Evil Dead Is Awesome

I was initially skeptical at best about the idea of remaking one of the best horror b-movies ever filmed, especially since so much of what’s great about the original revolves around the unique sensibilities of its director and star. As it turns out though, the new film is superb, inspired by the original but very much its own thing, a very different and much more brutal beast.

This is the most exhilarating horror movie I’ve seen since Cabin In the Woods, the most brutally gruesome gorefest I’ve seen on the big screen since maybe Hostel, and the first straight horror movie I’ve seen in a long time that really surprised me. Evil Dead lovingly reconstructs what Cabin In the Woods deconstructed, and the stitched-together reanimated corpse of that autopsied revenant is as scary and gross as you’d imagine it could be, even if I couldn’t watch the Eric-Stoltz-looking dude examing the forbidden book without thinking of Fran Kranz desperately telling everyone to not read the Latin. This is a no-holds-barred old-school spam-in-a-cabin picture that, like its namesake, actually delivers all the thrills and chills all those drive-in trailers promised.

Unlike its namesake, however, there is no sense of humor or gleam in the eye as it goes about its bloody business (barring maybe a couple of clever winks to the original). A lot of people forget that Raimi, Tapert, and Campbell were primarily comic filmmakers before they set out to make a horror picture for their first feature, and ardent disciples of the Three Stooges, as their use of the “fake shemp” label implies (and that term does appear in the credits of this new film, warming my heart). By The Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn they were going all-out Looney Tunes zany, but even in the first one there’s an element of madcap comic energy. The guys making Evil Dead are horror fans inspired by a horror film, and the wackiness is gone. The energy is still there, but it’s all channeled into darker avenues.

Just about every awful thing that can be done to a human body gets done in this film, and done on the screen. There’s tongue stuff, eyeball stuff, limbs coming off in all kinds of rough ways, blunt trauma, fire, water, tree-rape, chunky blood-vomit, nail-gunning, and what kind of an Evil Dead movie would it be without that trusty sawed-off shotgun and chainsaw? There is a spectacular amount of blood onscreen, more than you’d think would fit inside these five peoples’ bodies by a long sight.

There’s more to this than gore, though. Part of the genius of The Evil Dead is that it extracted and combined the active ingredients of The Night of the Living Dead and The Exorcist into a single high-intensity dose. It’s not just that people get torn up, it’s that something gets inside them, and then makes them tear themselves and their friends apart. Possession, damnation, friends trying to rip your face off, having to take a shotgun to your girlfriend, and ruthless flesh-bound killing machines that just will not lay down and die.  These five people are trapped in the worst kind of hell, where something is taking them over and driving them to do horrible, horrible things to each other. And it’s even more intense here because these guys aren’t just out for a nice vacation in an old abandoned cabin in the woods. They’re here because this is their last-ditch attempt to get our leading man’s sister to kick heroin, out where she’ll have no choice but to go cold turkey. No matter what agonizing contortions her body goes through, no matter what terrible hallucinations she suffers, no matter what insane lies she tells to convince them otherwise, they’re going to keep her here until the junk is out of her system.

You can imagine how much worse that makes things.

This is a lean, unapolagetic, brutally bloody scare machine, and it delivers the red meat with a ferocious vengeance, if you have the stomach for it. The rusted-out hulk of the familiar Oldsmobile outside the very familiar cabin (It’s still the same layout as featured in the originals, and in Cabin In the Woods, meaning by this point I’m more familiar with this piece of real estate than I am with some actual houses I’ve lived in) and the fact that they provide a satisfactory answer to the troubling question “why don’t they just burn that goddamned book?” that inevitably crosses the mind as soon as they stumble across it, well, those are just the cherries on top.

Speaking of which, fans will want to stick around through the credits, just because.



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