Halloween Movie Reviews: “Evil Dead”

A different kind of voyeur...

A different kind of voyeur…

While the movies I saw the previous nights were more psychological in nature, Evil Dead veered towards the gore and bodily horror that has been absent from my recently-seen for far too long.

The movie opens with a vignette suggestive of a typical horror movie. A scared girl is running, and is cornered by what at first looks like “backwater hicks”.

Taken to a cabin, she is tied up and immolated… by none other than her father. In a snap, the seemingly innocent girl is revealed to be the real terror, demonically possessed and a murderer of her own mother. An intriguing revelation that reverses the assumed cliché.

Some time later, the stage is set for trouble again. Five teenagers go to the same cabin, oblivious to its past. But rather than be out for cheap thrills and sex, they’re there to help a friend, Mia (Jane Levy), go cold turkey and beat her heroin addiction. This is a strong hook that both creates denial of the real nature of the problem, and creates incentive to protect her even as she becomes the host of all their fears.

I particularly admire the game the demon plays. Sometimes, it gives control back to its host for one of two reasons. Either to trick others into giving the demon what it wants, or truly for no other reason than to cause anguish. There’s a fear that the relinquished control might suddenly be snatched up again. But when it isn’t, you recognize that the demon just wanted to let the characters see their loved ones die. It’s insidiously twisted.

Perhaps the best thing I can say about Evil Dead is that, with one minor exception, every character seems to have passed Horror Movie Survival 101. That exception was, “Never read demonic scripture aloud” but that can be forgiven by anyone with the right mix of scientific doubt and curiosity, and was necessary to kick off the movie.

Given the circumstances and events, the characters almost always seemed to make the right choice or call, only to be thwarted by the demon’s powers. Every avenue that is the correct one is cut off. You rarely find yourself saying, “Don’t do that…” in that been-there-seen-that tone that comes from watching too many horror flicks.

Demons have a way of making the right decisions go poorly. They’re just more advanced than your average slasher.

However, I hope you’re comfortable with blood and gore. Evil Dead winces rather than winks when it comes to violence. I admire that CGI has been used as a touch up rather than as the source of the special effects. But just as with any normal slasher flick, the movie leaves nothing to the imagination.

In terms of horror continuity, Evil Dead holds itself in a strange position. It’s not of itself a sequel to The Evil Dead. But rather is something that one might call a “blessed reboot” much like how the new Star Trek found a clever way to simultaneously both reboot the series and tie into it.

And Evil Dead was blessed indeed. Although directed by Fede Alvarez, it was produced by Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi. Campbell even added a tiny Easter egg after the credits. Talk is that both the creators of Evil Dead and Army of Darkness are hard at work on sequels, and rumor has it that there’s talk of merging the two movie story lines into one. Hey, if Freddy and Jason can do it…

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