Burning down the house
Gory remake puts the pedal to the metal
By Tim Pompey 04/11/2013
Directed by Fede Alvarez
Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Jessica Lucas, Lou Taylor Pucci, Elizabeth Blackmore
Rated R for strong bloody violence and gore, some sexual content and language
1 hr. 31 mins.
If you think this is just another knock-off of a horror cult classic, guess again.
Of course, it had a little help from Evil Dead veterans and producers Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, but give credit where credit is due. It’s as if Uruguayan director Fede Alvarez, fully conscious of his predecessors’ cult status, decided to up the ante. So with Raimi and Campbell watching from the balcony, he knew he had to grab the torch, light it with gasoline and burn down the joint. Not bad for a director making his major film debut.
One thing is certain. There’s nothing held back here. From the start, Evil Dead goes for the throat, even if the story doesn’t always make sense. Quibble if you must about the details — like the opening in which a young woman is burned by her father because she was demon-possessed. Not much explanation is given about the where or why, except that it was true. She was demon-possessed. I guess she had it coming.
And then there’s that strange book in the basement of the cabin that seems to contain a kind of evil power that unleashes some unknown bloodthirsty demon into Mia (Jane Levy). Who is this guy? We never do find out. All we know is that (he) she is nasty and vicious. I suppose that’s reason enough to stop asking silly questions.
What I’m trying to say is that this movie, despite the assistance of Juno writer Diablo Cody, doesn’t rely much on its story. Evil Dead is purely and simply about pulling you into its carnage. And frankly, with Alvarez moving this film briskly along, there isn’t much time for reflection.
The premise is about four young adults who plan to do an intervention in a remote cabin in the woods. Their target is friend and family member Mia the drug addict. Her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) has set this up so she can’t escape and run off. It’s cold turkey or nothing.
What they don’t know is that the cabin was the site of a previous exorcism. Where and when is sketchy, but it all revolves around a certain occult book they find in the basement. Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) decides to fool around with it and ends up raining down hell on everyone.
Of course, they have no clue what’s going on. Not until Mia’s possession starts to wreak havoc on them. That’s when the fun begins. And keeps on going and going and going.
Kudos to director Alvarez for understanding the genre, and knowing how to keep up the energy. His tight style doesn’t waste much time or scenery. If the goal is to keep you guessing and terrified, he succeeds.
The ending in particular is diabolical. It could wrap-up neatly at a couple of different points, but Alvarez pushes the envelope until you’re praying for it to stop. And for horror buffs, that’s just the way it should be.
You have to credit the cast as well — especially Levy and Pucci for gutsy (literally) performances. Even with such a questionable plot, they seem to have enough chops to make the implausible seem plausible.
It seems an odd time of year to release something this gruesome into the bright spring sunshine, but I suppose evil doesn’t care what season it is. It just wants to destroy stuff, which it does gleefully in Evil Dead. By the time this movie is over, there aren’t many body parts left that haven’t been beaten, burned, pierced, cut up and pulled off in chunks.
I can’t say I enjoyed this film, but it sure did scare the hell out of me. I guess in the end, when you’re following in the shadow of Raimi and company, that’s all that matters.