By Jay Sizemore
“You are all going to die tonight.” This classic line’s utterance signals a shifting of gears in the grisly remake of Sam Raimi’s horror cornerstone; it means for the rest of the picture, the pedal will be pushed to the proverbial metal. Brace yourself. By the end, your arms may be tired from gripping the armrests.
Evil Dead takes everything you love about the original two films, as Evil Dead 2 was basically a remake of the first one with a better budget, and it modernizes it, removes the camp, the tongue-in-cheek humor, and fills in the gaps with pure bad-assery and enough blood to fill Lake Eerie. It has been a long time since I have seen a movie go for broke on the gore effects, and that means the payoff is even more intense, because it is twice as shocking. The gore level of certain scenes make them difficult to watch, yet one can’t help but feel that deep-seeded bloodlust the Romans may have felt in the Coliseum, that dizzying adrenaline rush of cheating death through vicarious empathy with visual stimuli. Most viewers will have a hard time watching without squirming in their seats, crying out, and/or cringing in empathetic pain.
The makers of this film did their horror homework. The director, Fede Alvarez, manages to masterfully pay homage to the classics, and make this movie his own. There are several winks to the fans, and a few key changes that subtly add depth and character to an otherwise shallow scare-fest. Alvarez seems to recognize, and rightfully so, that scares have to build from within the context of the film, and gore’s shock value is only as shocking as it is relevant to the realism of the plot. For instance, every gore scene in the film is prefaced with very clever foreshadowing. The tools used for the maiming are always focused in on in a previous cut scene. The viewer ends up anticipating what the tool will be used for, and then can only stare in disbelief at the unbelievable result.
The only part of the movie that didn’t seem to really work that well for me, was the exposition after the brutal opening sequence. The quiet moments of character introductions and conversations seemed hampered by flatly delivered dialogue, and some poor editing choices. It was as if even the director and the editor couldn’t wait to get to the good stuff. Once the wild part of the ride begins, when they discover the door in the floor of the cabin, there is no stopping the descent into madness. The pacing is breathtakingly effective. This film runs at an hour and a half, and I couldn’t imagine it being any longer. The level of intensity just continues to ramp up at a steady pace, until the film reaches the point of nearing complete absurdity, and there it wisely chooses to come to an end. The effect is a non-stop adrenaline rush that leaves you wanting more.
Some fans may balk at the change in the ending, but I liked it. I felt it gave the movie more emotional weight, and actually added another element, which was lacking in Raimi’s version, an actual artistic choice to make the entire film a metaphor for fighting drug addiction. Well played, Alvarez. Well played. Not only have you successfully rebooted one of the most famous horror franchises, but you may have made one of the best horror films in history.
Jay Sizemore is film critic for The Missing Slate.