The old cabin in the woods has been the sight of many fun-filled family vacations; but very bad things have happened there as well, especially in the cellar. No one has been in the cabin for years as far as anyone knows, and it seems like the perfect place for Mia (Jane Levy) to go cold turkey off of heroin. She will be supported in her effort by childhood friends Eric and Jessica (Lou Taylor Pucci and Jessica Lucas). He’s a high school teacher and she’s a registered nurse. Also on hand will be Mia’s brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) and his girlfriend Natalie (Liz Blackmore). David is on the outs with his sister and former friends because he left home and took a job in Chicago while his mother was battling mental illness. Mia was left to deal with her mother alone and she’s angry about it. When the group arrives at the cabin they discover someone has used a crowbar to break in. While everything is a mess, nothing seems to be missing. Mia complains about a terrible smell that no one else seems to notice. Jessica writes this off as her beginning to go through withdrawal and her senses playing tricks on her. Soon the group discovers a hidden trap door leading to the cellar. When the door is opened everyone is overwhelmed by the smell of death. They investigate and discover the bodies of dead cats hanging from the ceiling on hooks and a charred support column that looks like it had been set on fire. On a table is a package bound in black plastic and wrapped in barbed wire. Eric opens the package and discovers a book that appears to have a cover made of stitched together human skin. Inside is an ancient language and disturbing images of demons and women being burned alive and dismembered. While he can’t read the language, Eric sees there are apparently translations written on some of the pages giving instructions on how to defeat a person possessed by a demon. Eric also sees some raised letters on a page and takes a pencil and a piece of paper see what they say. As he reads the words, an ancient evil is released and seeks out a host body to occupy, finding Mia walking around outside the cabin. Using Mia as a vessel, this evil force plans to literally raise Hell.
I don’t know how much fake blood was used on “Evil Dead,” a remake of the Sam Raimi cult classic from 1981, but I bet it would have filled an Olympic-sized swimming pool. It gushes from wounds, pours from the places where limbs used to be and even rains down from the sky in a finale that feels like it came out of a nightmare. Yes, “Evil Dead” has plenty of fake blood but what it lacks is any real scares. While we get a villain with mottled skin, crazy eyes and black goo dripping from her mouth, what she nor any other of the configurations of the demon are not is terribly frightening. While the movie poster and television commercials are filled with hyperbole about how terrifying the film is, it’s all sound and fury signifying nothing, to borrow a phrase.
There’s not much point in discussing the acting in “Evil Dead” as it is largely limited to screaming and looking scared. The story follows a rather predictable path of most horror films of this type with the gang all getting to the remote location, things beginning to get weird and then they go completely over the edge. There’s one member of the group who understands the events as being supernatural while the others dismiss him until they can no longer ignore what’s happening. All in all, it’s pretty standard horror/slasher fare with very little of the cast making it to the end of the movie. What sets “Evil Dead” slightly above the rest is its ability to create tension as each horrific event approaches. The music, the lighting and the sound all combine to generate dread as we await the next horrendous event to come. Unfortunately, all this tension is rarely paid off in real jump-out-of-your-seat scares. There are a few moments where you might twitch slightly in your seat with some of the sudden reveals. One of my “boo moments” as I call them was actually a fake out by the filmmakers to try and set up the real scare a few seconds later. The fake out was scarier than the real deal. “Evil Dead” tries to replace the frights with gore and while technically very good, the film just doesn’t deliver the skin-crawling moments of the first two “Paranormal Activity” films or the first two-thirds of “Sinister.”
“Evil Dead” is rated R for strong bloody violence and gore, some sexual content and language. The list of violent acts would be longer than the review. They range from shotgun blasts to the head to a woman cutting off her own arm with an electric carving knife. We see various limbs severed in a variety of ways. A nail gun and a hypodermic needle are used as weapons at different times. A woman is shown trying to cut off her own face with a piece of broken glass. Another woman is tied up and set on fire. There’s a great deal more that you’ll just have to see. The sexual content is brief and not terribly sexy. It involves a woman controlled by the demon and another woman and it doesn’t end well. Foul language is fairly common.
Fans of the 1981 original were bummed out that Bruce Campbell, the star of that film, didn’t have a part in the remake. While that’s true, I would like to encourage everyone to stay to the very, very end of the credits for a quick cameo by the original Ash. You’ll also hear audio from the original film describing the demonic book’s discovery. These are nice touches for fans of the original film. It’s too bad director Fede Alvarez and the screenwriters weren’t able to create a movie that delivers the scares it promises.
“Evil Dead” gets three mildly bored guitars out of five.
Two new movies this week would love for you to spend your money and come see them. I’ll see one but it’s up to you to decide what I’ll review next.
42—The story of two men—the great Jackie Robinson and legendary Brooklyn Dodgers GM Branch Rickey—whose brave stand against prejudice forever changed the world by changing the game of baseball.
Scary Movie V—The latest installment of the Scary Movie franchise includes send ups of Paranormal Activity, Mama, Sinister, The Evil Dead, Inception, Black Swan and pop culture.
Stan’s Choice—Stan sees and reviews any film of his choice currently in theatres.
Release dates are subject to change and not all films may be shown in Knoxville, TN.