4/11/2013 - Five kids go to a dilapidated cabin in the woods — a trip which should really start with participants making out a will and leaving important passwords and pin numbers with loved ones — in Evil Dead, a remake-y, reboot-y thing connected to the 1981 Sam Raimi movie.
Mia (Jane Levy — Tessa from Suburgatory) is finally quitting heroin, again. To ride out the withdrawals, two friends — Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) and nurse Olivia (Jessica Lucas) — are joining Mia at a secluded cabin for a weekend of sweating and dry heaves. Also along for the fun is David (Shiloh Fernandez), Mia’s brother, and Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore), his girlfriend. David has been away for a few years, which meant Mia was all alone in caring for their sick mother who recently died.
David also wasn’t around for Mia’s previous attempts at going cold turkey or her overdoses. Eric and Olivia say that this time they aren’t going to let Mia leave when the going gets tough, but David isn’t sure he likes the sounds of that.
So, even without the supernatural, suffering and discord are the themes of this long weekend.
Mia, descending into anxiety and physical breakdown as her hours without drugs tick by, is unfortunately about to get a bigger problem. She happens to be the one in the scary woods when Eric reads from a strange book found in the basement of the cabin. Now, personally, if I found a book covered by what appeared to be human skin and filled with notes about how it is very bad to read from this book, my first thought wouldn’t be to take a rubbing of an inscription next to the picture of a demon. But, hey, I guess Eric had to pass the time somehow.
What’s nice about the movie is that when a violent, traumatic plunge into the wilderness leaves Mia acting exceedingly strange, it makes sense that the gang doesn’t believe her weird story about “something” in the forest being out to get her. Also refreshing is that once Mia’s actions cross from withdrawal side-effects to Halloween costume, the gang doesn’t hang on to the “it must be the drugs” theory. Pretty fast, this collection of obvious victims starts to realize that something evil is at work.
No, I didn’t see the original (despite being a pretty big Bruce Campbell fan) but there is an air of Sam Raimi-ness about the movie that, even without getting every reference, did let me know that what I was watching was not your average gorefest. I did not exactly skip into the theater to see this movie; there is something about a surprise-free parade of slashings that can just be a drag to watch.
But Evil Dead has a very dark, very non-jokey sense of humor about what it is, which makes it genuinely entertaining to watch (not quite “enjoyable,” but at least 80 percent of the way there) and which comes out, in part, in the special effects. They perfectly hit a very late 1970s/early 1980s kind of horror movie effect, something that looks a bit like a moldy claymation exterior surrounding a water balloon full of tomato bisque.
The result is a very specific kind of gore that is just a little too theatrical to feel like the dreary slashing of the Saw-type movies. This is another approach to horror, one that goes big where modern horror goes small (even and especially the suspense-driven, found-video Paranormal Activity-type stuff).
It’s kitschy and, while not funny, always just a little fun — never more so than when Jane Levy is in full demon mode with the gray face and the forked tongue. This is not the meta-horror of The Cabin in the Woods, or the grand shrieking chorus of Drag Me To Hell. It’s just a notch off, a pinch goofy.
Evil Dead is as gory as you expect it to be but smarter than it appears. B-
Rated R for strong bloody violence and gore, some sexual content and language. Directed by and screenplay by Fede Alvarez, Evil Dead is an hour and 30 minutes and is distributed by TriStar.