DVD Review: EVIL DEAD
 By Jonathan Stryker (Twitter)

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Source: Jonathan Stryker (Twitter)

Aug 4, 2013, 12:0 PM

Sam Raimi's THE EVIL DEAD (1982) and its sequels are widely revered among genre fans.  The original film, which was shot in late 1979 and early 1980 and offers up five characters who all suffer from outdated wardrobe choices, is not what I would consider a terrifying film by any means, but it is certainly entertaining.  It was one of the first (if not the first) films to put several characters in a confined space and force them to deal with a violent and demonic force, spraying the cabin and the screen with lots of blood and gore.  Like George A. Romero's DAWN OF THE DEAD (1979), THE EVIL DEAD was released unrated and saw much of its success on the nascent home video revolution of the mid-1980's.  Youngsters like myself who are now ensconced in middle-age used to get a thrill when visiting local video stores to pick up horror films on display, eager to find that Next Big Find that would entertain us and our friends.  In the days since then, Mr. Raimi's film has been released on VHS, laserdisc, and DVD (no less than seven times in this format) and like so many other classics, it was bound to be remade. 

Mia (Jane Levy) is a heroin addict and is taken to the family cabin by her friends Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), Olivia (Jessica Lucas), and her unreliable brother David (Shiloh Fernandez), his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) and dog (the first one to die, of course.  See Tobe Hooper's EATEN ALIVE (1976) for further cliches).  Now, I know that films require a suspension of disbelief to succeed, but if your younger sister were a heroin addict, would you take her to a location like this in an effort to wean her off of the drug?  Is that even possible under the circumstances?  Don't they still have methadone clinics?  A cabin in the woods is the last place I would want to be. 

A foul stench emanating from the basement reveals a trap door under the rug smeared with blood.  Eric exclaims, "Oh, can that be blood?" Well, that would be some coincidence if it wasn't!  Eric is portrayed by Lou Taylor Pucci, the actor who played the aloof and disgusted son of Chris Isaak in Gregor Jordan's THE INFORMERS (2008). Somebody should have informed him that he needed a haircut in this movie.  They all venture into the basement to find animal corpses in various stages of decay, and if they were smart they would bolt - but then there would be no movie.  Eric manages to be even more annoying than Mia's brother David; not only does he go wandering about and sticking his nose into places that he shouldn't, but he also manages to get his hands on the Book of the Dead called Naturom Demonto and fails to heed its warning by reading the very names out loud that should never be spoken.

Jessica Lucas plays Olivia and she should really go back to Melrose Place. She isn't given much to do here except remind everyone that they really need to help Mia. Although everyone is pretty much dismembered and ravaged, they all come back by the end of the film.   

EVIL DEAD has no doubt divided diehard evil dead enthusiasts into the "love it" or "hate it" camps.  There is plenty of gore to go around by the bucket load, and the fact that this movie earned an "R" rating whereas the original was released unrated illustrates how times have changed and how bloodshed has become far more acceptable now whereas sexual intimacy is still considered a big no-no. 

There are efforts to startle the audience when the characters are possessed by the demon in question. Propositions for sexual fulfillment are a throwback to Reagan McNeil's equally vile vituperations in William Friedkin's superior THE EXORCIST (1973), however in 2013 even the most explicit profanity fails to shock.  The omni-present 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 sedan from Mr. Raimi's original film makes a cameo appearance (whether or not this is a prop or the actual car from the film original is something that perhaps the Blu-ray commentary clears up).

The standard DVD contains the following special features:

MAKING LIFE DIFFICULT - the intense and physically exhausting creation of the film

DIRECTING THE DEAD - director Fede Alvarez re-imagines a cult horror classic

BEING MIA - physical and psychological transformation into Evil Mia

Click here to order from Amazon.com. 


 

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