And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. Matthew 5:30, KJB
I saw the Evil Dead remake last night at my favorite, secret theater in Lower Manhattan. I really liked it and thought it was a loving homage to the original. So, why did I, an atheist, open my review with a Bible quote? Well, I thought that there were Biblical elements to this movie. The verse I selected is from Matthew’s account of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. In the preceding verses, Jesus says thinking of committing a sin is essentially a thought-crime and is as bad as actually sinning. He specifically speaks about lust and that if you think about committing adultery then you’ve actually committed adultery. In response, you should pluck out the offending eye to save your whole body from hell. That’s why I dislike religion, it sets up impossible standards. You’ve made someone think of something just by the act of telling them not to think of something. The same deal follows with your hands, if it acts against you then chop it off. You can pretty much debate all day whether or not Jesus really wanted his followers to gouge their eyes out and chop off their hands or if he just meant their metaphorical hands and where am I going with this anyway? Basically, that in this movie two characters lose hands, one of which is actually possessed by a literal demon. See, Evil Dead draws its inspiration from Sumerian mythology, which was cribbed by early Jews and eventually, by Christians. I think this movie should have come out on Easter weekend, due to its themes of resurrection and rebirth. Easter celebrates resurrection but this movie asks, is every thing you resurrect good? Also, the idea of sinning just in thought relates to the movie because so much of the plot and characters’ actions are based on things that are done or never done.
Ok, enough Bible study, I promise. The plot is quite similar to the original. Five old friends go to a secluded cabin. In this case, it’s to help Mia (Jane Levy) kick her drug habit. Why don’t movie characters ever just go to rehab?
Luckily, one of her buddies, Olivia (Jessica Lucas) is an RN and plans to help Mia through her withdrawal. Mia’s brother, David (Shiloh Fernandez), even shows up. This is surprising because he’s been away from his family and friends for years, leaving Mia to deal with their mentally ill mother.
So there are all these unspoken issues between the two siblings. As Mia enters withdrawal, she finds the cabin unbearable and tries to run away.
Meanwhile, their bookish friend, Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), finds the evil book, wrapped in trash bags and barbed wire. Despite every warning not to, he reads the evil incantations. Demons, ahoy!
Mia totals a car and is caught in the woods, where she’s raped by the actual shrubbery. I remember reading about Sam Raimi’s ambivalence about the rape scene in the original movie so I was a bit surprised to see it in the remake. That being said, I think it’s appropriate. It’s not filmed lovingly and it’s clear that it’s not a seduction. It’s more like nature itself is turning against the humans in the cabin.
Mia tries to warn her friends about the demon in the woods but they take her warnings as the ravings of a drug-user trying to escape rehab. Turns out that Mia’s really possessed and the movie is about the demons picking off her friends, one by one.
What I especially liked were the shout-outs to the fans of the original series. When we first see Mia, she’s wearing a Michigan State sweatshirt. The original group of students in the movie were Michigan State students. One of the first scenes with Mia involves her sketching a picture of the cabin. Cheryl, the tree-rape victim in the original, was also seen sketching. David gives Mia a necklace, like Ash gave his girlfriend in the original.
The creepy old grandfather clock is back. So is Ash’s blue work shirt, although David’s now the one wearing it.
My personal favorite is that they kept the camera work when the demons appear to be flying into the cabin. That creeped me out in the original. Also, at one point Mia looks like she has a chainsaw hand. Some shots are very reminiscent of the original.
I was worried about two things regarding this movie. The first was that the red-band trailer would reveal all the gore. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. There are buckets of blood. I will never be able to look at an Olfa knife or a nail-gun the same way again. I was also worried when I heard that Diablo Cody was working on the script. It was co-written by director Fede Alvarez. Diablo Cody was hired to fine-tune the English. If there’s anyone I don’t want fine-tuning English, it’s Diablo Cody because I really hate about 75% of her use of the language. But her contribution was so negligible that the Writers Guild of America ruled that she could be left out of the credits. So we don’t have to worry about the characters speaking 30-year-old Valley Girl speak.
So, is the movie scary? It’s not so much jump-scares, it’s more harrowing watching what the characters undergo. Especially Mia, she has earned the right to Bruce Campbell one-liners. I especially liked the music. It was a mix of strings and the ambient drone of the chainsaw. There were moments, like when the demons are flying to the cabin, and the movie becomes oppressively silent.
It’s awesome seeing this movie look so great on the big screen. None of the versions of the original that I’ve scene look this crisp. I love that the original producer, writer, and star were able to bring their vision to the screen with a new budget and really show how they wanted to scare an audience. Especially because all the effects are practical. That is very, very, groovy.