Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #70
Number of Views: One
Release Date: March 8, 2013 (SXSW Film Festival), April 5, 2013 (US)
Country of Origin: United States
Box Office: $97,542,952
Running Time: 92 minutes
Director: Fede Alvarez
Producers: Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Robert G Tapert
Screenplay: Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues, Diablo Cody (uncredited)
Original Story: Sam Raimi
Special Effects: Jason Durey
Visual Effects: George Ritchie
Cinematography: Aaron Morton
Score: Roque Baños
Editing: Bryan Shaw
Studio: Ghost House Pictures, Film District, TriStar Pictures
Distributor: TriStar Pictures
Stars: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore, Pheonix Connolly, Jim McLarty, Sian Davis
Suggested Audio Candy
Roque Baños “Exorcism”
Many old classic eighties horror movies have been given the remake treatment of late. Recently Frank Khalfoun’s fabulous reimagining of William Lustig’s 1980 exploitation flick Maniac has been stirring up a silent storm and, with Brian De Palma’s Carrie currently being redesigned for a modern-day audience, it was only a matter of time before somebody resurrected Sam Raimi’s 1981 cult movie The Evil Dead. The moment I heard that Raimi and old buddy Bruce Campbell were involved any initial fears subsided although I still entered the auditorium wary as I sat down to drink in Fede Alvarez’ reboot.
My expectations had purposely been pitched realistically such was the gargantuan size of the task at hand. I was aware of the flattering comparisons that were being made and also of the excess of gore which had apparently been shoe-horned into its slender running time. But no trailers had been viewed beforehand and no spoilers revealed so I entered the best way, with a blank sheet of paper in one hand and the Crimson Quill in the other. As the lights dimmed around me, I settled in my seat, and prepared to ink up my instrument of madness once more.
Interestingly, by the closing credits the same ink was still dripping from the Crimson Quill without having touched parchment a single time. Admittedly this owed as much to my lack of a lantern to scribe by, as it did to Evil Dead not providing any clear openings to prise my eyes away from the screen. It’s pretty unremitting; once red has become the primary color of choice it’s pretty much that way for the duration. To begin with however the first aspect that shines bright is Aaron Morton’s grand cinematography. Beautifully realized, the woods are shown in a grand sweeping shot which teases us as to the sheer scale of the region. Of course most of the antics take place in one old rickety cabin so any feeling of freedom is short-lived.
What an intimidating cabin it is too; this would undoubtedly have been one of the factors Alvarez was most apprehensive about recreating, but if he felt intimidated he sure doesn’t show it. Darkly lit, sparsely furnished, and littered with beams of dusty light oozing in from every possible puncture in its wooden foundations, the cabin gets it pretty much on the money. The infamous basement is also present; concealed by a musky rug, replete with the many corpses of deceased cats, and looking almost pungent enough to taste. A number of transactions take place within its tight confines but, in truth, it’s going off all over. Alvarez states his intentions very swiftly and sets his stool out without procrastination.
The plot, which will soon become utterly unimportant, revolves around four friends who gather at the cabin in the woods to assist Mia (Jane Levy) in overcoming a fairly hellish heroin addiction. These comprise her estranged older brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) and his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) and their friends Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) and qualified nurse Olivia (Jessica Lucas). Many bridges need to be mended as the once tight group have become distant over the years and the blame lays squarely on David’s doorstep. However, right now, the only priority is Mia’s vow of sobriety and making sure that she remains on the wagon.
Of course, you can’t place five twenty-somethings in a dilapidated shack without them engaging a little spot of snooping around and it isn’t long before they unearth the Naturom Demonto, better known to us as the Book of The Dead. Eric can’t resist a further look and, after reciting a few ominous passages by candlelight, our genie vacates the lamp. Ordinarily this would entail a string of wishes but not on this occasion. Eternal suffering is the order of the day and the raring-to-go deadites own the monopoly on that particular chestnut.
Wisely he tackles the shrubbery dilemma early on as our love branches lube up with honeysuckle once more and venture off with one hole the goal. Aided by some thick black sludge, they reach their destination with ghoulish glee. Whilst never quite matching up to the original’s raw and brutal depiction of becoming one with nature, the scene still packs a splinter-gripped punch. Our recipient of a coat of varnishing Mia bears an uncanny resemblance to Kristen Stewart, although Edward’s toxic member no doubt was inserted more lovingly than this timber tool. It is safe to assume that the bark is on this occasion far worse than the bite and it gives new credence to the words getting wood.
Of course the iconic tool shed stands ostentatiously alongside the shack and devoted deadites will concur when I say that there’s a pretty mean selection of hardware within, including a makeshift defibrillator. Fortunately, they’re all juiced up and ready to purr; we’re talking chainsaws, machetes and a nail gun which is used to splendid effect and with some frequency.
We have our makeshift Scotty. Taylor Pucci’s turn as Eric is my personal standout with his character proving a gallant comrade to the presumable Ash of the piece. He really goes through the wars and still manages to keep his pecker up, despite being put severely through the ringer. In true Raimi fashion, all five suffer enough band-aid moments to make a mortician wince and the splatter is expertly handled and piled on by the vat load. It even rains blood in this film; creating rivers of grue that you just want to splash around in.
The chainsaw has one particularly grisly run out and would boast at being one of the most unrelenting in cinematic history; classified at least. Limbs stray from their sockets; flesh is burned from its origins; heads are caved in with sink basins. I’m not even hitting it all here; remember there are only five main characters so that’s a hell of an injury list. Meanwhile, Alvarez’ film relies less on humor than Raimi’s originator and this is a wise decision. That aspect would be the most difficult to replicate as we are no longer in the eighties. In truth I never left there. A foreboding atmosphere and tantalizing imagery take precedence and on both counts he comes up trumps.
Is it as good as the original? I knew I’d have to answer that question sooner rather than later so here goes. Think Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead only with a fair amount more contribution from those who originated the concept. It is respectful; treads the right boards consistently from start to end, and heads up, stay through the credits as there’s a special treat waiting for you should you do so. By the time I finally vacated my seat, I was more than aware of the pheromones swimming around my inner cranium, every last one chirping like love birds.
When asked my opinion I felt at a loss to put words to it. It needed to marinate as I like to let my horror simmer in its own juices for some time before offering a judgement. I’m more comfortable now, sitting on my decked patio, running through a mental slide show, and reliving the sheer lunacy of what I had just been made privy to. Whether or not it reaches the unrealistically tall sentinel like standing of Raimi’s tour de force remains to be seen. However, reappraisal will shed more light on this conundrum, once it has had chance to mature a little. For now, I can still taste the blood in the back of my throat and I wish to savor that warm sticky flavor for the time being at least.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 9/10
Grue Factor: 5/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: Unpruned branches going in dry is the least of our unlucky quintet’s concerns here. The deep red coulis on exhibit is a plumber’s worst nightmare; a tsunami of splatter which knocks you back into your seat and runs in rivulets from the bulging screen. Everything you could ask for is provided with only a mild feeling of disappointment when recalling the tree molestation. The camera is a little more respectful this time; perhaps unsurprising given the fact that Raimi regrets its inclusion first time out. Other than that, it strikes bloody gold.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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