Evil Dead (2013) – Fede Alvarez

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Ok, here we are again. All-too familiar territory: Classic horror movie remake land.  Whenever one of these remakes comes out, we ask ourselves. “Is this really necessary?” “Are they doing this because they have something new to offer the ravenous horror audience, or are they just trying to cash in on a popular franchise?” To say that Evil Dead fans disagree on the need for Fede Alvarez’s 2013 Evil Dead remake would be like saying the Nazis had a disagreement with the Jews. Nobody seems to be in the middle here.

In one camp, you have people who are excited to see the update and see how Alvarez stacks up to Raimi. Others feel that to remake one of the all-time greatest horror flicks is somehow a personal affront to them. They wander up from their mothers’ basements and squint through the bright sunlight in search of soapboxes on which to declare that the remake is an abomination that somehow takes away from the accomplishments of Raimi’s original. They take to the streets with torches and pitchforks and march towards the studio as if it were the lab of Dr. Frankenstein.

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Those people can kindly go fuck themselves with Ash’s Boomstick. I understand being a purist and not wanting to disturb the canon or whatever, but in this case, the remake actually accomplishes something new. Now hear me out on this, and keep in mind that the original Evil Dead is my favorite horror movie of all time, but it is sloppy at times in that it  does not always know what it wants to be. (That is part of what we love about it but it’s the truth we need to face.) We know that it is intended to be part comedy and part horror, but how much of each? I still have the impression that Raimi never fully figured that out until ED2. Anyway, Alvarez’s remake knows exactly what it is from the very beginning. And so does the audience. This one is straight up, unapologetic horror. You could make the argument that it has about 5% comedy in that the gore and violence are so over the top that it gets absurd towards the end. It’s all part of the homage. Kind of tongue-in-cheek.

As for the plot, the new one is updated with some modern details so it feels fresh, while remaining true to the core story from the original. Five friends are visiting an old family cabin in the woods to help one of them kick her drug addiction. They find a book in the basement with some stern warnings (which are ignored, of course) and incantations. When they read the incantations in the book, they awaken a demonic spirit that possesses each of the friends and causes them to wreak havoc on themselves and each other. It’s a magic carpet ride of self-mutilation, blood, and dismemberment. By the end, there is literally blood raining down from the sky and there’s the obligatory chainsaw battle between our reluctant hero and a large demon monster.

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Besides the focus on horror over slapstick comedy, one of the best arguments for this remake was just the advancement in special effects since 1980. Raimi’s Evil Dead was gory as hell and downright disgusting, but the whole movie was made for less than half a million bucks. The remake cost a whopping $17 mil. I’d wager that at least 10 million was spent on blood and guts effects. They really went all out. The sound was amazing too. You can literally hear flesh burning and tearing. The demon voices remind us of the original, while still being modern and scary. The original cut of the film received an NC-17 rating, and they had to cut it down a bit to get the R rating and get this puppy into theaters. I’m looking forward to seeing the full directors cut DVD in a few months. (Though don’t worry, kids, this one is still plenty gory.)

I realize I’ve waited until the end to make a final call. In short, I’ll say that this film was a fucking homerun- a bloody, disgusting homerun that accomplished exactly what it set out to do. Alvarez rebooted a classic and focused on horror rather than humor. He kept elements of what we loved about the original while creating a fresh, gory masterpiece that felt like its own movie. I loved it. The only thing that would have made it more “groovy” would have been a Bruce Campbell cameo.

  1. Is it scary? 8- They might be a little overzealous with the tagline: “The most terrifying film you will ever experience , but it was pretty goddamn scary. Everything was dark, creepy, foggy, and gross. It made you jump at the right times and had enough visual stuff to give you nightmares until the next remake comes out.
  2. Originality: 6– It is a remake, so the score can’t be that high, but they did a good job keeping it new and modern while keeping the essence of the original.
  3. Blood: 10- If this scale went higher, I’d give it a higher rating. The whole movie is a revolting, bloody mess. It’s beautiful
  4. Believability: 6- They did a pretty good job keeping things authentic. The acting was solid and it’s all so simple, there’s not a lot of places to mess that up.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 8- Great camera angles and tracking shots. There were a lot of shots that were reminiscent of the original. Camera shooting through the woods, quick-cut montage of the hero MacGyvering some contraption to save the day (Ash’s chainsaw arm) etc. 

Final Score: 38/50                                                                                              

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Army of Darkness (1992) – Sam Raimi

Can I start of by saying: All Hail Bruce Campbell? Campbell for President? Ok, I’ll stop.

Back in 1981, Sam Raimi created one of the all time greatest horror movies of all time, ever: The Evil Dead. It was the ultimate 80’s B-horror movie. It cost less than $400,000 to make, and it showed. On paper, this movie had everything working against it. Script, acting, budget, set, you name it. But somehow, Raimi pulled it together to make a scary, funny, bloody masterpiece. The first sequel, Evil Dead 2, plays up some of the goofy slapstick stuff from the first one a little bit. But ED2 keeps the format that worked in the first one. In his 1992 installment Army of Darkness, the story picks up where EDII left off- with Ash being transported back the middle ages by the demons. Don’t worry, he’s still got his chainsaw and his ‘boomstick’ (his double-barrel 12-guague) and a box full of shells (conveniently, his car got sucked in to the portal with him and there’s ammo in the trunk).

I know, I’ll probably piss a lot of people off when I say this, because I know lots of you love this movie, but I think Army of Darkness, takes a big step down from the first two films in the series. Don’t get me wrong, I like it, but it just doesn’t have the charm of the original, let alone the gore or the scares. AOD takes the campy, silliness to another level and this takes away from any possible scariness. The movie doesn’t even really feel like a horror movie. It feels more like an action adventure. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a great movie, and a lot of fun, but to me, it doesn’t even come close to the original. Also its budget was $13 million. Think about that.

Ok, so we’ve got Bruce Campbell, (Ash) getting sucked into a giant demon portal in the end of the second movie. At this point, he has chopped off his own hand because it became possessed by a demon, and he has rigged a chainsaw to his stump for chopping up zombies. He falls from the sky and lands in a medieval city and is quickly recognized to be the chosen one who was prophesized to save the city from the “deadites” (the demons that have been killing all his friends for the past 2 movies). A wiseman tells Ash that he must retrieve the Necronomicon (book of the dead) and that it contains a spell that can send Ash back to his own time. When Ash gets the book he accidentally awakens the army of the dead and they attack the city to get the book back.

One of the deadites gets into Ash’s mouth and grows inside him and then he eventually splits in half (like cell division from bio class) into a good and an evil Ash. Evil ash becomes the leader of the Army of the Dead. When Ash’s newly found girlfriend gets kidnapped by the evil army, Ash decides to stay and help defeat the monsters before getting sent home. He helps the medieval warriors train and rig up modern-style weapons to defeat the deadites and get his girlfriend back.

The first two movies were simple. I’m stuck in a cabin with my friends and a bunch of demons and everyone is getting possessed and trying to eat me. There were cool creepy voices and sound effects and the blood and guts factor was fantastic. AoD gets too big and they get away from the stuff that we loved about the first two movies. Sure there are skeletons and explosions and the finest claymation monsters money could buy, but it just didn’t quite have the appeal of the first movie. I know, it’s not fair to just compare this to the original, but I can’t really help it. In general, I get the sense that Raimi purposely toned down the blood and guts to appeal to a wider audience.

Let’s talk about what I liked. Of course, Bruce Campbell makes this movie. If he weren’t in it, it would probably have sucked some serious demon balls. Campbell is the ultimate leading man for a movie like this. He can be funny and serious at the same time. The scenes where he’s fighting his evil self are some of my favorites. And he delivers the lines about boomsticks and about shopping at S-Mart so in such a serious way, you almost forget that he’s yelling this stuff at a crowd of medieval farmers and they have no idea what he’s talking about. Raimi also keeps the campy “camera chasing you through the woods” thing that was used pretty heavily in the first movies.

Overall, the movie is good, but it’s not scary. It’s funny; it’s entertaining, but it’s not scary. And it doesn’t hold a candle to the original. It won’t get a good score here but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch it. Just make sure you see the other two first. In general, I think it is too self-aware and you can tell that some of it was a little forced.

  1. Is it scary: 2- It’s not really the kind of movie that scares you. The silliness takes over and there’s no room for scares. Even the suspenseful parts are punctuated by goofy noises and slapstick fighting.
  2. Originality: 5- I guess there are some new features to this one, but it just took a lot from the original movies.
  3. Blood: 3- This was one of the biggest disappointments of this film. The first two were so bloody and nasty. In this one, most of the time, he’s killing skeletons so no blood at all. It was almost like he intentionally toned it down.
  4. Believability: 3–It was intentionally goofy and unbelievable. It’s supposed to be over the top.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 4- Some parts of the setting are a little creepy, but it’s hard to divorce yourself from Campbell’s antics enough to get yourself scared.  Nothing too fancy with the camera work other than the chasing through the woods stuff that I mentioned.

Final Score: 17/50

The Evil Dead (1980) – Sam Raimi


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This is the Cult Classic that inspired 2 sequels 6 video games, a few dozen comic books and and upcoming remake (big surprise there). Enter the legendary (and my perennial write-in candidate for all presidential ballots) Bruce Campbell as Ash- the reluctant hero. He and a group of friends are visiting a remote cabin in the woods when they accidentally awaken some demonic spirits. The spirits begin to take over the bodies of the group and one-by-one they become zombified monsters. Not only is this movie thoroughly scary, funny, and soaked in gallons of zombie guts and blood, it helps you tackle the real-world issues:  “Is it socially acceptable to hack your friends into little pieces with a chainsaw if they’ve turned into zombies?” And “If you just chopped off your zombie girlfriend’s head with a shovel her body lands on you and starts humping you, do you let her finish?”

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At first, you can’t tell if this movie is intended to be scary or funny. It’s certainly campy, but it’s hard to tell if that’s intentional or if this movie is just a victim of it’s age. The late 70’s/ early 80’s was a special time for horror. It was the puberty of modern horror. All the good modern horror movies are directly stolen from these films.  Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the Shining, American Werewolf in London to name a few- I don’t mean to name-drop, just making a point. It was a special time and this movie came right when this movement was coming to a head.

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It’s almost like this movie doesn’t know what it wants to be. Is it horror? Is it comedy? Or is it possible that by some happy accident, it actually pulled off both? This movie is simultaneously terrifying, hilarious, self-aware, and completely a victim of it’s own microscopic budget but it still works so well. The lighting and camera work are shoddy at best but that makes everything dark and kind of hard to see so you’re scared. And just when you’re about to roll your eyes at the delightfully terrible dialogue, you realize you can’t look away  because another scantily clad co-ed has just changed into a flesh-eating monster and she’s spewing blood across the room. And –Wait, did she just get raped by the forest? What?

You heard me.

So now I think I’ve got it. This movie isn’t a victim of anything. It actually takes advantage of all the campyness, the sound effects, the horrible and simultaneously incredible 70’s synth-horror music, the ever-present mist in the background and it actually works. Somehow, Raimi has taken all these 70’s horror cliches and put them in a blender, mixed in a few extra squirts of blood, some awesomely-lame special effects, and the worlds greatest leading man, and he’s come up with the perfect 80’s horror movie.

It’s so bad that its good. But it’s really just really fucking good.

  1. Is it scary: 8. It brings together all the great elements of classic horror and while it is funny, it’s definitely still scary as shit.
  2. Originality: 6. It brings a lot of tried-and-true horror elements to the table. Granted Raimi handles them as well as anyone before him, but there’s not anything really new here. I don’t think that was the point. The Evil Dead a tribute to these films.
  3. Blood: 10- This thing had gallons of blood spraying across the screen for the entire movie. It was banned in several countries when it first came out. Thats the mark of a good horror movie.
  4. Believability: 5- It wasn’t supposed to be believable-it was poking fun at the shitty movies that had come before it but that doesn’t mean i can dole out free points. Scream did the Same thing in the 90’s after the slasher genre had grown up.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 7. Delightfully low budget camera work and a creepy dilapidated cabin in the middle of nowhere. Nothing fancy, just nuts and bolts, balls to the wall horror.

Final Score: 36/50

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