Sunday, April 7, 2013

Evil Dead

EVIL DEAD: Jane Levy, Shiloah Fernandez, dir: Fede Alvarez (91 min.) 

Call me old fashioned, but I like my horror films to come with a little surprise, a little suspense, and some thrills beyond the geek show of relentless gore. The best horror in my opinion takes its time to scare me. There is build up and pay off. Sure, I understand certain horror relies on bloodletting, but the best of that bunch comes with a little humor, as twisted as they may sound. Take the original Evil Dead for example, a midnight drive-in gorefest that was tongue in cheek and made the violence a little fun. You winced, but you laughed right afterward. This new version – produced by the original’s director Sam Raimi – takes all the fun out of things in lieu of relentless gore, painful realism, and unnerving bloodshed.

There are similarities and references to the original cult classic in this new Evil Dead, and the twist on the set up is intriguing at the start. The brain trust behind this version knows we are all tired of the over-sexed teena
gers going to a cabin in the woods for a hedonistic weekend of debauchery, so they take a different approach. This time around the female lead, Mia (Jane Levy), is trying to get clean from drugs. Her three friends and her brother, David (Shiloah Fernandez), have gathered at this dilapidated cabin to try and help her through her withdrawals. Mia’s friend is a nurse so she knows what to do when the bad symptoms take hold. There is also some animosity within the dynamic that is mentioned from time to time but generally a passing layer.

The group finds a basement full of dead cats strung up from the ceiling, a nasty odor, and a book wrapped in human flesh. This is the infamous Book of the Dead which releases all sorts of hell (literally) on the cabin mates. Which leads me to a major issue I had with the back story; this cabin has been in Mia and David’s family for years it seems, and there are pictures of their deceased mother and them on mantels and walls. So how did nobody ever find this witchcraft dungeon before? Seems like quite the oversight if you ask me.

If you have seen the original you know the story, and if this is your first experience with the story you probably know the drill anyway. Words are uttered from the Book, unleashing a demonic force in the woods and the cabin. The demons get to Mia first and she is attacked by the trees before bringing the monstrous spirit back to the rest of the group. This is where the gore takes over and comes fast and furious without so much as a break to deal with the story. People are stabbed, shot, faces are carved off, brains beat in, and arms severed over and over until the affect is no longer there. The first nauseating moment simply leads to the next, and so on and so forth until my eyes began glazing over. Director Fede Alvarez chooses to linger on the violence for an uncomfortable amount of time. The gore and the violence is so realistic it becomes unsettling early and doesn’t let up.

As I said, I am all for squeamish moments in a horror film, but an entire ninety minutes? There are some clever new twists to the story and a nice approach, one that is all but abandoned for bloodletting. And, again, the humor and camp of the first Evil Dead and its predecessors and copycats softens the blow and keeps the mood light enough for the geek show to be entertaining. This new Evil Dead is cynical and mean spirited. It is also another slap in the face of our ridiculous ratings board in this country, the MPAA. There is no way this film should have been given the R rating. I was told they cut eleven minutes from the film to avoid an NC-17 rating. Eleven minutes or no, this new Evil Dead is a little too evil for me.