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Evil Dead (2013)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 7/16/2013

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/11/2013

I've told this story many times before, but I feel that it's very appropriate to tell it again. The first movie which I ever rented was The Evil Dead. The movie scared me, freaked me out, grossed me out, and, most importantly, introduced me to a whole new realm of horror movies. I was fascinated by Sam Raimi's camerawork and the film's "anything goes" attitude. The movie instantly became one of my all-time favorites and has remained such after all these years. As a fan of the Evil Dead trilogy, I, of course, balked at the idea of doing a remake as opposed to doing Evil Dead 4. However, as The Evil Dead was made on the most miniscule of budget, I can see the validity of updating the movie. However, the resulting film doesn't live up to its predecessor.

(Note: from here on out, the 1981 original film will be referred to as The Evil Dead, while the remake will be known by its on-screen title Evil Dead.)

Evil Dead sees David (Shiloh Fernandez) join his old friends Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) and Olivia (Jessica Lucas) at a remote cabin in the woods in order to do an intervention for his sister, Mia (Jane Levy). Also along for the ride is David's girlfriend, Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore). David hasn't seen Eric and Olivia for some time, and there is clearly some animosity there. Mia disposes of her drugs and the group settles in to help her ride things out. They discover a bizarre scene in the cabin's basement, with dozens of dead cats hanging from the rafters. Eric finds an old book (which is wrapped in barbed wire) and begins to explore its bizarre pages and grotesque illustrations. Of course, Mia becomes very restless and tries to leave the cabin, once in the woods, she is attacked by an unseen force. Returning to the cabin, she begins to exhibit bizarre and violent behavior. Soon, this spreads to the others and it becomes clear that a supernatural power has turned the friends into homicidal demons.

Evil Dead is the latest in long line of unnecessary remakes of classic horror films from my childhood, joining the ranks of A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, and The Fog. The frustrating thing about these films is that they have the budget to look very slick and polished when compared to the original films. However, they all make the same mistake of attempting to "reboot" the story as opposed to simply making a new version of the older movie. These modern filmmakers may have the ability to make their movies look good, but none of them have the imagination or creativity of those who have come before them. (The rare exception is Alexandre Aja's The Hills Have Eyes, whose brutality definitely harkened back to the 70s.)

Fledgling filmmaker Fede Alvarez makes the same mistakes with Evil Dead. Plucked from obscurity by Sam Raimi, all because of a short he placed on-line, Alvarez and his writing partner Rodo Sayagues, both of whom are from Uruguay, have definitely created nice looking movie. The production design of the cabin is meticulously shabby (as opposed to actually being decrepit in the original film) and the camera glides along without ever overtly mimicking Raimi's signature moves. While all of the action is confined to the cabin and the surrounding woods, there are big set pieces which would have been impossible in the first movie.

However, Alvarez forgot to bring some very important things to the table. I'll be the first to admit that The Evil Dead is an example of style over substance, as the plot is very thin. However, Alvarez and Sayagues have put too much story in their film. The only likeable idea here is that Mia's experiences could be construed by the others as a side effect of her detox. Otherwise, the story here presents too many "rules", instead of simply letting chaos rein. And in the third act, when David become McGuyver, things simply become laughable. Alvarez also apparently has no interest in making a scary movie. The Evil Dead leaves an impression on the viewer and the scene with the playing cards is very creepy. There's nothing remotely creepy or scary here, and there's little in the way of suspense. The possessed characters don't look disturbing -- the animal-like eyes don't compared to the completely white eyes from the original. Also, I don't like the idea that the demons use weapons. What's the point of being possessed if you are just going to shoot and stab everyone? The only powers which the demons seem to possess is the ability to close doors, as this happens every few minutes in the movie. Is the movie gory? Yes, there is a lot of blood here, but there's no creativity to it. We see a lot of people get hacked and slashed in a very realistic fashion, but it's all very matter of fact and it simply isn't interesting. In the end, most of the movie is quite boring. There's always something happening, but it's so hollow, that it has no effect on the audience. (And shouldn't the ultimate evil look, oh, I don't know, scary?)

Haters will say that I'm simply comparing the new movie to the old one and not taking it on its own merits. Well, this is 100% true, as I can't forget The Evil Dead. But, I think that even if this was an original movie, it would still be a failure. Despite the story, we get little character development here and things just start happening to cardboard cutout characters (I swear Natalie is off-screen for like 30 minutes and we she suddenly appears there's a "Who's she?" moment.) The violence is violent, but pointless and like a bloody Pixar movie, the story just keeps going and going. Clearly the idea of fighting against a remake of The Evil Dead is pointless, but someone could have made a better movie than this one. It has been argued that this is The Evil Dead for a new generation. If this is true, then I weep for the future.

Evil Dead has a hard time counting souls on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no discernible grain and no defects from the source materials. The image is very well-balanced -- this is a dark movie, but the image is never overly dark. The colors look good, most notably the red blood. The picture shows a nice amount of depth, giving space to the confined cabin. The level of detail is good, as we can see every scar on Mia. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.5 Mbps. It won't take long to notice that the dynamic range is off-balance here. The sound effects are much louder than the dialogue. This may have been done intentionally to make the "jump" scares more effective, but I found myself constantly riding the volume control in order to actually hear the dialogue. That aside, the stereo and surround sound effect are well-placed and show good detail. The subwoofer effects are booming at times, most notably when the unseen force attacks Mia.

The Evil Dead Blu-ray Disc contains a selection of extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Fede Alvarez, Writer Rodo Sayagues, Jane Levy, Lou Taylor Pucci, and Jessica Lucas. "Directing the Dead" (7 minutes) opens with Alvarez stating that he wanted the characters' reactions to the situation to be realistic. Well, they failed on that front. From there, we get comments from the cast who discuss the working environment and we see some on-set footage. This also includes a look at the table read. "Evil Dead the Reboot" (10 minutes) explores how the remakes came about. Producers Robert Tapert and Bruce Campbell discuss the pros and cons of a remake, while Alvarez talks about his goals. This also contains clips from the short film which got Raimi's attention. The extremely grueling and physical conditions of shooting the movie are explored in "Making Life Difficult" (8 minutes). "Unleashing the Evil Force" (5 minutes) is a brief explanation of how the "Book of the Dead" is included in this movie. "Being Mia" (9 minutes) shows Jane Levy going through various aspects of her look on the film. This includes special effects makeup.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.