The 400-Word Review: Evil Dead
By Sean Collier
April 7, 2013
The comprehensive streak of horror remakes that has reset franchises since the turn of the century has had one overarching mission: Let’s add some backstory!
We hung out with Michael Myers in a mental institution. We packed seven Elm Streets worth of exposition into one Nightmare. Even Fright Night’s vampires got deep.
And the villains aren’t the only ones under undue scrutiny; our protagonists have revealed much more of themselves than their ’80s progenitors ever did. It’s an unnecessary step: I need to know that Jason is carving up the young couple because they’re having premarital sex, but I don’t need to know why they’re having premarital sex. The answer seems fairly obvious.
The new treatment on Sam Raimi’s cult classic The Evil Dead adds little but such over-sharing, often at the expense of the humor the original boasted. This Evil Dead — the “The” is silent — begins not with a fast-moving introduction to the woods, but rather with a meaningless flashback to a prior immolation at the cabin. See, it wasn’t enough to simply know that bad stuff happened here back in the day — here it is! Isn’t it gruesome?
And it is — if anything, Evil Dead surpasses its source material in gore, which was no tall order. Hardcore horror types with a yen for such things need not fear the watering-down that some reclaimed properties have suffered; the limbs divorce themselves from the torsos with even more fervor than Raimi gleefully created.
As for the characters — all played by young performers too central-casting for me to warrant even an IMDb check — the series of scribes who cobbled this story together (including an uncredited rewrite by Diablo Cody) apparently felt that “young people like to get drunk in cabins” was insufficient motivation for our posse to head into the woods. Here, protagonist Mia (Jane Levy, of “Shameless” or something,) is a troubled addict trying once again to kick the habit; her friends have isolated her as an extreme intervention.
Does that matter when the chainsaws start revving and the souls start dropping? Nope, but hey, it’s there if you needed a longer first act, I suppose.
Evil Dead isn’t the worst of the remakes; it’s frightening, tense and gory enough to satisfy the target audience. But it falls to the forthcoming Carrie to try to buck the trend of good-but-superfluous efforts in the genre.
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark