DM Haight

You may feel the urge to look away from the screen. I know I did. It’s a strange thing to feel that kind of intensity while just sitting in a theater. Your heart races, your pulse quickens, and you can’t help but feel your bones try and lift you out of your seat to get the heck out of the theater. In all honesty, Evil Dead is going to be a classic, cult or otherwise, but not because it was a great horror film. It certainly has its moments of pure horror, which is better than most modern horror films can boast once they get projected on the silver screen, but its main strength is going to remain with its intensity. For the hour and a half you sit in your seat, you will want to run. It’s intense cinema, Intensity Horror, a sub-sub-genre that would be nice to see more often. Evil Dead is not the remake we all thought it would be, but the reimagining we get instead is still masterful in its own demented way.

Unlike the recent stampede we’ve seen from Hollywood– the fast and furious remakes of old, tired films that were exploited and done to death twenty years ago–Evil Dead gives us the same setting, but really very little else from the original. It feels more like a hardcore sequel, a move away from the camp and humor of the original trilogy. Instead of Ash we get David, but even those two characters don’t compare on even a narrative level. It’s really the story of Mia and her struggle with heroin addiction. Her friends and her brother, David, go to the cabin the two siblings would visit as children. It’s out in the middle of the woods, and we can see from the pictures on the walls and the way the brother and sister talk about the rundown heap of a house, that the place used to be something special. But while they’ve been away there has been some seriously disturbing things going on in that cabin’s basement. It’s not the haunted house story, or the haunted person story we’ve seen as of late. It’s the return of the necronomicon: a book of pure evil designed to summon the demons of old to possess the living. The group finds the book while Mia is detoxing. Moving a rug across the floor, they find a trapdoor leading to a basement. In this basement they see the remnants of a ritual used to exorcise a monster. Dead cats hang from the ceiling, scorch marks cover a floor support, and a book wrapped in plastic and bound in barbed wire lies on a table. It’s a scene that shouldn’t have been found, but with a curious guy wondering why parts of the book tell him to stop reading, it isn’t hard to figure out that something gets unleashed. And it attaches itself to Mia.

Fede Alvarez has created a new conception of what we previously knew as The Evil Dead. He’s written a story worth sitting through, and has managed to stay as far away from the original film as humanly possible. As a return to the cabin in the woods genre of horror, it succeeds in giving us that isolation, that fear of being out of the hands of civilization, away from help in the most extreme way. The intricacy of the narrative is thought-provoking, questioning us about femininity, familial relations, abandonment, and drug addiction. Understanding the need to run in many scenarios, not just in the classified horrific, but in the personal horrors as well, is definitely one of the many strengths of the film. None of the friends want to be at the cabin, but they are locked in, forced to be there to help a friend in need. Evil Dead is able to capture what many seem to have forgotten the horror genre is capable of–truth. Horror has the unusual ability of taking a fiction and presenting it to audiences in the most intense medium, still managing to feed a question to them, to give them pause to ask themselves what are they truly afraid of. Is it the demon from the book of the dead, or is it their sister’s problem with drug addiction? Are they afraid of the yellowed eyes and blood, or do they really just want to repress the abandonment of their family in a time of real need?

Evil Dead also employ an intensity that is quite appreciated. Imagine that you have been on the most intense run of your life. Your heart is pumping hard, you have a heightened sense of hearing, and feeling, your palms sweat–this is the effect Evil Dead has on you. As a horror film, is it perfect? No. Throughout the film we have these moments where lines are just delivered, with no real heart behind them. When you have moments of great fear, you don’t expect people to suddenly drop lines that don’t fit with their character. But these moments aside, the Intensity Horror that Evil Dead employs is unlike anything we’ve seen in cinemas yet. Horror may already have an air of intensity associated with the genre, but it’s more of a quick scare here and there, with moments of heightened intensity when we can expect a new scare to come, like an ebb and flow: ease, intensity, ease, intensity. Evil Dead keeps that heightened intensity and establishes a new way of scaring. We find fear in simple things, and even though we still get those cues, like doors closing and music lifting to tell us when something bad is going to happen to our heroes, the continued terror, as an emotional and physical reaction, is maintained throughout the film. It is actually a film that resembles The Exorcist in this way, where we know it’s going to be scary, and when we see it for the first time we can feel the horror as a pure emotion. We may chuckle, but more than likely it’s out of a certain uncomfortable feeling we get in the pit of our stomach, just like that urge to lean forward and run. You question whether you want to finish watching or not. And for once, that’s a good thing.

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