By: Heather Seebach
**The following article is intended ONLY for people who have already seen Evil Dead. It contains explicit, detailed spoilers**
Now that you've seen the much-anticipated new entry in the Evil Dead franchise, I am going to bust this thing wide open! Perhaps you will find references or Easter eggs you overlooked; maybe I'll educate you on how this differs from the originals; or maybe this will simply remind you why this flick is so much fun. Don't bitch if some of this is obvious - I am to break it ALL down.
Because I know people love their Easter eggs/references, I have highlighted them in bold for easy finding.
Here we go with PART 1:
The bookends of this movie are the scenes most unlike Raimi's source material. The film opens much like a slasher (interestingly enough), with a wounded girl being pursued by rednecks in the woods. This poor girl is bagged and tied to a post, and the tormenter is - her father?! Of course, we soon realize she's actually a deadite. She taunts him a bit before he dumps a water bottle full of gasoline over her head and sets her alight. I like the grittiness of this opening scene - the woods bit especially recalls the look of French horror like Haute Tension or Martyrs. The slightly unsteady camerawork in the opening shot is a nice touch, too.
Now here is what I dislike about the prologue: 1) the torture tools. What the fuck were they used for? The book never told of torture porn getting rid of the demons. 2) Phoenix Connolly's acting. Especially the way she says, "You pathetic fuck" and "wife" (or does she say whore??) like she forgot how to talk. The iffy dialogue (which I suspect Diablo Cody had a hand in) also felt more like Regan MacNeil than deadite to me. Too much potty language for my Raimi-loving sensibilities. 3) Why does daddy set her on fire AND shoot her in the head? Overkill, much?
But I do like the whole concept and the fire (yes, CGI and all - how else are they supposed to light someone's face on fire?). I also dig the creepy burn victim whose presence implies that he may have been a deadite once but was "cured" with fire? Or maybe they just thought he was a deadite, which is even more fucked up!
Intro to the Characters
So the protagonists arrive at the old family cabin. Among them are Mia, the drug addict who is here to go cold turkey with the support of her friends; David, her estranged brother who nobody has seen in years; and their three old friends, Eric, Olivia, and Natalie. If you didn't catch on, the first letters of those 5 names spell DEMON. Not a coincidence.
First time we see Mia, not only is she wearing Michigan State hoodie - the school Raimi and Tapert attended, and Linda also wore one in the original - but she's sitting on a replica of Sam's famous 1973 yellow Oldsmobile Delta 88 (aka "The Classic"). And she is sketching, which Cheryl did in the original film.
Of course, the necklace David gives to his sister should look familiar - it's very similar to the one Ash gave Linda in the original Evil Dead (as well as the first sequel). Another similarity you may notice are the characters' clothes. Not only are they relatively time-neutral (much like the original), but David is wearing a blue denim shirt and Eric is wearing flannel. While those two men share some similarities with Ash and Scotty, respectively, I think this is mostly a red herring, especially in David's case. Alvarez clearly sets this guy up to look like the last one standing. I like how the original Ash-Linda relationship is sorta flipped to be David and his sister Mia. And I like that these characters' motivations for coming to the cabin - and forcing Mia to stay - is very different from the original. The intervention - and the presence of a registered nurse (Olivia) - helps side-step those common horror movie pitfalls like, Why the fuck don't they believe her? and Why not call for help?
The Cabin and the Book
So then we see the cabin and some elements are familiar - the cellar, the clock, the porch swing, and some antlers to remind us of a certain awesome deer. The cabin itself looks similar, but not the same. Even the workshed is in a different spot.
When the characters discover the hidden cellar, they uncover the Book of the Dead, which this time has no face, only stitches (apparently due to copyright issues). But to my delight, it is given its original name, Naturon Demonto (not Necronomicon)! They also find a shotgun (call it a boomstick, if you like). There is no dagger, and no tape recorder. Professor Knowby is not responsible for this particular evil.
In fact, the Naturom Demento here refers often to a "He" which presumably implies some ancient evil god. "Shaitan", the Islamic devil, is shown at one point. In the originals, it was always "we" which I much preferred. The book also spells out the stages of possession and how to defeat the evil. Besides the lack of a face and this "He" business, there is another major difference - it won't burn! This puts a lot of "huh?" into the sequel/prequel theories, but I like this little twist, and how Eric says, "I'm not sure why I thought this would work." The film does a lot of that - setting you up based on pre-existing knowledge of the originals, and then going, Just kidding! Did you think it'd be that easy?
There is a nice Easter egg in one image from the book. The section which mentions the "abomination" rising from the Earth looks almost exactly like the original poster (without the choking):
So Eric the curious high school teacher reads passages from the book, including that familiar word, "Kunda" which awakens the evil.
The Unseen Force
Alvarez employs a bit of the Sam-o-Cam technique in this (albeit much more advanced than a 2x4), but not so much that's it derivative. I think it's just enough to pay homage and tell you this is the same general evil, even if Candarian demons are never explicitly mentioned.
How does the look of the deadites compare to the original? Well, the make-up techniques have certainly improved on this higher budget, but it does lack the imagination and sheer disgust of the old ones. I prefer the all-white eyes, but I still think Deadite Mia looks pretty solid, and Levy rocks the role. I'm content with Olivia and Natalie's deadites, but Eric's looked too zombie-like for my tastes. There is also a slight implication in the film that possession comes about from direct transmission. It's never directly stated or shown, just something I noticed. Mia gets raped; Olivia gets vomited on; and Natalie gets bitten. Eric is the exception, however. So it could just be coincidence (I certainly hope so, because those are zombie rules, dammit!).
These monsters differ from their 80s counterparts not only in looks but behavior. They self-mutilate constantly, and they attack more often with weapons than their hands/mouth. The thing to remember about this movie is: it's not Sam Raimi's. Yes, he helped pay for it, but he has said the reason he wanted this remake made was to see a fresh filmmaker re-create his story in a completely new way.
So while I can sympathize with any hardcore fans who want everything to match up, I think they need to realize whose movie this is and what its original purpose was. And it's often these same hardcore horror fans who complain they want more "original horror" but no, they don't, they want more of the same! They want Ash and everything they've already seen before - no creative license allowed! *facepalm*
This movie does actually have mostly unique scenes. The aforementioned prologue, as well as the fantastic ending (more on that later), and some more I'll get into. The tree rape scene is in there to satisfy fans, but it's a little less comedic this time around. There is no swiftly-thrusting tree branch, but rather a slimy, creeping one that disappears INSIDE of Mia (ugh!). It's shot in such a way that each thorn that shreds her skin or branch that strangles her can be felt by the audience - it's pretty effective.
I could have done without the vision of the deadite girl, however - her presence in this whole film is pretty unnecessary. I assumed all along this was the girl from the prologue but even now I'm not sure - is it Mia? Why the fuck can't I tell?! I like the idea of it being Mia, but it doesn't come across that way. Also, the branch coming out of her mouth looks a bit fake - it's not computer-generated, but it appears to have been achieved with composite FX, maybe? Regardless, it doesn't work well.
Mia is losing her mind now, but her friends refuse to let her leave because she has pulled this act before and almost died as a result of them letting her go. I liked Levy's hammy acting in the bunk-bed scene, it recalls the over-the-top theatrics of Bruce Campbell and other Raimi regulars.
When Mia's withdrawl/possession causes her to severely burn her skin with boiling water, her brother attempts to take her to a hospital but is stopped because the road is flooded - obviously parallel to the bridge being torn up in Evil Dead (or the path swallowed up by the woods in ED2). Once back at the cabin, she reveals herself, and we get another pleasant treat for old school fans - a sound byte from Raimi's film: "One by one, we will take you!" According to IMDB, this is actually Ellen Sandweiss' voice, too.
Shit Gets Real!
From this moment on, the film is basically a non-stop gore ride. Mia leaps on Olivia and unleashes an old-school, off-colored blood flood all over her face. This was always one of my favorite things from the original trilogy, namely ED2.
Mia is then tossed down into the cellar much like Cheryl was in the original. And of course, Henrietta was the cellar demon of the second film. Are you sensing a trend yet? Evil Dead 2 already re-employed aspects of The Evil Dead, combined with lots of new material. It is highly revered today (it's my favorite of the three), even though many people still think it's a remake, too. To fault this film for doing the very same is a bit silly. Fault it for its flaws all you like, hey, no problem, but if "Fuck remakes" is all you got, you've lost my interest.
Anyway, back to the movie! Another nice little reference is thrown in there for old fans - when Natalie says, "What happened to her eyes?!" (like Shelly did in the original). It's poorly placed, though, as Mia's eyes aren't even visible (she's under the closed cellar door).
There's another dialogue reference later on that made me smile, when Eric says, "She just cut her fucking arm off. Does that sound fine?" That, of course, is very similar to Ash talking to himself in the mirror in ED2. You just chopped up your girlfriend with a chainsaw - does that sound FINE to you? There is also a subtle voice cameo when Eric is reading the book, of Professor Knowby repeating, "Dismemberment."
What comes next is the film's most intense scene, or at least second best. Olivia goes to the bathroom to wash off but becomes possessed instead. The shot of her being stopped by the "unseen force" (even that was done the old-fashioned way) and then urinating on herself was pretty great. She begins mutilating her own face in the bathtub. The bit with Eric coming to check on her is so creepy, especially the great use of sound - I'd love to know what the foley artists used to create that effect (rapidly carving wet meat?). Even the shot of the lightbulb on a chain was perhaps a little nod to the often-seen workshed bulb. And although the trailers ruined the reveal of Olivia's half-missing face, it's still a pretty effective shot and the make-up is solid. Also, you may recall that Shelly also attacked Scotty in the bathroom in the original film.
Freaked out by Olivia's face, Eric backs up only to slip on a piece of her FACE (love it!) and hits his back on the toilet (ouch). Next, she attacks Eric with a syringe, BRUTALLY stabbing him over and over. Fortunately, his glasses stop most of the eye attack but it is still awesomely nasty. This part also reminded me of a sick French horror film, especially when he puts his hand up to shield and she continues to stab stab stab! It lingers on this unflinchingly, which is why it's so intense.
Deadite Olivia is ultimately stopped when he bashes her skull in with a piece of broken toilet, but he still has to pull that dang needle out of his face in this cringe-worthy shot:
I generally enjoyed deadite Mia in the cellar. I was hoping for a little more camp (like she does in the red-band trailer when she says, "Cut it!"), but she's pretty creepy and Levy does a great job acting the part. The tongue-licking scene from the trailer is so much better in context than in the trailer - the way Natalie swings the barely-open box cutter at her like "Stay away!" and Mia pushed the blade completely out and slices her own tongue in half with it. This sort of taunting makes the scene better, I think. I also prefer her making direct visual contact with Natalie, as opposed to the eye-rolling. Visually, however, I think the scene looks better in the trailer. Perhaps it was just too dark on the big-screen, but the incredible detail of that tongue prosthetic was lost a bit. Kudos to the FX people on that, though, I freaking loved the effect. While I generally didn't like Mia's Exorcist-like taunts, I did laugh at this one: "Kiss me, you cunt!" and the one right after it, to David: "Come down here so I can suck your cock, pretty boy!" Yeah, yeah, it's very Regan but it made me (and everyone else) laugh.
In that same scene, Mia bites Natalie on the hand so, naturally, her hand becomes possessed (though only for a short time). Elizabeth Blackmore's hand-acting doesn't remotely compare to Bruce Campbell's but, then again, who does? Her possessed arm looks great make-up wise, and even the quick moment when the bite spreads is clearly accomplished with some sort of time-lapse photography (not CGI). I was pretty impressed with that. The subsequent scene of her chopping off her arm with a meat slicer is fantastic and 100% practical. You see it in glorious detail as the blade slices through her arm meat and her face is sprayed with blood. If you're curious how they accomplished it, some of that is in this clip where you can see who I assume is a puppeteer behind the actress - and plenty of plastic tarps to catch the forthcoming blood spray. No CGI here, folks. There is also a brilliant shot later of her still-connecting arm flopping off onto the floor. Guh! So great!
During the cutting scene, deadite Mia is taunting Natalie. I find this bit puzzling because in the trailers and in b-roll footage, Mia says "Cut it! Cut it off!" but in the final version, they used the alternate line, "Don't you do it! Don't cut it off, you little bitch!" I still can't understand why. I would have preferred the former, but I understand the latter. Just not sure why Alvarez would feel the need to film both and it concerns me a bit. Unless this had something to do with the MPAA?
Once Natalie becomes possessed anyway, she attacks the fellas with a nailgun, leading to some squeamish shots of nails being pulled out of flesh. She fills the already-wounded Eric full of nails (just like poor Scotty - beaten to hell), and gives David a couple in his arm. Side-note: his arm takes a lot of abuse in this film - nails, cuts, buckshot - perhaps a nod to Ash's arm affliction? Anyway, Natalie picks up a crowbar and attacks Eric with it, which recalled the fireplace poker in the original. There's a fantastic practical FX shot of Eric's hand being cleaved right in half!
David blows Natalie's good arm off with the shotgun. The she turns back into her human form and crawls into his lap crying, breaking his heart. It doesn't quite have the "how evil!" impact it did in the old films, however.
The scene ends with the camera panning back and Eric laughing. Probably not intentional, but I noticed that we see both the antlers and the lamp (on the floor) in that shot as Eric laughs like a maniac. Could this be a reference to the laughing deer and lamp scene in ED2? Maybe I'm reading too much into it.
Also be sure to check out the rest of my Evil Dead Week Articles!
Monday: Top 10 Deadites from the Evil Dead Trilogy
Tuesday: The Early Films of Raimi and Campbell
Wednesday: Top 10 References to the Evil Dead Films
Thursday: 5 Reasons to see Evil Dead (and 5 Excuses-Not-To That Are Bullshit)
Friday: My review of 'Evil Dead' (updated)