One of the posters self-advertises this movie as “The Most Terrifying Film You Will Ever Experience.” And actually, I think they earned the right to call itself that. This is a pure horror movie as relentless as a creature with no conscience, aka the monsters breaking down the safe havens of their targets for misery. So much so I decided this was the movie I wanted to mainly talk about this Halloween.
There was first a trilogy of movies, two of which that were filmed in the 1980’s had this remote cabin. The idea is a new family bought the property and therefore a new generation of victims are within reach of the Naturom Demonto and its land of the dead. Seriously, just look around the area. Almost all the trees look rotten and burned. You probably couldn’t grow a dandelion there. But a family that most likely didn’t have much of an income purchased it, and it now belongs to David (Shiloh Fernandez) and Mia (Jane Levy), the latter of whom needs to detox.
The two of them are joined by three friends, Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), Olivia (Jessica Lucas) and Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore), where the plan is to spend a long weekend isolated from everywhere else because Mia’s kind of overly addicted to cocaine. She OD’d, and needed to be defibrillated once. So Olivia’s plan is no matter how angry and nauseous Mia ends up getting, they have to keep her in the cabin until she’s better. I guess when someone “legally dies”, it’s quite a bigger deal than an ordinary overdose. But they find a cellar to a basement David and Mia never knew about, and they investigate to find a hundred hung cats, melted candles, a singed pillar, a gun, and…a book wrapped with a garbage bag, razor wire, and bound with literal skin. But they stick around. And stick around they shall. Even when normally they wouldn’t be, because there’s no way they could still be alive.
I’m aware of Bruce Campbell’s character, Ash Williams. And this is a great example of doing something with an established fan base that’s very risky, and knowing in order to not piss off fans for him not being in this long-awaited sequel/remake, it needs to be produced with a proper level of the new and the familiar. Director Fede Alvarez (who you’d never guess from watching this that he hadn’t directed a full feature before) knows how to poeticize angle shots so it’s shaky but not too much so when someone’s in danger or in misery and close-up in ways that properly display a Deadite (term for someone possessed by the evil, which is very easy to happen) right up close so you can see pretty much exactly what these characters are seeing as they’re being attacked. And even though this is a remake, it’s smart enough to not strictly follow the formula, but not deviate so much that it’s not really an Evil Dead production. There are some surprises along the way, especially who ends up holding the chainsaw.
Horror movies involve death all the time, but Evil Dead is something very different. Pretty much every one of these five characters are subjected to brutality with zero censorship. We see them have to cut or tear their own arms off, get shot with needles and three-inch long nails, sometimes two new wounds a second, and stabbed nearly or sometimes far enough to be seen through the other side. All of the blood, wounds and acting are certainly no CGI feast, either. While watching this film, I imagined what it would feel like to have a dozen nails shot into my chest, without any promise the carnage was even close to over. I also imagined the kind of brutality regular people all around the world feel when they end up the victims of a stab wound like these guys, and what kind of pain animals feel when they’re hunted by predators or killed in a slaughterhouse.
And everyone, especially Jane and Lou, give amazing performances, especially Jane as an even more demented Samara Morgan, and Lou’s screaming, crying and weak breathing. These guys aren’t really possessed and aren’t really hurt? You could’ve fooled me. They seem to be having fun despite all the makeup that must’ve been very uncomfortable and itchy.
A few things that bring it slightly down; some of these characters are seriously unbright. It takes David a while to accept what is happening, even after he witnesses his little sister scream as lights flash everywhere outside in the middle of the night, and then say “You are all going to die tonight” with another lower voice heard saying the same thing above her somehow. Natalie ends up going down to the chamber without second thoughts, a little head-slappingly gullible. Lastly, when Eric carelessly flips through the demonic book, which seems to intentionally make fun of dumb horror characters anyway, it appears he’s completely ignoring how in the basement there were all those things indicating something very abnormal is up. But this is a horror movie that’s not only relentless but has characters trying really hard to survive and support one another and as a result I cared about if they’d survive or not. Because of those two things, this movie truly is terrifying. It’s one of the few movies I’d really seriously squirm at the possibility of seeing again in a good way.
I haven’t seen the original trilogy or the Ash vs. Evil Dead television series that emerged after this movie, but I’m completely on board with one day seeing it. I’m sure it’s the same for the original movies, and this remake does it for sure: See Evil Dead and never see the world the same way again.