MOTW: "Evil Dead" Review

Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing

MOTW: "Evil Dead" Review

Rating: R (strong bloody violence and gore, some sexual content and language)
Length: 91 minutes
Release Date: Apr. 5, 2013
Directed by: Fede Alvarez
Genre: Horror

David (Shiloh Fernandez) is a typical teenager in many respects except one—his sister Mia (Jane Levy) is a drug addict who can't seem to kick the habit. Instead of ratting her out to their parents, he teams up with friends Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), Olivia (Jessica Lucas), and Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) to take her out to a cabin in the woods to help her detox in the hope that she will be done with heroin for good. Unfortunately for the group of friends, the cabin was the site of some really evil occurrences years before, and the entity that caused those events is still lurking.

The friends, having already discussed how hard the detox session will be on Mia, know she will suffer bad withdrawal symptoms, including the shakes, sweating, bad skin pallor, and maybe even hallucinations. Mia wants none of this, so she escapes out into the woods, where she gets entangled in a tree in what is easily one of the more controversial scenes in any film this year. She is assaulted by the tree and possessed by a demon, after which she runs back to the cabin to warn her friends. They don't believe her story about the tree and chalk it all up to delusions caused by her withdrawal. By the time they realize she wasn't lying, the demon has managed to possess all five of them.

Soon, the close-knit group of friends begin to turn on each other as each one is possessed in turn. Each death is a bloodbath, with plenty of body parts and gory sequences that will satisfy fans of the original film while also bringing in new fans who maybe haven't seen the 1981 classic. There are moments of levity and even a few slapstick scenes that are all a nod to the original film, but "Evil Dead" stands on its own—part remake and part improvement—with plenty of shocks and thrills, along with the occasional laugh.

There are plenty of moviegoers who think that remaking classic horror movies is a trend that has reached its logical conclusion, a viewing of "Evil Dead" will likely change their minds. It is an update of the 1981 original that has all the horror and thrills but with more blood, creepiness and plausibility than the original. It's not perfect, but it is better than most other horror films, and definitely better than most remakes because it does manage to offer the audience something new. The character names have been changed, and nobody really plays Bruce Campbell's iconic Ash character from the original. Had Ash been in this film, it probably wouldn’t have worked because Campbell's hammy performance can't really be matched. It was a smart move to eliminate that character and use Fernandez's character as a stand-in of sorts instead.

"Evil Dead" also bucks one horror trope that is extraordinarily tired by now. In many horror films, a group of friends decides to go out into a remote cabin to have a lot of fun, but they run into some serial killer and end up dead. The films rarely explain why a bunch of fun-loving teens would want to be out in the middle of nowhere without cell phone reception or TV when they could be at the beach or some other exotic locale instead. "Evil Dead" has a fantastic premise that not only explains why the teens are in the cabin but also explains why they can't just up and leave when things start getting weird. Their desire to help Mia exorcise her drug demons is a warmhearted, caring gesture that horror films so rarely have. These teens are much more serious than most teens in this genre, which makes the film much smarter than viewers might expect from a horror flick.

The actors in the film are mostly in their twenties, but they actually look like teenagers, which is nice to see, as people playing teens in films often don't look that young. Levy especially looks much younger than her twenty-three years, adding even more to the plausibility of the film. She is not only the first-billed actor in the film, she is the standout performer. Mia is a far cry from Tessa, the character she plays on her ABC sitcom "Suburgatory," which proves that Levy has a wide acting range. The audience will root for her to come out of the film alive and to kick her drug habit. "Evil Dead" could have been made with a different lead, but it might not have been quite this compelling or entertaining to watch.

Rating: 3 out of 5