Friday, April 5, 2013

Review: "Evil Dead"

It doesn’t take much to impress me, but it does take a lot to scare me - when it comes to movies, I mean. At my most recent outing, a colleague teased me a bit about my lack of interest in watching horror flicks. Then, just prior to the movie starting, a security woman yells at us all, “If we catch you with an electronic device, you WILL be escorted out by the police!” For me, real instances like this are much scarier than anything that flickers on a screen.

After being bombarded for years by trailers and DVD’s for movies that offer nothing but jump scares and familiar killers, I’m kinda lukewarm towards this genre. Reviewers like The Cine-Masochist make me feel a bit picky and unfair, but it’s just how I feel.

That being said, I should re-state that it doesn’t take much to impress me. All I need is something fairly clever, easy to follow and very fun to watch; if the cast and crew are having a blast, so am I (Troma is great at this).

And watching a demon vomit vibrant, non CGI blood on a woman, only to be chainsawed in half later on, is indeed “a blast” and “fun to watch”.

The new Evil Dead (based on the original Sam Raimi classic - a kind of remake/reinterpretation) begins with the quickest of expository sequences I’ve seen in a long time: Five friends go to a cabin from their youth to help one of them kick drugs, brother and sister have problems, friend and friend have problems and all sorts of groovy weapons are established. Got it? Good. This movie knows what the audience came to see, and is just as antsy to get there as we are.

The book of the dead is found, read aloud, and the drug addicted friend becomes possessed by a demon, setting off a chain of events that could lead to hell on Earth beyond the woods. In one scene, the two men in the group discuss how to end this nightmare. One of them suggests they kill the drug addicted one, as the book suggests to do. When asked if it’ll work, we get one of the best lines EVER, “I don’t know; this isn’t a science book!”

I haven’t watched the first two original Sam Raimi films, so I will just compare this to a movie that gave me equal feelings, Marvel’s The Avengers. Both had high expectations amongst fans, relatively unproven directors (Joss Whedon had only done TV and smaller scale flicks) and the perfect storm of elements to turn them into train wrecks.

Almost a miracle before my eyes, this movie rocked.  

Like with last summer’s superhero blockbuster, Evil Dead gets it all right. It’s a simple story, with enough character depth and conflict to break the first dimension. Smart cinematography and placement of objects in a shot gave weight to what could’ve been flat. The editing was smooth and aware of genre expectations, playing with the typical jump scare beats we’ve all gotten used to. And the effects - 99% practical - made the happenings much more vibrant and very unforgettable. I bet the producers had a tight grip on this one...

I also got the impression that the movie wasn’t just another part of a familiar franchise, but a statement on how modern horror can and should learn from past horror. There is an opening shot that might as well have been taken directly from The Shining - an upside down then right side up shot of a car driving down a long and remote road. Then, of course, there was all the blood. Remember that bleeding elevator sequence? How about a movie featuring fountains of crimson rain? There are not only great effects workers out there, but also genuine fans of thrills and chills, dying to make a movie like the ones they grew up on. Maybe Evil Dead will start a trend.

There was a little kid who, after the screening, stared at the poster for the movie with a huge smile on his face. “The Most Terrifying Film You Will Ever Experience.” it said. I wanted to take a photo with him in front of that, as we were both feeling the same thing; cinematic bliss. Though, the fact that his parents let him go see this shocked me more than the movie itself... Yep, I’m still not scared. But, I am impressed. Very.

5/5 *s

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