Description from Netflix:
When a group of friends vacations at an isolated cabin in the woods, they discover an evil Book of the Dead – and unwittingly release a swarm of bloodthirsty demons in this spine-chilling remake of Sam Raimi’s classic horror flick.
I should probably stop using the Netflix recap as a starting point. I feel like I’m correcting it half the time. Including this one.
The friends were not so much “vacationing” as they were “helping a friend who was trying to break her heroin addiction.” Same thing, really.
I really liked the heroin angle. It gave all the characters a reason to be there. It also gave the characters a reason to write-off the initial craziness of the possessed Mia. “So she’s talking in weird voices, pacing in the driving rain and talking about seeing strange girls in the woods? Big deal. She’s trying to quit heroin cold turkey.” In that sense, it was kind of brilliant.
The only thing that could’ve made that set-up better was if we, the audience, were also in the dark about it. I didn’t love Lovely Molly, but I liked how it kept me in suspense. Was she possessed, or was she just messed up by her drug use? With that movie, it was never really clear. With this movie, we already know she’s possessed. There’s no ambiguity, and that tension is lost. Not that it’s a big deal, really, but it was hard not to watch this and not at least think about Lovely Molly.
(Allow me to make this perfectly clear: this movie is much better than Lovely Molly.)
All that aside…
I loved this movie. It wasn’t without its problems, for sure. The acting was uneven (at best). The script left quite a bit to be desired. Some of the actions of the characters – especially Eric – ranked up near the top of some of the worst decisions I’ve ever seen any characters make. In the scene where he actually unleashes the demon from the Necronomicon, he makes a series of terrible decisions. Here are those decisions, in order:
1. When they find the book, they had just walked through a basement full of hanging dead cats. The book is wrapped in a black garbage bag, then wrapped in barbed wire. WRAPPED IN BARBED WIRE.
2. After Eric cuts through the barbed wire, he looks at the book. (In the original Evil Dead, the book was bound in human flesh. I don’t remember them specifying the binding in this film, but it certainly looked like it could be flesh.) There are numerous warnings written in large letters throughout the book. My favorite being the all-caps “DON’T SAY IT DON’T WRITE IT DON’T HEAR IT.”
3. Of course, he picks that page to stop on and start reading. I take that back. He doesn’t start reading. Because the words that need to be read to summon the demon can’t be seen clearly. So he takes a piece of paper, places it over the raised letters, and starts scribbling. Like Lebowski finding a pornographic drawing. Except with demon-summoning.
4. As he finds the words, he says them out loud. To no one but himself, the twerpy little wannabe professor says them out loud. Which, of course, summons the demon and gets poor Mia possessed.
5. After he does all this, and after he sees Mia behaving in a way that no one – not even a recovering heroin addict – would act, he still doesn’t say anything about the book until more people are infected. And dead. Because Eric is the worst.
That’s just one string of terrible decision making by one character. This movie was full of them. (Although, to be fair, this was the absolute worst of them.)
Still, despite these issues, I really, really loved this movie. It was pretty tense throughout, and had quite a few legitimate scares, as well as a few jump-scares that got me.
And the gore. Oh man…the gore. On top of the crazy amounts of fake blood used (“Why do you guys have buckets of blood?”), they also did a great job working in some incredibly gruesome scenes (hacking off limbs, bashing in heads with sinks, cutting tongues in half with box cutters, etc.). It’s all a bit crazy, and definitely not for the feint of heart. But I felt that it worked really well within the movie. This wasn’t torture porn. This wasn’t cutting people up just for the sake of showing people getting cut up. This gore was all within the context of the film. And it was beautiful and terrible.
What I really loved about this film was the fact that, while this was a dark & twisted movie, it also seemed like the filmmakers really had fun making it. There was definitely a sense of devilish glee that ran throughout. I could almost hear them giggling as they figured out more ways to dump massive amounts of blood on our heroes.
I also really loved the subtle nods to the original. There were plenty of scenes that were pulled directly from the original (not a surprise, seeing as how it’s a remake), but they also sprinkled in a lot of smaller references. These are some of the ones I caught:
1. When we first meet Mia, she is wearing a MichiganState sweatshirt. In the original, Linda was wearing a MichiganState sweatshirt.
2. When we meet Mia, she is sitting on top of a car that resembles Sam Raimi’s famous 1973 Oldsmobile Delta.
3. Mia’s brother (David) gives her a necklace that vaguely resembles the necklace Ash gives to Linda.
I’m sure there were more (and, like I mentioned, a lot of them were more obvious and built into the story), but I thought these three little scenes were a pretty cool subtle homage to the original.
A couple more small movie references from me:
Eric – the high school teacher who seemed to fancy himself a college professor – really took a beating in this movie. I didn’t like him at all, but I started to feel bad for him after a while. And yet, he kept coming back. In that regard, he reminded me a little of Red from Pineapple Express. Sadly, there was no mention of a Daewoo Lanos.
Possessed Mia said some terrible things to her brother about what was happening to the soul of his actual sister (since a demon now possessed her body and all). A lot of what she was saying seemed to come almost directly from The Exorcist.
I would be remiss if I ended this movie without giving props to Mia. Because this is a remake, it would’ve been very tempting to just dump a guy into the Ash role. Grab some dude with a prominent chin and a sense of humor and start rolling.
It would’ve been equally as tempting to throw a girl into the role of Ash. The character wouldn’t necessarily need to change, even if the sex does.
Instead, they switched it all up. Mia is Ash. But Mia is also the demon. Mia is a drug addict. Mia is a sister who loves her brother, but blames him for abandoning her and their family during a very difficult time. Mia is loving and supportive. Mia is loved enough by her friends that they will take a weekend (a week? As long as it takes?) and lock themselves in a cabin with her for the sole purpose of getting her clean. She is strong in her fight against demons, but weak in her fight against heroin. Mia is amazing. She is perfect and she is flawed.
In a movie full of bad decision making and shallow characters, Mia is the most interesting character involved. We’re rooting for her, but we’re also rooting against her.
Overall, I really loved this movie. It’s definitely not for everybody, but I thought it was terrific. I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up being my favorite movie of the year. Granted, it’s still pretty early in the year (and I really loved Mama, as well), but this movie was fantastic. While it’s hard not to compare it to the original, I didn’t find myself holding it up to the original. It stands on its own as a great horror film.