Name any cult horror film from the 70s and 80s and more often than not, it was rehashed and rebooted in the 21st century. “Halloween,” “The Amityville Horror,” “Friday the 13th,” “Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Dawn of the Dead:” all remade from 2004 to 2010, and the list goes on. The advantage horror filmmakers have today are the CGI and improved evolution of makeup effects. The blood looks real and the severed heads are revolting. This year, the gods of gore give us the revamped version of “Evil Dead.” When Sam Raimi (“Oz The Great and Powerful,” “Drag Me To Hell”) made the original in 1981, it was low budget and highly controversial. Over thirty years later, the new generation is ready for this terrifying and disgusting (in a good way) remake.
As screen writer/director Fede Alvarez says, “This is balls-to-the-wall horror.” And let’s face it, for some scream seekers like myself, that’s what we like to see. Alvarez makes his feature film directing debut and was luckily backed up by the true “Evil Dead” team. Raimi, along with the star of the first film, Bruce Campbell, acted as producers this time around. “Evil Dead” is the epitome of the “and then there was one” scenario. A group of friends go to a remote cabin and accidentally release unspeakable evil forces. Alvarez kept the basic idea and breathed more life into it with a back story. Mia (Jane Levy) is fighting her drug addiction by going ‘cold-turkey’ at her family’s old cabin surrounded by her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez), his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) and their childhood friends Olivia (Jessica Lucas) and Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci). Once the drugs are destroyed a new demon is discovered. They follow a stench into the cellar where dead cats hang from the ceiling and a book sits with a shotgun on a table. Eric becomes fascinated with the book and through reading its content; he unknowingly unleashes the wrath of hell.
Alvarez gives us everything one would want in a fear-fest. Girls running in the wrong direction when they should be running out the door, amusing dialogue and death scenes too good to turn your head away from. Jane Levy and Lou Taylor Pucci stand out from the rest of the cast with superior talent. Playing a demonically possessed junkie was a nice change for Levy, who we’re used to seeing in the slapstick sitcom, “Suburgatory.” But if anyone carried the film, it was Pucci. Most of the time, characters in horror movies aren’t the sharpest or the kind of people you care about, but with Pucci – you wanted to root for him.
Above the director and the cast; the real stars of the film were the effects. The gags were courtesy of Roger Murray, the makeup effects designer who created the elaborate prosthetics, as well as the make-up team lead by Jane O’Kane. One of the producers, Rob Tapert said, “When heads and arms get chopped off via CGI, there’s a certain operatic beauty to it. CGI lends itself to creating ‘pleasing’ images, whereas someone slowly sawing their arm off and squirting blood everywhere has the visceral quality that makes it seem like you can really see things ripping.” The detail and creativity that went into the blood and gore scenes was evident. At one point, the team created five different prosthetic arms that represented the stages of degeneration. “She has to chop off her arm,” says Murray. “We started with a silicone arm and joined the actress to a double, so she is giving the performance and her double controls the infected arm. There’s one that she actually cuts off. We’ve got one for after her arm drops off.” At the very beginning of the film, Levy’s “character is caught in a thorn bush and she gets badly burnt before the whole ‘Deadite’ part of her comes out,” Murray says. “We isolated eight different stages as her possession progresses with about 150 appliances that we put together in different combinations.” The cutting, slicing, sawing and burning is one of the most impressive gore displays I’ve seen in a horror film.
As far as those who may be purists of the original, it was Sam Raimi’s idea to create a new spin-off of his “Evil Dead” in the first place. “I really felt it was a great ghost story that deserved to be told again on the big screen, but with high quality visuals and great acoustic treatment this time,” Raimi said. And he was right. This time around it’s truly terrifying with a capital “T.”
By Pamela Price
Evil Dead is rated R by the MPAA for the following reasons: strong bloody violence and gore, some sexual content and language.
Photos Courtesy of Sony Pictures Publicity