Title: Evil Dead
Screened at: SXSW 2013
Directed By: Fede Alvarez
Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Jessica Lucas, Lou Taylor Pucci, Elizabeth Blackmore
Extreme gore paired with the most minimal story support is generally not a good thing – unless you’ve got a man like Fede Alvarez behind the lens.
After a near-lethal overdose, Mia’s (Jane Levy) brother, David (Shiloh Fernandez), his girlfriend, Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore), and their longtime friends, Olivia and Eric (Jessica Lucas and Lou Taylor Pucci), decide enough is enough. They’re going to get Mia sober once and for all. They bring her out to their family’s secluded cabin in the woods for some privacy, but are shocked to find someone’s been there – someone with a thing for killing animals and keeping a certain book locked up tight. While Mia struggles through her withdrawal and David trashes the carcasses, Eric pops open the forbidden book and reads aloud, unleashing an unimaginable evil that makes a b-line for poor Mia.
But even with all that backstory, “Evil Dead” isn’t about much more than gore. Each cast member assumes your typical horror movie caricature – Mia’s the leading lady, David’s the dashing hero, Natalie’s the hot blonde, Olivia’s the devoted friend, and Eric’s the more intellectual of the bunch. There’s some talk about a tumultuous history involving Mia and David’s disturbed mother who has since passed and Mia’s issue with substance abuse is fleshed out enough to have value, but once the violence, brutality and gore start pouring in, the shock value of the visuals are so overwhelming, they blur all the narrative around it – and there’s actually nothing wrong with that because the brutality is so exceptionally well done.
Alvarez is the ideal director for this type of material. His imagery is on point from the moment the film begins, the screen absolutely oozing not necessarily with blood, but rather stellar lighting. Even before the visuals of the most outrageous violence you’ll see on the big screen kick in, each and every frame of “Evil Dead” is snapshot worthy courtesy of gorgeous backlighting and shot composition. But of course, once Eric mutters those fateful words and the group begins to fall victim to the mysterious force, tunnel vision kicks in and all you can see is gore, gore, gore.
Think you watch a lot of horror and have seen every possible big kill set piece? Just wait until you catch “Evil Dead.” If the film’s red band trailer made you squirm and gave you the urge to cheer for more death, the full feature will absolutely blow you away. You may have a sense of what’s coming courtesy of that trailer, but in context and in full form, with seemingly zero gore boundaries, the tongue slicing, face mangling and more will quite literally have you jumping out of your seat – whether it’s because you’re genuinely scared or are about to become that crazy person cheering at the screen.
And even though “Evil Dead” is light on character development, the cast deserves a great deal of credit for what looks like some of the most exhausting performances in horror history. Each actor may play his or her genre stereotype, but in some cases, they turn and have to tap into a demonic force that requires them to deliver extreme facial expressions, contort their bodies and represent sheer lunacy, and each and every one of them nails it.
It’s that commitment to going to the maximum that makes this “Evil Dead” remake work. Should Alvarez and his writing team have tried to beef up the plot, even the most valid story details would have paled in comparison to the effects evil unleashed. Mommy issues, a drug problem, whatever it may be, any and all real life problems would be long gone should someone get tree-raped and start attacking their friends. And while “Evil Dead” may be gore for the sake of gore, it’s the best type possible courtesy of a committed cast and a director with an eye for striking visuals and the skillset to deliver a show of carnage that may be lacking in story, but still feels deeply thoughtful.