Evil Dead (2013) Blu-ray Review
Something you hear all the time is that Hollywood is out of original ideas. There are no original ideas. Every story basically comes from one of three or four places. You’ve heard them all. This last 12-18 months hasn’t done anything to silence the critics who espouse these (ridiculous, in my humble opinion) beliefs, with the glut of sequels (IRON MAN 3), prequels (OZ: THE GREAT AND POWERFUL), comic book adaptations (hello Marvel fans), remakes (TOTAL RECALL), reboots (MAN OF STEEL), etc. One such film just arrived to Blu-ray, EVIL DEAD, a reboot of the 1981 cult classic THE EVIL DEAD, which birthed two better, funnier sequels and catapulted the careers of Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell.
Similar to the original, EVIL DEAD is the story of a small group of friends who are getting away for the weekend to spend some time at a remote cabin. None of them have visited this place before but they all came to try to help Mia (Jane Levy) who is trying to quit heroin. She’s joined by her closest friends Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci, BEGINNERS) and Olivia (Jessica Lucas from CLOVERFIELD), who love her but don’t believe this intervention will result in any real change, and her estranged brother David (Shiloh Fernandez, RED RIDING HOOD) who left home years before and his girlfriend Natalie (I’m not going to bother with her name, she’s barely there). During their first day at the cabin, Mia smells something in her room that is making her sick, but no one believes her until David’s dog starts sniffing around a rug, where they find blood and a door to a cellar.
Inside the cellar they find the horrific remains of animals strung from the ceiling and a small black package bound in barbed wire. Unable to curb his curiosity, Eric removes the package and opens it in his room and finds a book bound in human flesh, inked in human blood. The Necronomicon! As he becomes more engrossed by the secrets in the book he attempts to recite one of the hidden writings, and soon all hell breaks loose. Mia is taken by a demon while trying to escape in one of the more harrowing scenes I’ve witnessed in recent cinema. This is followed up by some incredible disgusting but memorably executed possessions and attacks by Mia’s friends. Of course this is a story we’ve all seen before but it still goes in a new direction thanks to the great love of first time feature director Fede Alvarez.
Alvarez’s previous work consisted of a short titled Panic Attack about a robot alien invasion (a few inspiring shots of which are included in the special features), but he’s crafted a wonderfully tense, genuine horror movie here that runs on all cylinders. The friends are all fairly relatable, with any one of them likely playing a role seemingly inspired by your own best friends. But as the friends have to start facing the truth of their situation, the movie starts to lose some steam. There are great moments in the second act of EVIL DEAD but they start to feel a little bit like they’re pieced together with string rather than a fully engaging, flushed-out narrative.
The performances are great for a horror film, which means they are pretty decent. Jane Levy is an absolute star, beautiful and sweet and absolutely terrifying as she is transformed by the demon. The supporting players all fit the mold so fondly embraced by last year’s phenomenal CABIN IN THE WOODS. Shiloh Fernandez is one of those young actors who you don’t really want to like, but throughout the movie you actually start to care about him. Lou Taylor Pucci and Jessica Lucas both provide some subtle, if predictable, performances. I really can’t judge the girlfriend role. She has the best scenes when possessed but she is almost non-existent until that point. But the real star of the movie is the filmmaker’s absolute love of horror.
EVIL DEAD is all horror though with very little comedy, aside from the occasional nod to the original’s cult following. The story isn’t exactly the same, nor the characters, which actually make this one much more interesting to follow for those of us who fondly remember the original and want to honor the franchise. Even with its faults, though, this is easily the best horror flick I’ve seen in years (that wasn’t called CABIN IN THE WOODS) and the first modern horror flick I’ve seen that engaged me viscerally, completely, and made me long for the horror flicks of my youth.
EVIL DEAD (2013) BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: (1080p Widescreen 2.39:1) The video is beautiful and the transfer is incredible. EVIL DEAD is picture perfect and the colors come through, though there is a LOT of red… blood red…
Audio: (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The audio on EVIL DEAD is really well done, immersive and terrifying. The score is phenomenal as well and really lends an epic feel to the picture.
Audio Commentary with Jane Levy, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Director Fede Alvarez and Writer Roo Sayagues (01:31:18) EVIL DEAD features this commentary with several cast members and it is one of the best I’ve listened to in quite a while. Well worth the listen, it’s a bit all over the place but also really enjoyable. If you’re into commentaries, or just like this movie, I highly recommend it.
EVIL DEAD: Directing the Dead (07:25) Director Fede Alvarez talks about his process directing EVIL DEAD. This features some really cool behind the scenes footage but it is so quick you could miss it if you don’t pay attention.
EVIL DEAD: The Reboot (09:50) This feature goes deep into the development process and discusses why the filmmakers (including producer Bruce Campbell) felt they could sign off on this reboot. A lot of it had to do with faith in Fede Alvarez, but obviously EVIL DEAD still had a lot to live up to.
Making Life Difficult (08:13) Focused on the actors, this short featurette covers the impact of EVIL DEAD on the cast. All of these ‘making of’ docs are really interesting and really well put together. I’m very impressed by the cast, the crew, and ultimately the folks who put together this Blu-ray package.
Unleashing the Evil Force (05:07) This one focuses on The Book of the Dead, something that ties together all of the films in the franchise. EVIL DEAD features a very different, more modern, book and it is pretty cool to hear the filmmakers talk about their ideas.
Being Mia (09:13) Though most of the special features focused on the character Mia (played by Jane Levy), EVIL DEAD also features additional interviews and working footage from Ms. Levy during the shoot where she carried a video camera. Also includes interviews with Alvarez who glows about Levy’s performance and work ethic.
EVIL DEAD on Blu-ray also features an UltraViolet digital copy of the film and previews of other upcoming and current releases.