Movie Review: Evil Dead

Right away you know that everything is definitely not going to be OK. There’s a girl running through the woods. What’s she running from? Two guys with a shotgun. They catch her. They knock her unconscious. They bring her back to the cabin. Yeah, that cabin. In the basement. Yeah, that basement. The one with all of the dead cats hung from the rafters. With all of these deformed looking relatives standing around, some crazy witch lady reading out of a serious looking spell book in some unrecognizable tongue. There’s cursing. There’s a twist. Lots and lots of fire.

And that’s all even before the title, Evil Dead, is slammed on the screen, right in your face, big nasty red letters on an all black background, the last A in Dead, it’s got that cabin built right into the font. We’re not wasting any time here folks, we’ve only been in the theater for about five minutes now, and the pace isn’t about to slow down any time soon.

Now we’ve got the cast pulling up to the cabin. That cabin. It’s like the cabin from Cabin in the Woods, but not pretending to be a horror movie. This is the real deal. Every square inch of this dump looks like it’s one footstep shy of a rot-induced implosion. Why would anybody want to spend any time here at all, let alone five young, good-looking guys and girls?

Unlike the 1980s B-movie franchise from which this new release was derived, this plot is at least slightly more believable. Whereas thirty years ago Bruce Campbell and the gang thought digs like this would make a nice spot for a weekend party getaway, our contemporary crew is here on more serious business: helping their junkie friend swear off hard drugs and make it through the ensuing withdrawal in total isolation from the outside world. Don’t worry, one of the women is a registered nurse.

Again, this was a novel plot twist on a very played out genre. When that spell book from earlier is found, despite barbed wire wrapping, with total disregard to the written-in-blood warning to, whatever you do, do not read from this book, the nerd of the group cannot let his curiosity lie. He doesn’t know it right away, but he summons an old demon, it infects the addict, and everybody mistakes her possession for classic dope-sickness.

Even when she beats the dog to death with a hammer. Even when she scalds herself with boiling water. Even after she starts stabbing people with a box cutter, proclaiming, “You will all die here tonight,” in a clearly demon-possessed voice. And yes, even after the nerdy guy figures out what he’s done and tries to burn the spell book, only to realize that it simply will not burn. “I don’t know,” the non-nerdy guy protests, “Maybe she’s just really, really sick.”

I’m partial to cheesy horror movies. I spent the summer in between my senior year of high school and freshman year of college driving to various Blockbusters on Long Island in hopes of finding all three parts of the Evil Dead trilogy. Back in the eighties, Sam Raimi had little to no money to instill fear upon an audience. He made up for it by making his movies as over-the-top as you could imagine. Think buckets of blood everywhere.

The new movie is obviously a big budget production, but they stay true to form, squeezing every possible ounce of gore and violence out of every dollar in the budget. There’s not a second of down time. It’s scene after scene of squirming in your seat, not knowing from which way what horror is going to come at you this time. There’s a chainsaw. There’s a nail gun with a never ending supply of nails. There’s a jury-rigged defibrillator made out of a car battery and some leftover syringes. In homage to Sam Raimi’s buckets of blood, the sky literally cracks open and pours torrents of red.

My pulse is still racing. As an adult, when I see new horror movies I’m either left overly disgusted by torture-porn or terribly underwhelmed by bad writing and unconvincing stories. Evil Dead didn’t give me a second to feel anything at all. I sat down, the words Evil Dead pounded on the screen, my body locked up all tense for an hour and a half or so, and the words Evil Dead were stamped once again. Go see this movie. Wait for it to come out on Netflix months from now. Find an old VHS player and somehow record it onto a blank tape. When you have kids, wait until they turn seventeen and set it up so that they find it lying around on their own. Baton passed.