In the year 2013, the innovations and influence that Sam Raimi created in the genre of Horror is still as apparent as it was in 1981. Raimi's abilities to successfully concoct beautifully horrific special effects and cinematography with a limited budget continues to display the clear-cut representation of the imagination of filmmakers; conveying their charm and brilliance onto the screen by any means necessary. It is his doggedness and determination as a filmmaker that has inspired countless people to pick up a camera and shoot something of their own, no matter how much money they had. Raimie's "Evil Dead" trilogy is seen by fans and critics alike as a masterful work of art, for Raimie's ingenuity not only revolutionized horror, but gave widespread audiences the ability to discover the wonder of the horror comedy. The campy atmosphere of his three films was a sure risk that pushed the envelope, but was ultimately a success. In the last 32 years, horror has seem some drastic changes. With "The Blair Witch Project", horror has been given a new face with the found footage technique, a style of production that represents amateur filmmaking to exhibit a realistic edge to a movie's content. What was once considered innovate in 1999 has transformed into a marketing scheme used by distribution companies to work with small budgets in order to gain high revenue. By using belly-aching visuals and horrible ad-libbed performances by unknown actors, these films are somehow supposed to seem realistic. This style of film hasn't shown any signs of slowing down, and with the creation of "Paranormal Activity", Paramount Pictures was able to show to the world that not only was this dreadful approach to filmmaking not dead, but that it still brings in more money than any other style of horror. The other side of the spectrum of horror has seen many changes as well. In the technique of found footage, budget is limited to a certain degree. Makeup effects are pretty much nonexistent, and gore has absolutely no part in the production. These films attempt to limit the amount of onscreen violence to seem more realistic. However, there have been films in the new millennium that have attempted to use gore to scare audiences. The "Saw" series represents the antithesis in approach from the found footage technique. In this series, the budget is high and well-known actors are present in production. The most important difference is the use of gore, which is in full swing. After six or so films that have been mindlessly pumped out over the last few years, movie critics have become tired of the use of gratuitous violence to scare an audience. The success of the "Saw" seris has seen dozens and dozens of mindlessly violent films that attempt to copy this approach but failing miserably. In this respect, the use of gore and excessive violence has been condemned by high-brow film society. While all of this is going on, the underground horror film industry has been attempting to do the same thing Raimi did 32 years ago. With the popularization of the B movie horror, films that use excessive gore contain campy elements to propel their films. However, not many films have been as innovative and awe-inspiring as Raimi's classics. In 2012, the genre of horror saw one of its finest moments in years with the release of "Cabin In The Woods", one of the first films in decades that was able to successfully make an audience laugh and smile without sacrificing its horrific impact in certain aspects. This film alone made the horror-comedy recognizable to mainstream audiences and critics again, and it became a hit. Half a year later it was announced that the original "Evil Dead" was being remade. I myself was questioning this move. Would the film be able to convey the silly horror that the original made so famous? It was apparent that audiences were finally taking the horror comedy seriously, so maybe it seemed like bringing this style back to its roots would be a good idea. I heard later that the films special effects would contain barely any computer effects; something that has almost killed the entire industry of horror single-handedly. If the film was able to mix horror and comedy well, while using classic special effects than maybe the film would actually be well done. Fede Alvarez, a newcomer to the film industry has certainly picked a dangerous film to work on for his first production. This film could represent a make or break for him. "Evil Dead" might not have been able to tackle the campy aspects that made the original series so great and charming, but its use of fantastic special effects and makeup, not to mention its ability to actually terrorize the audience, has to be commended in some fashion.
Going into this film, I wasn't sure if the movie was going to approach its story like a remake or a recreation. It turns out that neither of these two things happened. The film itself was more of an homage to the original than anything else, and for the most part, it was a good one. The film follows the story of five college aged people who go to a cabin in the middle of the woods for the weekend. In this version, they go to the cabin to help their friend kick her drug addiction. Her brother is present and all of her friends. One of the guys finds the book of the dead in the basement of the house and decides to open it and read it, unleashing the demons that were put to rest in the flashback that was introduced in the beginning of the movie. For the most part, the movie contains the same general plot. There are many things that are different, but the differences are all interchangeable. Basically, these differences all lead to the same conclusion. If the writers decided to move around certain things, it wouldn't necessarily effect the overall outcome of the story. The setup of characters isn't very important because the characters aren't the major focus of this production.
Without giving anything away, I would like to mention the beginning of this film. The introduction to the new Evil Dead film was absolutely horrible. I don't know if I want to explain why, but the style and techniques that were used in the beginning were so bad that it almost seemed like a different film altogether. The introduction's use of computer effects were blatantly fake, and the dreadful performances didn't make matters any better. It was because of the film's introduction that I original felt that the movie was going to be a complete waste of time. The movie was able to save itself completely, but the introduction seemed to stick out like a soar thumb. It was out of place, over-indulgent, and useless. And its baffling how different it was from the rest of the movie. I mentioned before how the characters weren't the focus of the film. This is true, however the film's main character had a lot more depth than I thought she would have. Jane Leavy played Mia, the central focus of the film whose drug addiction becomes her ultimate conflict. I was truly startled by how good of a performance she gave. Most of the performance was seen in her physicality. The faces she made and gradual progression towards insanity that she manifested on screen was actually believable, and this surprised me to say the least. The rest of the characters have barely any depth to them whatsoever, but Mia herself was a relentless reminder of the film's potential to exhibit anxiety so effortlessly.
The original Evil Dead is so commendable because it was able to scare audiences and use such great special effects with an extremely limited budget. The remake itself has much more funding to its name, however the visual approach of the film is still great. Aaron Morton's cinematography is a tribute within itself, using techniques that made Raimie so famous while coming up with his own approaches to certain sequences that I've never really seen before. This is the art of cinematography. To approach a film visually with both a counter-modernist and modernist perspective allows the audience to remember times of old while simultaneously introducing the potential future of visual art. In this respect, I was certainly pleased. But what makes this movie so enjoyable to watch are the special effects. This is truly how its done. Classic stlyes of animatronics, silicone, squibs, and of course, gallons and gallons of fake blood made this movie a visual treat. I was truly reminded of how horror films were able to make situations and sequences seem so realistic with the use of professional effects. With the computer age, things seem to look more and more fake as time goes on. But this production reminded audiences that there are still people out there that wish to confuse the audience into not knowing what is real and not real. Some critics have condemned this film for its use of excessive violence, but the whole production itself is surrounded on the basis of gore. It was gore that and violence that made the original series so popular, and its gore that Fede Alvarez has used to reintroduce this notion. That being said, I wholeheartedly commend this production, for its true determination to stay as true to the classic style as possible.
If there was one thing that the film needed more of it was camp. The one thing that "Evil Dead" sacrifices in the sake of great cinematography and visual effects is comedy. There is barely any signs of humor throughout this movie. There are certain sequences that will make you laugh, but nothing to such an extent that Raimie perfected. However, the movie is certainly able to redeem itself with its ability to show the audience something that they really haven't seen in a long time; Horror Fimmaking. To make a movie truly believable, one needs to contain craft. And to make a horror film truly believable, one must have craft and relentless patience. This film contained that. "Evil Dead" was able to not only show brilliant styles of production that made the classics classics, but actually contained its own horrific surprises that came at the audience without warning. In this respect, Fede Alvarez' production was a relentlessly dogged tribute to one of the most influential horror movies of all time. Did it mach the charm of the original? Not by a long shot. But the film was still able to capture my imagination. Certain sequences could have used more camp, and the pressure by the studio and the MPAA probably stripped this film of most of its majesty, but "Evil Dead" is really something to see; for its craft, its terror, and of course, its imagination.
Directed by: Fede Alvarez