"Evil Dead" (2013)

Evil Dead (2013)
Directed by: Fede Alvarez
Running time: 91 minutes

While I often celebrate how Australia seems to be no longer getting screwed over with movie release dates, such as getting The Avengers, Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness at least a week or sometimes more in advance of their US releases, occasionally a film comes along that is needlessly delayed (I’m looking at you The Hobbit!). But sometimes there are films that are not only needlessly delayed, but also heavily limited in their release as well for no good reason, and such is the case with Evil Dead. After it was released in the US in early April of this year, it was announced that Evil Dead would not be getting a cinematic release in Australia and it would be a DVD release in a few months time. Obviously people complained, as they should, and the distributor said “OK, OK, fine! We will release it, but only in four individual cinemas, each one in a separate city. That ok?” Well, yes distributor, it is for me since I live in one of those cities, but anyone in Canberra, Adelaide, Hobart, or anywhere else has just been denied the chance to see the film without leaving the STATE to do so! Poor form Sony Pictures Australia, poor form indeed.

But I digress!

Now Showing this week is Evil Dead, directed by Fede Alvarez and a remake of the 1981 Sam Raimi horror film of the same name. Cliches begin right from the get-go, with five twenty-something friends (David, Eric, Mia, Olivia and Natalie) travelling to a remote cabin in the woods in order to help one of them (Mia) overcome her addiction to heroin. During this highly stressful time, they discover a hidden room in the basement containing a book bound in human flesh and containing many Satanic images and phrases. After Eric stupidly decides to read the book, he unleashes a primeval force that possesses Mia and begins a rampage to claim the souls of the remaining housemates…..

I suppose the first thing I want to address is “Goddamn this movie is not for the faint of heart!” One of the reasons it was barely distributed was because it had gained an R18+ rating for high impact violence and horror, and they traditionally don’t do well at the box office. Suffice to say, Evil Dead is one of the most graphic pieces of horror violence that I have ever seen, but I personally did not expect any different as it is one of the main selling points of the film. And I must say, director Fede Alvarez has proven himself to be quite adept at shooting an intense slasher flick. His use of claustrophobic camerawork was excellent, with slow scenes choosing to focus on single objects in the frame (say a light bulb or a hand) whilst the action stirred around them. It created a very nerve-wracking atmosphere, and for me that is the most important aspect of making a horror film: the atmosphere.

Which leads me to my next point: the violence. In recent interviews, Alvarez talked about how he chose to do as many of the graphic visual effects as he could live on the set rather than with computer graphics. And it certainly paid off! Every sinew, every cut, scrap and dismemberment was incredibly visceral and cringe worthy; and it truly helped in making the audience experience the (for lack of better word!) horror of the scenario that the main characters have found themselves in. A lot of people don’t get into this kind of graphic film making, and I know I have occasionally been one of those people. When violence like this works to the detriment of what I found to be the purpose of the film (ala all the SAW sequels ruining the “what would you do?” theme!) then I find it pointless and just violence for the sake of violence. In the case of Evil Dead, I find that given the nature of the monster at hand (a demonic force reminiscent of pagan/Satanic kind of literature) then the extreme violent behaviour is a necessary part of the narrative. It also mirrored Mia’s behaviour before the demon possessed her body, when she was suffering withdrawal symptoms from her heroin addiction. Maybe I’m giving the film too much credit, but I got the impression that Evil Dead was trying to show that the primal insanity of the demonic spirit is already within her (and all of us) in some form. If this was the intention, they didn’t succeed in properly making the point, but I appreciated the effort.

The graphic nature of the film is a horror technique that is the complete opposite of the “less is more” ideal. A film like Paranormal Activity will incite fear by alluding the presence of a monster, but always keeping us in the dark of its whereabouts and intentions, always leaving us fearing the next time it will strike. Evil Dead on the other hand goes in the other direction. Evil Dead simply tells us that there is a monster, here it is in all its horrific glory and you (the characters and the audience) are now locked in a room with it! And I find that both techniques work in their own ways. I find the former technique disturbs me more (I slept better after Evil Dead than I did after Paranormal Activity), but the latter is quite effective as well.

I mentioned earlier that I found the film to be cliched. Evil Dead is riddled with cliches: the remote cabin in the woods, the idiot friend who reads words in a book that unleash a spirit, a flood blocks the road so they can’t leave etc. all the horror movie cliches are here. But I realised that I can’t really hold these against the film too much given that this is a remake of the original film that created these cliches! Whilst I would have enjoyed it more if the filmmakers had put their own twist on the film to spice it up a bit in this department, staying true to the source material was hardly a bad thing to do. I just wish they had done more with the characters. Siblings David and Mia have a little history to them that comes into play once the killing starts, but there was some clear back story to be had with the other characters that was just never explored. David and Eric have clearly had a falling out in the past and I have no idea why! When it comes to the characters, Evil Dead was very lazy.

Is Evil Dead “the most terrifying film I ever experienced” as the tagline suggests? No, not by a long shot; but it most certainly is an intense experience that I shall not be soon forgetting. I enjoyed the use of practical effects over CGI, this needs to happen more, and the thrill of the ride made sure that there was fun to be had. Evil Dead won’t make you like slasher movies if you hate them, but if slasher movies are your thing then this film is a definite must. They don’t get much more intense than this!

See you next time!

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