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Evil Dead (2013)
A Good Time Nonetheless
How do you stand out in an age where Hollywood uses Sequels, Prequels, Remakes, and Re-imaginings as a reliable crutch? More importantly, how do you pay homage to the original without alienating new moviegoers? "Evil Dead," the remake of the 1981 cult-classic, succeeds...more or less.
The opening is a departure from the main story-line and the original "Evil Dead," creating a great atmosphere and introducing a little but of the grizzly gore that Sam Raimi revolutionized. And I was hooked! But from there it goes down hill, then up again, then down and up the rest of the way.
The people coming to this movie don't care about the story because they go to this for the experience. To feel they should not be watching what is on screen before them. To feel uncomfortable. But director and writer Fede Alvarez adds some none the less. Sure, it helps to flesh out a few characters more, adding a little bit of depth. But once hell starts to break loose, it really doesn't matter all that much. That was one thing that really worked better in the original. Sam Raimi did not spend nearly as much time developing a story this time because it was not necessary. You are here to be grossed out, so why bother starting a story that is never meant to be finished? Yet in this extended storytelling, Alvarez develops the mythology behind the bloody events to come. While not nearly as creepy as the voice recording from the original, it adds to the film. This is where the development really works.
Once that half-hour-ish chunk is out of the way, blood starts pouring. Choosing a practical approach to these effects help this film a lot, creating a more believable and brutal character to the violence. But when all was said and done, I felt empty. The marketing campaign is both the triumph and fall of this film. I remember cringing as I watched each red-band trailer, getting me more and more excited to watch the rare good installment in the horror genre that comes by only so often. But as the film progresses, I realized that they spoiled much of the what should have been disgusting surprises of the film. Believe me, there are some pretty disgusting moments in this film that were great, but I had already seen them several times from the trailers. I kept wanting something new to appear, but nothing really did. I strongly recommend staying away from watching the red band trailers if you want to save your reaction for the full cinematic experience.
Many reviewers have criticized this remake for a lack of humor that defined the original. I would disagree and say that there is plenty of humor here, it is just not as campy as the original. I had myself nearly spitting at some of the profanities the Deadites utter. That's not to say that they are shocking, but are loads of fun.
But that being said, I still wanted more from this film. Personally, I did not find the gore to be as cringe-worthy as others have described. Of course, that may be due to my multiple viewings of the red-band trailers, but I still could have seen it going farther. There were far too many jump scares for my taste, and I found myself not to be nearly creeped out as I could have been. I will say though that the end was by far the strongest part of the film, playing up the right elements of gore, suspense, and plain-old ass-kicking. I was happy to leave the theater with with that moment, saying to myself, "That was pretty bad- ass."
So is it worth the price of admission? I have come to the conclusion that the answer is yes. Admittedly I was disappointed in this film, but only because my expectations and exposure to the material was extremely high. Of course it is not as good as the original, which was funnier and creepier at the same time. Despite its faults, it still is a great time at the movies, especially in this spring slump. You will be cringing at what you see, asking yourself "should I be seeing this?" Yes, yes you should.
Remembering the Man
The poster for Spielberg's "Lincoln" depicts a beautiful portrait of the 16th president that screams "ICON!" Every preconceived notion of this film (Spielberg, Day-Lewis, LINCOLN!) points to a large-scale film trying to create the legend that the American memory preserves. But this film is anything but big. Sure they reconstructed 19th century Washington D. C., but what do we have if not another big Spielberg epic? The answer is an intimate, humanizing tapestry of a man and a nation.
Spielberg brilliantly opens his film with a direct confrontation of legend. Privates in the Union army approach President Lincoln, utterly starstruck, trying to recite some of the President's most famous words. And what does honest Abe do? He sits back, humble, patient, and pensive. Spielberg's intention is clear: to deconstruct myth and build an enduring memorial to a man. Drastically cut down from its early drafts, Spielberg takes a little piece of what could have been Tony Kushner's never-ending (but always witty and brilliant) screenplay, focusing on just a month of Lincoln's presidency as he battles for the passing of the 14th Amendment.
There is no need to praise Daniel Day-Lewis more on his Oscar-winning performance. He creates both a strong character and a human being in perfect harmony with one another, just as Spielberg addresses reality and legend. Like his performance, almost every aspect of this film is subdued, subtle, and brilliant. The Cinematography is nothing grand or revolutionary, but rather finds beauty in being simple and natural. Kushner's fantastic script allows these characters shinning moments in utterly honest humanity. Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones give some of the most honest performances of their career. Every aspect is perfect for what the film is.
Upon my first viewing, I left thinking "That was good...but nothing exceptionally great." In retrospect, I guess I wanted the traditionally big Spielberg epic like many of his career defining films. But upon my second viewing, I saw the film for what it was. I saw the human story that it always was. I saw the tragedies and triumphs that decorated this month of Lincoln's presidency. I saw not the great president that we remember, but the great, flawed, and warm human being that was. And that man, by far, makes a better film than the legend.