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Evil Dead (2013): Blu-ray + UltraViolet Review

Evil Dead (2013) movie poster Evil Dead

Theatrical Release: April 5, 2013 / Running Time: 91 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Fede Alvarez / Writers: Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues (screenplay); Sam Raimi (motion picture The Evil Dead)

Cast: Jane Levy (Mia), Shiloh Fernandez (David), Lou Taylor Pucci (Eric), Jessica Lucas (Olivia), Elizabeth Blackmore (Natalie), Phoenix Connolly (Teenager), Jim McLarty (Harold), Sian Davis (Old Woman), Bruce Campbell (Ash - uncredited)

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First screened in 1981 and given standard theatrical release in early 1983, shoestring horror movie The Evil Dead launched the career of its writer-director Sam Raimi. It spawned a comedic sequel considered even better and then the time-traveling adventure Army of Darkness that's a cult classic independent of the series.
The original film, though, is now old enough to be considered a classic and to undergo the obligatory remake.

2013's Evil Dead drops the titular article but retains the participation of Raimi and his leading man Bruce Campbell, both of whom take producer credits here. Neither seems heavily involved in this update, which distances from the original script in all but a setting and general themes.

As it often is in horror movies, that setting is a cabin in the woods visited by a group of young people. Instead of spring break shenanigans, however, these kids are here for something more meaningful. Mia (Jane Levy) is trying again to kick her drug habit, following another near-fatal overdose. She is joined by her loving brother (Shiloh Hernandez), mutual friends, and significant others.

Mia (Jane Levy, center) hopes to kick her heroin habit on this visit to her late parents' old cabin. No good comes to those who open and read from the Book of the Dead.

In secret, one member of the group, Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), ignores warnings and invokes an ancient curse from a suspiciously chained-up homemade text found in the disorganized cabin's disturbing basement. As in the original film, no good comes from this Book of the Dead. While Mia is soon traumatized and violated by a vine-vomiting forest cipher, her support group writes off her claims as withdrawal delusions from her taxing cold turkey attempt. Naturally, wicked things begin to befall the rest of the party for what seems like one eternal rainy night.

It is amazing the amount of carnage you can get into an R-rated movie these days. Evil Dead serves up extreme gore: buckets of blood, streams of urine, limb-cutting, bone-snapping, and dangling tendons. This graphic outing suggests that an NC-17 rating is now unobtainable by violence alone, which is ironic given that sex scenes in Blue Valentine required an appeal just two and a half years ago.

This Evil Dead reboot marks the feature and English language debuts of Uruguayan director Fede Alvarez and his co-writer Rodo Sayagues. The two young men don't seem to hold any reverence for Raimi's debut, nor do they seem to expect much of their audience to, even if few '80s horror movies command as much respect from genre enthusiasts. The title and brand clearly weren't unfamiliar to moviegoers, who showed up in droves to give this April TriStar release an impressive $26 million first place opening weekend. Typical for a horror remake, though, business dried up shortly after that, with the film's returns dropping over 50% for the next five subsequent weekends towards a profitable but not quite extraordinary final domestic total of $54.2 million.

The infected left hand of Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) seems to have a mind of its own. When all else fails, a desperate David (Shiloh Fernandez) tries his hand at reanimation.

Alvarez's reinterpretation is too fantastical to truly unsettle. It relies more on practical effects than CGI, a must for any film wanting credibility from gorefest geeks. Still, the flimsy, familiar, and vague plot fails to support scares. In 2013, a story about characters stranded in the woods against forces of evil requires some irony and humor, two things Evil Dead is almost altogether devoid of.
In lieu of creative thrills, the movie unfolds with gruesome images it rightfully expects to draw an easy, audible reaction from packed theaters. The film revels in deforming its cast, drenching them in blood and freakshow wounds, then letting their humanity creep out only when their friends are working up the courage to kill them.

Surprisingly, a majority of critics gave Evil Dead passing marks, if we trust the standards Rotten Tomatoes used to narrowly declare the film fresh for all critics and rotten for top critics, with a mediocre average rating around 6/10 explaining the divide. Despite the front-loaded box office performance, the rarely-satisfied demographic of horror fans seemed to like this movie quite okay, with the current average IMDb rating of 6.7 having a ways to fall before dropping out of a range of respectability. A sequel is already said to be in the works at the same time that Raimi plans to make a sequel of his own called Army of Darkness 2, which would then lead to a seventh film merging the narratives of Mia and Campbell's Ash (who makes a brief, random post-credits cameo here), plans that sound purely like a pipe dream.

Meanwhile, 2013's Evil Dead hits stores today on DVD and in the Blu-ray + UltraViolet edition reviewed here.

Evil Dead: Blu-ray + DVD + UltraViolet Combo Pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.39:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English, Portuguese), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Thai, DVS)
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Chinese Traditional, French, Indonesian, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled in English, Chinese Traditional, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, and Thai
Release Date: July 16, 2013
Suggested Retail Price: $35.99
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Blue Keepcase with Side Snap in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on DVD ($30.99 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Evil Dead maintains Sony's high Blu-ray picture and sound standards. The 2.39:1 transfer is sharp, clean, and vibrant, while the 5.1 DTS-HD master audio is consistently engaging and resists using peaks and valleys to craft many jump scares. Sony loads the presentation with foreign subtitles and dubs, including a Portuguese DTS-HD master audio mix (the Portuguese are apparently known for their preference for uncompressed audio).

Uruguayan first-time feature filmmaker Fede Alvarez coaches Jane Levy through chainsaw operation in "Directing the Dead." The cast tries out looks in this wardrobe test from "'Evil Dead' the Reboot."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's extras begin with a cast and crew audio commentary featuring actors Jane Levy, Lou Taylor Pucci, and Jessica Lucas alongside writer/director Fede Alvarez and his co-writer Rodo Sayagues. They comment upon what's onscreen,
sharing memories of their experiences from shooting the scenes in question and admiring images and effects. It's probably what commentary-loving fans of the movie expect and want, but it won't create an appreciation inside viewers like me who are unimpressed by the film.

Kicking off the all-HD video extras is "Directing the Dead" (7:25), a featurette that gathers Alvarez's perspective with video of script read-throughs and on-set direction plus cast comments on working with Alvarez and his preference for practical effects.

"Evil Dead the Reboot" (9:50) explores the connection to Sam Raimi's original film, with fellow producers Rob Tapert and Bruce Campbell sharing their feelings on allowing their first film to be revisited and reworked, while the new filmmakers relate their point of view.

"Making Life Difficult" (8:13) considers the film's thematic demands on its cast and crew, with remarks from Levy and Alvarez (seems like most of their collaborators weren't interviewed).

Actor/producer Bruce Campbell, the one person most resistant towards a remake, apparently came to consider this project "groovy." Jane Levy has her leg branded with a handprint in "Being Mia."

"Unleashing the Evil Force" (5:07) zeroes in on the Book of the Dead,
discussing its appearance but more so its significance to the franchise and this reboot in particular.

Finally, "Being Mia" (9:13) shares Jane Levy's first-person video diaries of getting heavily made up as well as some comments from her about playing the film's lead character.

Not included here, the DVD edition apparently lacks the commentary, "Unleashing the Evil Force" and "Evil Dead the Reboot", but holds the other three featurettes.

The disc opens with trailers for Olympus Has Fallen, BreakOut (an evidently direct-to-video Brendan Fraser movie formerly titled Split Decision), and Magic Magic. The Previews submenu supplies individual access to each of these plus trailers for Dead Man Down, The Call, and The Last Exorcism Part II.

The slipcovered, side-snapped keepcase features reverse side artwork and holds three inserts which provide codes for a complimentary UltraViolet stream and Sony Movie Rewards points plus an advertisement for Universal Studios' soon opening Evil Dead Maze.

The menu strings together a montage of serene scenery and disorienting shrieks. The splatter loading graphic gives a good indication of what is to come. As always, Sony equips the disc with bookmarking and resume functions.

Most of the evil in 2013's "Evil Dead" is channeled through Mia (Jane Levy).

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Those who like horror movies that make them cringe rather than cower should appreciate 2013's Evil Dead for its copious, graphic gore. Those wanting more may question the need for this reboot/sequel that is far bloodier than it is coherent or scary. As one of the year's biggest horror films to date, genre fans aren't likely to let this pass them by, but I can't see any great reason to make seeing this a high priority.

Sony's Blu-ray delivers an expectedly stellar feature presentation plus enough extras to satisfy most supplement lovers. If you like the movie, you should like this release, but I wouldn't count on the first part.

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Related Reviews:
The Cabin in the Woods The Faculty The Ruins Friday the 13th (2009) The Crazies (2010) I Spit on Your Grave (2010)
Mama Dark Skies The Last Exorcism Rosemary's Baby The Ring Stay Alive The Devil Inside The Apparition
New: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters 6 Souls 42 Dead Man Down Race with the Devil The Kentucky Fried Movie
Jane Levy: Fun Size | Shiloh Fernandez: Red Riding Hood | Jessica Lucas: Cloverfield
Sam Raimi & Bruce Campbell: Spider-Man Spider-Man 2 Spider-Man 3 Oz the Great and Powerful

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Reviewed July 16, 2013.



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