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Entries in evil dead (2)

Thursday
Apr042013

Evil Dead

Let’s just answer this question now. No, “Evil Dead” is not the “most terrifying film you will ever experience,” as its posters would lead you to believe. It would be tough to proclaim it even as the most terrifying film in recent memory, given the release of the excellent “Sinister” not too long ago. Perhaps the marketing for the movie wasn’t the wisest, unrealistically setting a bar the film was not likely to achieve. It’s a good thing you don’t judge a movie by its marketing though, because “Evil Dead” is nonetheless a frightening experience, one that will unnerve you, make you feel uncomfortable and perhaps even sicken you.

The story, as one might expect, is of little consequence, though it gives off the air of importance with its heavy set-up. Mia (Jane Levy) is a coke addict. She tried to kick the habit a number of times, but never could, so she and her friends, along with her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez), head out to a cabin in the woods to recover, away from the civilization that exposed her to the drug. On one hand, this is a refreshing start. Most horror movies give little reason as to why a group of friends isolate themselves in some remote area beyond a cheap weekend-long party where drug use is encouraged. The opposite is true here, but it raises some issues with the film as a whole.

Although cliché, the no-reason set-up in something like the “Friday the 13th” remake promises nothing special. It typically puts the movie on a level of self-awareness, fully cognizant of what it is and what it intends to accomplish. But when a film sets up these plot threads and tries to give these characters back stories (however thin they may be), they must be followed through on. “Evil Dead” doesn’t do this, resulting in a screenplay that’s fresh with horror movie scares, but narratively inconsistent. Tack on a really lazy back story about Mia and David’s mother who died years ago and characters that are lacking in real personalities and you have a movie that gives you little reason to care.

So the fact that you still do is astonishing. It’s a testament to the craft of its making, which relies heavily on ambiance, lighting and shadows to deliver its thrills. While not devoid of a few cheap jump scares, “Evil Dead” is surprisingly restrained, in this regard at least. It’s more about things slowly crawling out of the shadows and building an atmosphere than it is about the “Gotcha!” moments so many horror movies rely on these days. Of course, when it comes to the violence, it’s another story altogether.

Although the original film and its sequels were indeed violent, their violence was one of two things: over-the-top or cheeky. It was never something to look away from or be disgusted by. This movie, on the other hand, is brutal. Its violence is absolutely relentless and, aside from a moment or two, very graphic, uncomfortably so at times. The reason is because the violence is visceral. Although most likely not to these extremes, you’ll know what some of this feels like. Most don’t know what it’s like to have something go through your arm, but we all know what it’s like to get a deep cut. Although one is clearly more painful than the other, the film wisely opts for the one we’ve felt, allowing us to recall our own pain while we watch those onscreen experience it. It’s not something everyone will enjoy, but it’s beneficial to a movie that obviously seeks to get some kind of reaction from its audience.

Clearly, this isn’t your 1981 “Evil Dead.” This is its own evil beast. The original was a scary movie, but it was also more humorous, both intentionally and unintentionally thanks to its campiness and low budget. There’s nothing funny about this. Any laughter you hear in the theater is most likely due to general uneasiness. There is some inherent amusement in the characters’ silly logic—first, they remark that it smells like something died in there, then they see a dried up pool of blood leading to the cellar, so their first thought is, “Yeah, let’s go down there”—but these are necessary elements that are expected in this genre, no matter how dumb they may be.

“Evil Dead” isn’t always pleasant, but horror movies needn’t be. The important thing is that it doesn’t feel exploitive like something like “The Human Centipede.” When dealing with this concept and source material, such chaos and brutality are warranted and even necessary in its telling. Admittedly, it’s a bit difficult to watch a movie like this when last year’s “Cabin in the Woods” so brilliantly skewered the subgenre, but it’s hard to deny its technical proficiency. There’s something here almost any horror aficionado will enjoy and to those fans of the original, who no doubt fear this will not live up to the “Evil Dead” name, rest assured that it does, just in a different way (and there are plenty of nods to those movies; listen closely and you might hear an echo of Bruce Campbell’s dialogue from the original). When you factor in the post-credits tease that I dare not give away, it gives fans plenty to be excited for. This franchise is in good hands and if Sam Raimi does indeed follow through on his promise of a fourth “Evil Dead,” this film will surely complement it nicely.

Evil Dead receives 3.5/5

Friday
Apr132012

The Cabin in the Woods

I’ll be completely honest. I have no idea how to review The Cabin in the Woods. After struggling to come up with an opening that puts into perspective what the film is about without giving any key plot points away, I decided to just be upfront. Frankly, discussing even the most basic aspect of the plot is a spoiler and this is a movie that is best to walk into blind. The trailers, surprisingly enough in a day and age where everything is ruined in a short 30 second TV spot, have done a good job of keeping things mysterious and it’s best to keep it that way. The easy thing to say is that I absolutely adored The Cabin in the Woods and I rank it among the top two or three films of the year so far, but elaboration of why seems impossible. The typical movie critic plot synopsis paragraph follows. Let’s see how it goes.

The film follows a group of teenagers as they venture into a cabin in the woods where strange things begin to happen.

Although obvious, that’s about as deep as a responsible writer should go in explaining the movie’s plot. To go further would completely ruin the experience. When watching the film and taking notes, I jotted down the off kilter opening and planned on explaining why the place, time and characters that were present in it were so odd for a horror movie, but doing even that would take away from its impact. What the film does so brilliantly is set up a horror story that we’ve seen a dozen times, complete with your typical “dead teenager” horror movie characters like the jock, the slut, the stoner and the virtuous heroine, and then goes in a completely different direction. The Cabin in the Woods spoofs the construction of horror films by, well, constructing a horror film. That description may be a bit cryptic, but it will all make sense after you see it.

Some critics have been comparing The Cabin in the Woods to the first couple Evil Dead films. First of all (and most obviously), they both take place at a remote cabin in the woods. Where they compare more thematically and creatively is in the places they go and the things the characters do. Such a comparison is not unwarranted and may even be welcome by writers Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon, who throw in what must be a dozen Evil Dead references, including one that they affectionately refer to as the “angry molesting tree,” but The Cabin in the Woods goes much further than Evil Dead ever did. If anybody tells you they saw coming the way the events in this movie transpire, they’re lying through their teeth.

The references to horror don’t stop at Evil Dead, though. Horror buffs will spot a plethora of them throughout, especially near the unspoken ending, and they encompass video games as well, like a hilarious sight gag pertaining to Valve’s hit Xbox 360 game, Left 4 Dead. I hesitate to list more because half of the fun is spotting these references (and only video game nerds like myself will notice the nods to the games), but it’s a major component to the fun.

It must be said that The Cabin in the Woods isn’t particularly scary because it utilizes the same tricks many other horror films do, but that’s precisely the point and in the context of the story, it makes sense. Things we may scoff at in other films are fondly used here to celebrate the horror genre while also pointing out just how stupid it can be. You’ll more often feel like smiling than shielding your eyes because of its clever skewering of horror movie clichés.

No horror fan should walk out of The Cabin in the Woods unpleased. It’s a love letter to them and the genre they love. It wears its adoration for the genre on its sleeve while also bringing it back to its roots and away from the steady stream of so called “torture porn” films that have invaded the theaters in recent years. It’s destined to go down alongside films like the aforementioned Evil Dead and the original Scream as a horror movie classic. It’s just that good. It’s not safe to talk about right now, so as not to deny moviegoers the right to see it as intended, but after a few weeks, when interested parties have already sat down with it, The Cabin in the Woods will be all that is talked about. See it now before it’s ruined.

The Cabin in the Woods receives 4.5/5