I’ve never been one of those Evil Dead people. I don’t actively dislike the franchise or anything, but when I watched the first film, 1981’s The Evil Dead, I don’t remember particularly liking it, either. However, I’ve renewed my efforts this October to watch more horror movies and I came across the fact of 2013’s Evil Dead being available on Hulu. So, I gave it a shot and I was completely blown away, folks! So, I’ll lay down the point unambiguously at the front here: That was one of the craziest damn horror films I have ever seen. No, not just in the 21st century or of the last decade — ever. It was that wild to me.
To use one of those words, Evil Dead is described as a “re-imagining” of the original film and is the fourth installment in the franchise. In the director’s chair for the first time with a feature film is Fede Álvarez, who notably, would go on to do the awesome (and also gory and messed up!) 2016 film, Don’t Breathe. (He also did Don’t Breathe 2, which I haven’t seen yet and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which I’ve procrastinated on reviewing, but like his other films, was gory as hell.) Álvarez is also behind the pen, along with Rodo Sayagues, who partnered with Álvarez on those aforementioned films.
Billed as the “most terrifying film you will ever experience,” the premise of the film is simple enough: A group of five friends, two of which are brother and sister, David (played by Shiloh Fernandez) and Mia (played by Jane Levy), are staying at the family cabin in the middle of the woods to help Mia overcome her heroin addiction. I love, love that as a metaphor for what transpires. That factors into the story, too. Her friends, Olivia (played by Jessica Lucas) and Eric (played by Lou Taylor Pucci), who seem to resent David for “abandoning” Mia when their mother died, along with her brother and his girlfriend, Natalie (played by Elizabeth Blackmore), think Mia is going through withdrawals when she is actually legitimately a.) smelling rotting corpses beneath the cabin; b.) seeing spooky demons in the swamp around the cabin; and c.) needs to get the hell out of there because of the aforementioned. I also can’t help but notice that 2009’s “re-imagining” Friday the 13th also used a brother-sister dynamic to propel the story forward.
For the record, I should point out, as a layman to be fair, I think it is a very bad idea to do this with someone going through addiction. This being trying to cold turkey them in a remote location among people who mean well, but don’t know what the heck they are doing. But I digress.
The mayhem doesn’t take long to get rolling, either. It literally opens the film: A woman is being chased by two men, is stopped and wakes up chained to a post. We learn her father has her chained and an old woman is reciting incantations from a “strange book.” The daughter is shocked that it’s her dad, but we learn that the daughter is possessed by a demon. The demon can’t help itself and starts threatening to take the father’s soul. The father sets her ablaze and shoots her in the head with a shotgun.
When our group of five arrive at their family cabin, they eventually do make their way to the basement, which turns out to be the same location where the above occurred, along with a lot of rotting animal corpses hanging around. But, they also find the Naturom Demonto (otherwise known as the Necronomicon or “The Book of the Dead”) sitting there and instead of leaving it alone, or heeding its warnings to not recite the incantations aloud, Eric’s dumb butt does just that. That summons the demons to the yard, or wait, the cabin and more mayhem commences.
Basically, Álvarez’s gore and violence on offer is almost in a league of its own in terms of its creativity, its barbarism and its production (no CGI use apparently!). One has to respect the level of body horror in the film. Heck, even the moment when Mia is possessed by the demonic demon quite literally coming in through her vagina gave me the heebie-jeebies. As I’ve mentioned before, demonic possession freaks me out! Which makes it weird I haven’t taken more to this franchise. Anyhow, the business really picks up when David finds Grandpa, the family dog, beaten to death with a hammer, presumably by demon-possessed Mia. When he goes to confront Mia, he finds her skin melting under the heat of a boiling shower. He tries to drive her to a hospital, but the area around the cabin is blocked off due to the rain (see: demons). When back at the cabin, Nia pukes demonic blood all over Olivia (yuck) after trying to shoot David (he receives only shrapnel to the shoulder). They lock Nia in the basement, but the demon still taunts people from below.
Then we get a gruesome scene where Eric goes to see what Olivia is doing in the bathroom and welp, she’s a demon now, and she’s mutilating her face with a piece of glass I think. She then attacks him with a needle to the face and I thought for sure he was a goner, but Eric has nine lives in this film. He rebounds and bludgeons her to death with a broken piece of toilet.
Natalie then goes into the basement where Mia has been locked in — because the demon is good at tricking people — and bites her hand and then in front of Natalie, slices her own tongue down the middle in a gruesome scene and forces herself on Natalie with a kiss. That aspect of it reminded me of the grossness from The Exorcist, where the demons/devil mix gruesome with illicit sexuality. Natalie is able to escape and tries to salvage her hand by cutting it off in yet another gruesome scene. Unfortunately, it is in vain as she still turns into a demon. Natalie then attacks Eric and David with a nail gun and thereafter bludgeons Eric in the head with a crow bar. Somehow, as I said, Eric is still surviving all of this punishment. Natalie’s arm is shot off with the shotgun by David and she dies in his arms. Eric is eventually fatally stabbed by Mia. Bye, Eric; you started all of the mayhem, but to be fair, you acted heroically.
David resorts to burying his sister to “exorcise” her of the demon. He ends up bringing her back out of the ground and trying to resuscitate her. It works and she’s rid of the demon. But David is killed by demonic Eric, leaving Mia to finish the job. That shocked me! I mean, I knew from seeing photos on Twitter that a woman seemed to be in the end scene, but I expected David to live! Alas.
In one of the most incredible, balls-to-the-wall, horrific endings to a horror film I have ever seen, after David’s death, blood rains down around the cabin and the Abomination (created after five are killed) goes after Mia. He chases after her in a terrifying scene of trying to stab her with a machete. She’s able to retrieve a chainsaw and cut off his legs, but he tips over the car onto her arm. She amputates her arm in a gruesome scene to be able to retrieve the chainsaw. And then, in one of the coolest shots I’ve ever seen in a horror film, Mia stands before a burning cabin with blood raining down and pushes the chainsaw into the head of the Abomination. Catharsis! The demons were such gruesome bastards, so this was catharsis I tell you!
The Abomination sinks back into the ground.
Well-freaking-done. That is horror! Intensity, gruesomeness and even a little bit of fright on my part. It all worked. It was bloody fun, both in the literal sense and in the British slang sense.
Now, I didn’t realize until I read the Wikipedia entry summarizing the plot that there was an after credit scenes where the original protagonist of the franchise, Ash Williams, appears and simply remarks, “Groovy.” There is a 2023 film coming out, so I wonder if he will factor into that?
This is how you breathe new life into a franchise, with creativity, risk-taking and a tight, taut script. Álvarez seemed pretty darn confident behind the camera, if you ask me. He seemed like a horror director with a vision and willingness to execute it. And it paid off! Aside from being an awesome film, the box office receipts justified its existence, too. On a $17 million budget, it made $97.5 million globally. That’s a win, I’d say.
Now, I’m all in. I want to go back and watch the original film, the sequel, and the third film, Army of Darkness, and I will eagerly anticipate the 2023 film. I may even get around to the television series at some point!
If you’ve seen this film, what did you think?