Potentially a very big but...

I've been stoked for the new Evil Dead since I learned 1.) there would be no re-casting of Ash & 2.) Sam Raimi & Bruce Campbell were producers.  I'd read set-reports here and there and was glad no huge name actors had stepped in (I'm a fan of casting unknowns, especially if it involves a reboot or remake, otherwise a major celebrity comes off as stunt-casting and all I can think is, they must need a new pool), and that Sam & Bruce had such faith in the project.  I was excited for a remake/boot, whichever it was supposed to be.

I saw it today, with my Dad, both of us big fans of the more comedic entries, Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness.  I own and love the original Evil Dead, I love that it pushes its boundaries so far that your only recourse is to laugh at what you're seeing.  It becomes funny because it's simply too much.  I was hoping for some of that in this new take.  You put a title like Evil Dead up, you need to be pushing some gonzo shit, let's just be honest.

Before I get into any of the movie, yes, I'm going to be talking about it, so SPOILER ALERT!  Also, I went it with trepidation, I'd been hearing good things from screenings and a minor review out of SXSW said it's a basic horror movie, but fans of the franchise will get it and it's best viewed with other fans.  Then the day of the movie, my favorite blog posts a review saying it's bits & parts of torture porn and exorcism.  Well, shit.  Hype talk got me hyped and the movie is a let down, I should know better than to trust anything out of Hollywood, dammit.  But the midnight showing viewers started tweeting and Bruce Campbell's sharing and commenting, and people are liking it.  Is it the critic unable to let go and just having a good time that's getting me down?  Fuck it, it's Evil Dead, I'm giving it a shot.

I'm glad I did, it's a good movie, not spectacular, I wouldn't even say great.  It had pacing issues and I didn't care about anyone and all the attempts to get me invested in these people just weren't reaching me.  But once the action started, once we let the demon in, it picked it up.

I've heard a lot of comments of how gory it is.  Bloody, maybe, and not even very much of that.  You want gory?  Go watch Dead Alive.  A couple of arms ripped off and some cut up faces just doesn't constitute gory to me, not even cringe-worthy.  Don't get me wrong, what they showed was fun (how sick am I?) and well done, but it didn't even come close to the other Evil Dead movies.  So, I guess what I'm saying here is, let's dial back the hype talk, it's out, call it bloody if you must, but it was really quite tame.  Or maybe I'm just spoiled.

Okay, so anyway, onto actually talking about what I saw.  There's too much exhibition going on in Hollywood, in movies, on TV, there's too much giving it all away up front.  The movie starts with a girl wondering in the woods looking hurt.  She gets mugged by some seemingly nefarious hillbillies and knocked out.  After some subterfuge it turns out she's possessed and her father must kill her to save her from the demon.  Upon setting her on fire and blowing her head off we get the big bold EVIL DEAD title card.  Honestly, we could have done without it.  Seriously, let's have some mystery and ambiguity back in our entertainment.

We follow a jeep through the woods and out hops a dude and his girlfriend and small introductions are made, we're here to save his sister, everyone's friend from dope.  Going to find his sister, she's drawing and sitting on an abandoned, rusted out Delta 88, "The Classic," Sam Raimi's car that has made a cameo in many of his movies.  Some gears start working for me here.  Yes, it's a shout out, but they could have one of the kids drive it, why is it abandoned and left to nature?  I'll come back to this.  Vowing to commit to sobriety, Mia, the girl, dumps her heroin in a well and they all enter the house.

As Mia starts to go into withdrawal, she swears she can smell something dead.  No one thinks anything of it until the dog with them starts digging at a rug.  Pulling it back reveals a cellar door with blood smeared along the floor leading to it.  The two men, Mia's brother and a pouty hippy, venture down.  All of a sudden everyone can smell what they couldn't before (even though light is pouring through the floorboards so it's not like it was sealed...never mind).  They find a back room in the cellar filled with dead cats strung from the rafters.  One of the supports for the house is burned and we see a quick cut of the girl burning from before (unnecessary, could have been ominous on its own).  The hippy finds a bag wrapped in barbwire.

This guy lets curiosity get the better of him and he opens the package to reveal a book bound in flesh.  Ignoring the obvious creepy factor of a.) where it was found, b.) how it was found, c.) what it is (a book bound in flesh), and d.) it says "DON'T READ IT ALOUD," he reads it aloud.

Mia's pacing in the rain, she sees something that looks like the girl from the beginning (but seeing a random stranger in the woods is scary enough, we don't need the callback).  She reasonably freaks right the fuck out and wants to leave, she can't handle the withdrawal, she wants to go home and when no one is willing to cooperate she breaks out after snatching some car keys.  She sees the visage again and wrecks into a very large puddle.

Coming to, bumped up from the wreck, she crawls out and finds herself pursued by the forest girl.  Here, we get the infamous rape trees.  Twisted, thorny vines snare Mia up and the demon girl vomits a thorny vine snake that then enters Mia in a most horrible fashion.  We're set.  Mia's possessed, let the fun begin.

Once back at the cabin, she's tended to, the others talk about what they need to do, and Mia takes a scalding shower burning her skin.  Amidst all this, they discover they can't leave, can't give Mia much medical attention, and she declares everyone's going to die and throws up blood all over one of the girls.  Mia gets locked in the cellar.  Hippy dude realizes things are starting to look like what was written in the book and tries to figure out what comes next.

I love that one of the key images from the Necronomicon is a demonized version of the original The Evil Dead poster:



The Hippy has to kill the girl that got vomited on after she attacks him after trying to saw her own jaw off.  The possessive nature of the demon from the woods is spreading.  Mia's brother plays nurse to the Hippy's wounds with duct tape and asks his girlfriend who has woefully just stood around all this time to get him something from the house.

When she goes in, the cellar door is open and Mia is crying.  She tricks the girlfriend and attacks her.  Mia bites her hand before she gets away and they're able to better lock the cellar door with chains in a scene reminiscent of Rami's distinct visual style.  This of course leads to the possessed hand of Evil Dead II (and some of the other nods and homages seemed to come from either I or II, making me wonder which film they were attempting to remake).  The waif is no Bruce Campbell and doesn't really sell the possessed hand very well, but goes about cutting off her arm with an electric knife.  There's a lot of blood, but it's not really gory, I would expect some effects of showing the muscles being torn and getting to the bone...that would have been gory.

The guys freak out, another fight breaks out between the guys and the girlfriend (there's a genuinely laugh worthy line delivered by the Hippy along the lines of "Your girlfriend just cut her arm off, that's not normal," feel free to correct me with a quote, I loved this line).  The Hippy told the brother he's got to kill Mia in one of a number of ways to free her from the demon and put her at peace.  Shot full of nails by a one-armed girlfriend, the Hippy doesn't seem like he's going to be much help, but when Mia and her brother fight in the cellar, he saves the day before the brother gets drowned by Mia.  The Hippy then promptly dies; and for whatever reason the brother sets him to floating in the flooded basement (I joked with my Dad, "I'm not dead yet!").

In another clearly Raimi scene, the brother builds a defibrillator from junk from around the house.  He buries Mia alive, waits for her to "die" which is signaled by the air growing calm, then exhumes her and tries to bring her back to life.  It doesn't seem to work and as he walks away defeated, she suddenly pops up, a-okay.

He goes to get his keys so they can leave, but gets attacked by a now possessed Hippy (of course) who declares "He is coming."  Sacrificing himself to save Mia, the brother blows up a gas can with a shotgun and things calm down for a second time, leaving Mia all alone.  In the light of the fire she sees a memento her brother had given her at the beginning of the movie, but then it starts raining blood and the demonized version of the original poster crawls out of the ground and Mia has to fight for herself after having been possessed all this time.

They run after each other a bit until Mia crawls through a burrow into a whole in the tool shed and gets a chainsaw (!) she can't start.  Trying to get away from the demon that looks just like her, she craws between the walls a short way (harkening back to Evil Dead II when Ash was chased and went between some walls).  She gets out, hides under the jeep, starts the chainsaw and cuts off the demon's leg.  As she tries to get away the demon flips the jeep, pinning Mia's left hand.

Now, it's been raining all this time, it's raining blood at current, but Mia can't get out.  She can't wiggle her wrist free from under a roll bar in some mud.  She can however, rip her own flesh and bone and sever her own hand.  K.  You can see where this is going.

She gets up and away and as the demon comes closer, she jams her nub in the handle of the chainsaw, curses the demon, cuts its head in half and survives her night of quitting drugs.

Now, back to that car at the beginning.  The credits rolled and my Dad and I stayed, the lights stayed low, so we stayed on the chance there was something at the end.  Midway through the credits, the original tape recordings of the professor who found the Necronomicon that set the demon free in the original Evil Dead play.  Then, in a post credits cameo and only his face (dramatically lit), we see Ash as played by Bruce Campbell, utter "Groovy."

I don't think this was a remake or reboot at all, this fits squarely in the other three movies, somewhere.  See, in Evil Dead II, the car went with him back in time, so maybe this Evil Dead is actually a sequel to The Evil Dead, and Evil Dead II comes sometime after.  No one pulled out any cellphones and everyone acts like it was so hard to contact, or be in touch with Mia's brother.  Please feel free to correct me, I'm just speculating here.  Perhaps Evil Dead II comes next and then Ash (either a different Ash or an amnesic Ash considering the trauma he first experienced) is sent back in time to fight the Army of Darkness.

Bruce Campbell and Fed Alvarez suggested an ultimate plan, one where we would see a sequel to both this new Evil Dead and Army of Darkness, followed by a movie that would team Ash and Mia up.  So that's the big but of all this.  This could be a mediocre horror movie on its own, but if it's a step along the way to a much larger tapestry that can only be appreciated with the greater scheme of it all?  I remain cautiously optimistic.

Evil Dead is okay.  It's fatal flaw being that none of the actors drew me in, Bruce Campbell is an art unto himself, able to carry a horror movie all by himself, fighting his own hand, himself, a bunch of laughing furniture, and you're sold!  It's hilarious, but anyone not half as committed and it would have been terrible.  The opportunity for greatness or blunder didn't really arise here, thankfully, but no one had the gravitas that would have been demanded.

So, I'll give it a passing grade, and if future sequels make this better in hindsight, then fantastic.  But right now, if you're going to take my word for it, it's a good movie, it's worth a see, but it's not life-changing like any of the Evil Dead's before it.

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