs. But there was just so much to complain about with this remake.
Eric Saveau
16. Eric Saveau
@AlexBrown: Ugh, Human Centipede. I've never seen it and never will; the mere description made me nauseous, and its fans make me shudder.

I'm reminded of a conversation I had with another horror fan some years back: I mentioned that I've never seen The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and said fan was mystified and a bit outraged and demanded to know why. I said "Because it has the words 'chainsaw' and 'massacre' in the title."

And then there are films like Neil Marshall's The Descent. I found that film to be well-written, well-acted, and marvelously shot. The cave itself is terrifying just as an environment, even before... things happen. It's a deeply scary film, and a genuinely good film, and I'm very glad I saw it... but I don't think I'll ever be able to watch it again. I imagine anyone else who saw it and liked it probably understands, even if they don't feel the same way.
Alex Brown
17. AlexBrown
@The Descent is on my Netflix queue for all the reasons you listed. People kept recommending it to me. And while it's not in the horror genre vein as Evil Dead, the original and remake of Fright Night are great movies. Well-acted, well-scripted, highly entertaining, etc. That remake did what the Evil Dead remake failed utterly to do, and that is to do something new with their version. The remake comments on what it's like to be a teenager today, single mom's and their loneliness, even the vampire's own loneliness, all great.

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