Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on my phone.
This is honestly probably the first time I’ve watched an entire movie on my phone. Why would I do that, you might ask. Well, since my run-in with COVID, I’ve decided that I need to get back into the gym. The place I go has very nice treadmills and such; they come with screens that show you wooded paths and the like. You can also stream things on NetFlix and a few other services. But they don’t do Tubi, and I had a hankering to watch the 2013 remake of Evil Dead. It was an interesting experience, watching a brutal horror movie in public. It was also an interesting experience seeing people attacked in the woods while walking on a treadmill with visions of a lovely wooded walk scrolled by.
This version of Evil Dead takes some license with the original story. Of course, it almost had to. The first Evil Dead is essentially the ur-version of a cabin in the woods story (okay, the original Night of the Living Dead might have a little to say about that, but I think the point stands). The plot of the original film is, essentially, five people go to a cabin in the woods. While there, they find recordings of someone reading from an ancient cursed book, and the recordings release demons into the world. So, it’s not like we were starting from a place of rich and deep storytelling.
The update this time is to give us a much better reason for our quintet to be in the middle of nowhere. Our crew are David (Shiloh Fernandez) and his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) and David’s sister Mia (Jane Levy). Also along for the ride are David’s friends Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) and nurse Olivia (Jessica Lucas). They’re not here for a vacation, though. They’re here because Mia is going to go cold turkey from her heroin addiction. We learn eventually that this is not Mia’s first attempt, and that previously she overdosed to the point where she had to be resuscitated.
Now, what our group of five don’t know that we in the audience know is the opening scene of the film. In that scene, we see a group of people sacrifice a young woman in the basement of this very cabin. Oh, this isn’t the cause of what will happen. No, it’s very clear that they are not sacrificing her to raise demons but because she is possessed. The problem is that they’re going to leave all of the paraphernalia of her execution behind, including the book that contained the information to get rid of her as well as the information on how to bring the demons back.
So, what’s going to happen is not going to be a surprise. Eventually, the group is going to find what happened under the house and start cleaning things up. The book is going to fall into the hands of Eric, who is dumb enough to start reading it despite the clear warnings scrawled on every page. And naturally, Mia is not doing well without the heroin, so she goes running off into the forest where (in a reminder of the first film), she is more or less sexually assaulted by the vegetation. Now we have a possessed Mia and a group of potential victims for her to attack.
And really, that’s it. Mia, looking for all the world like she is just having a very hard go of coming off heroin is actually dealing with a legitimate possession by demonic spirits, and one by one she starts attacking her friends and infecting them.
There are a couple of things that are really noteworthy here. The first is that Evil Dead had a much better budget than Sam Raimi’s version of the film, so we’re going to get some really stellar gore here. Evil Dead is an absolute bloodbath. There are nail gun attacks, people getting repeatedly stabbed with hypodermic needles, dismemberment, and a great deal more. This movie is absolutely blood-soaked. It seems that all of the budget went into the gore effects, and they were not misused.
Second, and importantly, there is a good deal of fan service here. Evil Dead can be watched and enjoyed by any horror fan, but the core audience here will be people who have seen and loved Raimi’s trilogy. For someone who hasn’t seen the original film, this is a really bloody and gory horror film with some very memorable moments. For fans of the series, though, there’s a lot of homage here. Classic moments (Natalie cutting off her arm with an electric knife, a call back to Bruce Campbell slicing off his hand with a chainsaw) abound, as to callbacks to classic lines from both Evil Dead and Evil Dead II. Oddly, one of the best-know lines, “I’ll swallow your soul!” is only referenced obliquely. It seems a natural, and it was surprising that it didn’t make the cut.
Evil Dead is not camp, though. This is no amateur film made on a shoestring budget, and there’s no question of whether or not this is to be seen as serious horror or horror comedy. There’s not a great deal of comedy here. Evil Dead plays it as straight as Raimi wanted do in the original film.
It does lose a bit of the charm, though. One of the things that is great about the original Evil Dead movies is the feel that the first two films at least were bespoke. This is much slicker, and while it looks better and it plays bloodier, it does feel a bit manufactured.
Why to watch Evil Dead (2013): A much better budget than the original put to brutal use.
Why not to watch: It lacks the purity of the original