John Hanlon Reviews

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Evil Dead Poster

Evil Dead

Genre: Horror

Director: Fede Alvarez

Cast: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore

MPAA-Rating: R

Release Date: April 5th 2013

In the first scene of the new drama The Place Beyond the Pines, treatment the camera follows the character portrayed by Ryan Gosling along a route to his day job. Not judging the character’s actions but embracing them and seeing the world as he sees it, if only for a moment. For approximately the next two hours and twenty minutes, viewers will watch fates unfold– in much the same way–over a series of several decades as we follow several characters down their chosen paths.

Directed by Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine), The Place Beyond the Pines is a film about fate and the decisions that ultimately lead to the lives people live. The main character at the beginning is the loner Luke (Ryan Gosling), who travels from town to town as part of a show. He has few attachments but when he discovers that he’s fathered a one-year old son, his life changes. He quits his job and aims to spend his life with Ramona (Eva Mendez), his son’s mother.

She’s dating someone else though but seems to take comfort in Luke’s re-entrance in her world.  The impatient Luke (wanting to form a family with her and their son) soon begins robbing banks to make some easy money. Eventually, Luke’s self-destructive lifestyle becomes intertwined with the fate of a young cop and seemingly-naive cop named Avery (Bradley Cooper). As the drama unfolds, the story becomes more complicated as the lives of the main characters quickly change.

Regardless, the story aims to be about more than a simple plot. It’s more about the relationships between fathers sonss and fate itself than anything else.

Luke’s life is immediately changed when he learns he’s a father. In seeking to settle down, he tries to become more responsible while at the same time losing his sense of decency. Avery is also a young father who makes some mistakes along the way but his father is a prominent judge so the mistakes he makes are oftentimes swept under the rug by a father who knows how to use the political system to his advantage.

Eventually, over the years, Avery becomes more powerful as a local official and when he’s given the chance to prevent his son from getting into trouble, he uses that power as if he was born with it. Other sons in the film aren’t so lucky.

From start to finish though, the director has crafted an ambitious and thought-provoking film with a beautiful score and some of the biggest narrative twists of the year. And to his great credit, the story creates complicated characters who are flawed from the outset. Many of them, through their various mistakes, are trying to do the right things by their sons. Some are awarded and some are not. It’s mostly a matter of fate and circumstance, it seems.

For instance, there are two times when Avery’s character is driven to the woods to be injured and possibly killed. The first time he’s driven there is because he’s being threatened for doing the right thing; the second time he journeys there is as a punishment for doing the wrong thing. Both instances seem realistic. It’s no wonder then that characters like him make some of the decisions they do.

If doing the wrong thing can lead to the same fate as doing the right thing, isn’t it sometimes more expedient to do the wrong thing even if it means losing your soul in the process? Movies like this that address such questions should be applauded and appreciated for never settling for easy answers to such provocative questions.
There are some remakes that attempt to replicate the lure of the original for a new audience without adding to it or making the film stand out on its own. The new Evil Dead is not one of those films. This is a movie that rachets up the violence and the gore (yes, treat
there will be blood) and will ultimately leave horror films pleased but a bit disappointed that this film isn’t as scary as it is brutally violent.

After a short prelude at its beginning, the film focuses on five youngsters visiting an old cabin in the woods. As they arrive, the only character that stands out is Mia (Jane Levy), a young woman with personal demons of her own. She vows to stop using drugs early on but the other characters note that she’s made such a promise before with limited results. This time will be different, she says.

She’s joined in the cabin by her naïve brother David (Shiloh Fernandez), the clueless Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), the stubborn Olivia (Jessica Lucas) and the forgettable—at times, I forgot she was in the movie– Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore). Each of these stereotypical characters have a specific duty to carry out when an evil is unleashed in the woods. Eric is the fool who, upon finding a book in the basement that says “Do not read this. Seriously.” eventually reads the incantation that sets an evil force loose. Olivia is the one who– when Mia becomes possessed– believes that she’s just suffering the effects of not using drugs anymore. She notes that a hospital would treat Mia’s “illness” in the same way that she is.

It is characters like her who were born to be in a horror movie.

As the story continues, the demon possesses Mia and strange things begin to happen around the cabin causing more carnage and bloodshed than you can believe can fit into a ninety-one minute movie.

Fans of Cabin in the Woods— and many other cinematic horror shows that preceded it—will immediately recognize the contours of the story. Clueless young people. Seemingly-abandoned cabin. An evil demon in the woods.

Where Evil Dead stands out is in its unrelenting focus on bloodshed and violence. Some of the scenes are admittedly scary and the tension is quite real but the story puts violence and gruesome death scenes above everything else. For horror films, it succeeds in bringing the story to life and will likely be one of the few quality horror films of the year (a low bar, admittedly).

Of course there are times when the blood and guts pouring off the screen in nearly every scene seems over-the-top and the ending of the film drags on for a long time. But for fans who love old school over-the-top violent films of youngsters fighting against a demon that walks among them, this is a story that won’t be easily topped. Director Fede Alvarez (who wrote the screenplay with Diablo Cody) throws so much mayhem and material onto the screen that it’s difficult to blame him for holding anything back. Here he has created a classic tale that won’t appeal to everyone (the easily-quesy should steer clear) but will appeal to fans of gruesome horror flicks who like a good scare every once in a while.

Review by: John Hanlon