September 25, 2022

Review of EVIL DEAD: The Black Book

You should give people what they want if your goal is to please them. Otherwise, it’s obvious pandering. Fede Alvarez’s remake Evil Dead doesn’t pander. The horror film grabs you by the throat and makes you vomit as much blood as you can stomach. Not everyone will like it. Alvarez and Aaron Morton, cinematographer, set a creepy mood but their main interest is to gleefully lay out the tools of destruction. The film smiles with a wicked smile and says, “We know what you came for.” The film then unleashes violence beyond any reason. The fear fades and the emotions disappear into the background. But Evil Dead continues to unleash the violence that requires far more than an MPAA rating. This needs to be labeled with a warning.

Mia (Jane Levy), has been to her family’s cabin in the woods along with Olivia (Jessica Lucas), Eric(Lou Taylor Pucci), and her estranged brother David, (Shiloh Fernandez), as well as her new girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore). The cabin is not the home she and David remembered, so she’s going there to detox. There is a blood trail leading to the cellar. Dead animals hang from the ceiling. A book is found on a table. Eric opens the book and finds evil words in it. He summons a demon to take control of each person and make them commit horrific acts of bodily harm.

Sam Raimi’s 1981 film The Evil Dead was not a masterpiece. It’s a personal movie about a filmmaker searching for his voice. The film is a mix of influences and attempts to make it cohesive. It’s funny and scary, but also fun and silly. Alvarez has no such indecisiveness. Alvarez’s vision is based on the plot elements Raimi outlined in the original. It is focused on terrifying the audience and playing to their bloodlust.

Although it is perverse to desire so much violence, that argument is well worth its own editorial and is far beyond this review. Alvarez is a good listener and knows his audience. He wants to push cinema beyond the current level of horror violence. (I also think it’s shameful that the MPAA allows any child to see this movie as long as they have a parent. But that argument deserves its own piece. He will eventually be pushed aside, but Evil Dead tries his best to be more violent than what audiences are used to. Hollywood may be running out of fake blood because Evil Dead has used it all. These aren’t the same crass effects Raimi used back in 1981. This is as plausible as it gets. You’ll be able to see how a limb could be ripped off.

Even though Alvarez patiently spends more time on character development than Raimi’s film, this singular focus takes away the film’s humanity. While we care about David and Mia’s relationship, Alvarez gives their story the same weight as a close-up of a nail-gun or meat-slicer. We don’t really care about the characters. They just need to be acceptable enough that we aren’t rooting for their death. We can only be this scared because we don’t care about what happens to them. Alvarez must work hard to create tension through visuals, sound design, and music. Although the movie contains some jump scares, its main purpose is to get to the meat.

Post- Cabin in the Woods A literal cabin-in-the-woods movie has to improve its game in some way. Drew Goddard‘s comedy-horror flick was intended to show that audiences don’t go to horror movies expecting to be scared. They are too familiar with the genre, and it has become lazy. Evil Dead takes on the challenge by making sure that we aren’t bored and having all jokes come from a need for distance, not a sense of superiority over the material. As Evil Dead was being shown, I couldn’t help but shout in my head, “Just give it to her!” It’s better for everyone to have her addicted to smack! This film offers more opportunities to mock others and, when combined with the relentless violence, almost makes us numb. Alvarez then delivers a final worthy of all the bloodshed that has gone before.

The most troubling thing about Evil Dead doesn’t include a single moment in Evil Dead. This movie could be a mirror of our desire to see the violence that is rarely seen on the big screen. Alvarez isn’t judging his audience. He is allowing them to indulge him. He shouldn’t be too preachy or restrained, however. Alvarez’s film, based on the goals he set for it, is a huge success. Although it’s a crowd-pleaser that will leave gore-hounds satisfied, we should all be slightly shaken by the horrifying feast Evil Dead requires us to eat. Also, check out this Design post!