My Two Cents (UPDATE) - Criterion's December BD/DVD Slate Announced http://t.co/rnqszzpQu9
Evil Dead (2013)
Release Date(s)2013 (July 16, 2013)
If you know me, you know I looooove horror films. In particular, I’m a big fan of the original Evil Dead series of films. That being said, I’m not a big fan of this version. But let me say that I appreciated it more than I thought I might. Like a bad movie based on a book I love, I don’t think a remake or reboot like this ruins a person’s love of the original film.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying Evil Dead ‘13 is a bad horror movie. Actually, it’s not a bad horror movie at all. It’s just not a very good Evil Dead film. I’m going to come down rather hard because of the fact that it is first and foremost an Evil Dead film – and in that regard, it fails. But if you just watch it as a horror film, I’ll tell you now that it’s watchable.
For years there have been whispers that Evil Dead was coming back and Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell were going to be part of it. When Evil Dead ‘13 was announced a few years back as being in development but with an eye for a “new blood” take – a little bit of hope was lost. Under that mandate, it was simply NEVER going to bring in the GenX crowd’s seal of approval. We weren’t looking for “new blood” – we wanted old blood. And lots of it. GenX has their Evil Dead and all we ever wanted was a sequel please-thank-you-very-much. But what we’re slowly finding out is, Hollywood doesn’t need GenX anymore. We had our time to shine – now is the time for a new generation of film goers. And it would seem this generation loves them some possession films. The original Evil Dead had the possession aspect technically, but the Deadites aren’t really your average spirits from hell wreaking havoc on Earth. They’ve always been a different kind of demon. Evil Dead ‘13 tries to rationalize the demons as being just like those seen in all of those found footage paranormal films: somewhat religiously inspired. And it doesn’t work. I always thought the randomness of the evil was what made the Evil Dead films work. They had no reason to be here, they get an invite and BOOM here there are. In this, we have a prologue that basically ruins the whole film after it because of its pointlessness.
The underlying story here is actually pretty ingenious: girl next door Mia is not so girl next door, with an out of control heroin problem. All of her friends have tried to help her in the past, but it hasn’t stuck. So now, with the help of her long lost brother, her friends bring Mia up to her family’s cabin in the woods. It’s there, cut off from the world, that she experiences things that are easily racked up as withdrawal symptoms, but turn out to be hell springing up on Earth. Soon she is attacked by the woods, an f-ed up basement is found under the house – holding within it a spooky book made from human skin – and of course some dumbass reads it. That’s all you need, right?
Well, the problem is, Evil Dead ‘13 takes all the touchstones of the first two Evil Dead films and puts them on a plate: tree rape, spooky basement, “you’re all gonna die” quotes, flooded roads, levitating freaky folk, a book made of human skin written with human blood, possessed hands and roaring dolly shots – all are included. But the filmmakers think they’re being original by having these touchstones happen to different folks, in different order and with some red herrings thrown in to make you believe anyone, at any given time is taking on the Ash role. It all ends with no one actually taking the Ash role (not a spoiler, shut up) and that, right there, is the film’s biggest problem: Evil Dead is about Ash’s journey. Without that, this iteration contains nothing but facile connections to the original films becoming not a prequel, not a sequel, not a remake and certainly not a reboot. It not being about Ash makes it just a pale echo trying it’s damnedest to make a connection with the audience. And all it does well for itself is make for an impressive plea to go back to practical special effects. That IS really the only thing that works in this film – the effects. And they are truly awesome. Evil Dead ‘13 looks fantastic. The trailer promised a film that was going to be awesome, but it hands over something far from awesome. And it’s a shame – because it’s possible, if they just delivered a true remake and found the right actor to make us believe we didn’t need Bruce Campbell as Ash – the pieces might have fallen into place. Then again, who am I kidding – you can’t replace Bruce Campbell.
If you have to own Evil Dead ‘13, Blu-ray is the way to go. The film was shot hi-def in 4K (2.39:1 aspect and down-converted for BD) and it truly looks about as good as any horror film will ever look. Detail is tight, colors are bright and the blacks are full and robust. This is an A+ transfer if there ever was one – true reference quality. The audio is also something of a marvel. It’s upfront and aggressive as hell, perfectly capturing the theatrical experience and all of the really great sound design. Featured on the disc in six-channel, 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio, it will not disappoint the audiophile who jumps into this film full bore. (A second DTS-HD Master Audio track in Portuguese and Dolby Digital 5.1 (640kbps) in Spanish, French and Thai are also on board, with English, English SDH, Chinese, French, Spanish, Indonesian, Korean and Portuguese subtitles).
There are a few fun extras, though I was expecting a bit more. We get an audio commentary with co-writer/director Fede Alvarez and co-writer Rodo Sayagues, with actors Jane Levy, Lou Taylor Pucci and Jessica Lucas. The commentary is well choreographed and showcases a group that really enjoyed working together and still have a lot of chemistry. They talk development and expectations as well as the move to shun CGI for practical effects. There’s also a little bit about there being some additional scenes that are not included on this disc, which makes me feel like we’ll be getting a longer cut at some point in the future. Commentary subs are also featured in English, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai. Also on board are five featurettes (in HD). Directing the Dead focuses on character development and how the film used tried and true practical effects to achieve the gore in the film. Evil Dead: The Reboot shows the development taken by the original Evil Dead team (Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Rob Tapert) and whether to even do it – and how to do if they did. There are two Jane “Mia” Levy centric featurettes: Making Life Difficult and Being Mia. Finally we get a look at the Necronomicon used in the film. Why there isn’t a look at the effects is a mystery – but maybe they’re holding that for the aforementioned eventual re-release. For those who consider it an extra, there’s a UltraViolet digital copy code too. Worth mentioning if you buy from Target, there’s a Steelbook version currently available.
Evil Dead ‘13 is a pale shadow when held against any of the originals. It tried to stand next to them, but it simply can’t make the cut. It's a beautiful and well-made film, and if you can separate yourself from what it’s trying to do and can see it as simply a horror film of its own – I think it’s a fun horror film worth checking out. It’s hard if you’re familiar with the original. If this is your first and only exposure to Evil Dead – maybe it will work. But you owe it to yourself to check out Ash and the original.
- Todd Doogan