All you need to resurrect a six-feet-under-and-still-digging genre is a copy of The Book of the Dead. That’s what I learned from Evil Dead, the latest incantation — er, iteration! — of the infamously groovy horror series.
As a fairly diehard fan of the original Sam Raimi-directed films (see: The Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn and Army of Darkness) as well as the morbidly hilarious musical (Evil Dead: The Musical), I went into this new version with expectations higher than I’m sure a lot of the high school kids sneaking into the flick, ominously dubbed “The Most Terrifying Film You Will Ever Experience,” were watching it. I wanted mega gore, I wanted it hardcore and I wanted it coming out of every pore. And that is what I got. In blood, pus and vom-soaked spades.
The 2013 version of Evil Dead is, quite simply, utterly sickening. I mean that in both a RuPaul’s Drag Race way (read: so good I could vom on myself) and a girl-slices-her-tongue-in-half-with-a-X-Acto-knife way (read: so horrific I need to vom in another girl’s face). Like its predecessors, which never held back in terms of explicitness, it goes straight for the jugular in every sense, embracing every single opportunity for epic grossness. We see someone go 127 Hours on themselves using an electric meat slicer. We watch another person chainsaw a head in two while blood rain literally pours down. We witness a girl get violated by some seriously rotten wood. And that’s just a sample of all the wonderfully revolting stuff that made the final cut. (God, I’d kill and maim to see a NC-17 version!)
Evil Dead pulls the same old, same old “Cabin in the Woods” schtick, with five kids taking a weekend getaway to the forest only to read the Necronomicon (a.k.a. Book of the Dead) and unleash an angry, ancient evil that wants to swallow their souls one by one, spit them out and lick up the spoiled stew. But there are some interesting, if slightly stretching, twists added make this version slightly more harrowing, including a side plot involving a girl named Mia (Jane Levy, TV’s Suburgatory), who is trying to get over her drug addiction (is she in withdrawal, or is she possessed by Candarian demon!?), and her long lost, suddenly concerned brother (Shiloh Fernandez, Red Riding Hood). Although you might see some of these things coming from a mile away, they definitely differ from the events of the first movies, meaning fans can enjoy the flick as a completely separate, completely wacked entity.
It isn’t just the plot that’s fresh either. There’s not even an attempt to recreate Bruce Campbell’s chainsaw and chin-wielding leading man, Ash. (I don’t think having one of the main male characters wear a blue shirt counts.) Instead, we get to know a new and intriguing set of characters, played by a mix of unknowns and underappreciated favourites. The strongest of the bunch is definitely Levy. She starts off like a more moody version of her character on Suburgatory and ends up a hot, plasma-gurgling, Linda Blair on crack-evoking mess. Her performance ought to earn her a truckload of Scream Awards, if not lifelong status as a righteous modern female horror icon (she’s right up alongside Lola/Princess of The Loved Ones for me). Here’s hoping she’s the start of a new age for the genre, one where survivor girls can be killers and vice versa.
The other standout actor is Lou Taylor Pucci (Thumbsucker), who injects the proceedings with some token comic relief (see: his uncomfortable laughter following one particularly gruesome death). But the real star of this movie is director Fede Alvarez. This is his first full-length film, but you wouldn’t know it at all. I’m sure it helped that he had some backing from Campbell and Raimi (among other major producers), but the effects and make-up are insanely high quality. The same goes for the gorgeously grimy cinematography. Throw in some sweet, tasteless dialogue from a possessed Mia and some very slight, very respectful nods to Raimi, and he’s given us the most beautifully disgusting American horror film in years.
Not to be crass, but if this Evil Dead was a cabin-bound co-ed, I’d hit it like an evil tree.