I admittedly had little to no faith for the prospects of an “Evil Dead” remake. As many horror fans like myself originally perceived it to be nothing but a cash grab, I expected really nothing but a faint half assed reconditioning much like Platinum Dunes is want to do. Thankfully the 2013 version of “Evil Dead” is not only an excellent horror film, but a rather brilliant character study to boot. It works as a remake, a sequel, and a companion piece. However fans want to think of it, the movie works in that function, thus resolving any aggravation hardcore Sam Raimi buffs will have toward this new version.
When last we saw Ash Williams in “Evil Dead II,” he was at the butt hole end of a massive portal to hell and could do nothing but hope and pray for the best. In spite of battling the demonic menace in his deserted cabin in the woods for the second time, he unfortunately could only hope the demonic menace within this wormhole would display mercy on him. Or at least let its guard down long enough to allow Ash an escape. Little did he know he’d land in 1300 AD among a culture of people desperately in need of a savior.
The sequel to “The Evil Dead” is once again what happens when Sam Raimi has little and can do so much with it. As director, Raimi finds new ways to enthrall the viewer and add a new appendage to the “Evil Dead” series without ruining the former film. “Dead by Dawn” acts as a sequel and a pseudo-remake, that recaps the original film in a brevity, and then proceeds to follow along with the journey of Ash Williams. Becoming the accidental hero in many ways, Ash is a man tasked with fighting the demonic beings of the necronomicon, not because he chooses to, but because he simply can’t escape their grasp.
We’ve all seen it so many times that I kind of get angry when a filmmaker sends me their latest horror opus and it’s comprised of the same premise. A bunch of teenagers have commandeered a cabin in the woods for the weekend, and decide that they want to get away for a few days of beer drinking and misdeeds of the sexual nature. While there they discover that the cabin houses a bunch of secrets that could be their undoing. And it’s all being manipulated by a secret government lab hidden underneath the cabin, manipulating every single moment of their weekend like a game of chess. Ah, but that’s not the whole story.
Sam Raimi’s “The Evil Dead” is a lot like the demonic entities that are featured in the film itself. It’s larger than life, durable, and just can not be brought down no matter what you do. Every single decade has been exposed to the thrills of “The Evil Dead,” and to this day it stands as a horror grindhouse marvel that is so utterly simplistic, yet so damn thrilling. Even in the changing face of gore, special effects and marketing tactics, “The Evil Dead” has become a staple of the genre living on through Beta right in through the new millennium still being hailed as a bonafide classic to be witnessed by people looking for a classic monster movie.
Raimi’s entire career began on the notion that he could implement his talents as a magic aficionado and he achieves a rare feat of horror independent filmmaking in the tradition of George Romero building a lore for himself and also a flagship character. Enlisting the talent of a then unknown Bruce Campbell, Raimi is able to build a competent hero in a horror movie that possesses a final man instead of a final girl, and thanks to Campbell’s ability to over act he makes “The Evil Dead” an entertaining experience bringing us in at eye level as young Ash is forced to watch his girlfriend and two best friends become meat puppets for demonic forces they unleash after listening to a recorded demonic chant in their cabin in the woods.
In spite of the obvious low tech production qualities, Raimi is able to devise a very thematic and moody little nightmarish horror film with some of the best moments in horror history including the infamous tracking shot chasing Ash throughout his cabin as he mugs for the camera and runs for his life, and the (still) disturbing tree rape that continues to stir up some controversy in this day and age. In spite of possessing some rather prehistoric closing sequences, “The Evil Dead” is a creepy little ditty that garners big points for still being genuinely creepy and a royal mind fuck, especially when the screws begin to turn once the demonic forces have been unleashed among these hapless travelers.
The surrounding area of the cabin tend to come to life and become its own character once the demons have been released from their confines and Raimi brings forth the claustrophobic tension and unease we’d see later in John Carpenter’s The Thing, as this unseen force slowly corrupts the likes of every character and we soon watch in wait wondering who among these four people will reveal themselves to be a twisted creation of this pure force of evil and what punishment they’ll inflict on one another when they do show their true colors. And once they do it makes for wicked imagery turning a game of cards in to a fight for life and death, and Raimi even transforms a tragic burial in to a sick game of peekaboo that is adorable when we meet Ash and his girlfriend but is just utterly horrifying when we know she’s been consumed by the darkness and is now just toying with him.
While some of the effects are ancient, the movie still has an indefinable charm to it that guarantees a damn good time even for the most cynical horror geek who creams at the sight of CGI. While the joints are creaky here and there, “The Evil Dead” is in the league of “Night of the Living Dead” and “Jaws” where it continues to be immortal and outlive other horror classics in the face of changing movie going sentiment and horror cynicism. It’s a moody little nightmare worth the watch.
Imagine if Dr. Seuss combined genius with Edgar Allan Poe, with Tim Burton bouncing ideas off of them, and what do you get? Well, if you’re lucky you’d get Evelyn, the cutest evil dead girl, a demented fairytale with the mood and color you never get in films anymore, the mood and color that’s missing from the horror genre today. Many call this basically a rip from “Lenore the Living Dead Girl” comic book, and perhaps that’s true, but “Evelyn” is such a sick and demented short film I had so much fun watching that I didn’t really care.