In 1979, five wackos with film equipment went into the woods and came out with a half hour of potential. Nearly 45 years later they remain the template of Indi-horror. Within the Woods was a prototype of what would become The Evil Dead, the stories of how that 80’s splat-stick classic came to be and the rollercoaster of success it brought for Campbell and the Raimi’s can at times be just as entertaining as the films themselves. But I’m not here to give a history lesson, there are plenty of articles and reviews both literary and video for you to check out, I’m here to talk about the new stuff.
Before I dive in on story and structure, plot, character, and effects I will give one preface with my experience in this franchise, and by experience I mean my ranking pre-viewing Rise:
- The Evil Dead (1981)
- Army of Darkness (1993)
- Evil Dead (2013)
- Evil Dead 2: dead by dawn (1987)
- Evil Dead 2013
The first one I saw was actually Army of Darkness, on amc with my pops, he flipped it on and I no older than seven laughed at the physical antics of Bruce “if chins could talk” Campbell, and I loved it. I had no idea this dark comedic fantasy was anything but that, then a couple years later I saw the other two. Sometime in my late teens the re-quel came and went. I enjoyed what I saw of the show, though never finished it. No spoilers! I think it’s safe to say I’ve been a fan for quite a while, not an expert by any means, but I hold it with a certain amount of reverence and respect
Now with that out of the way lets talk gore, and baby it’s got a whole-heck-of-a-lot let-me-tell-you-what. That’s what I would hope for an Evil Dead film, just gory blood fest. Mutilation, disfigurements, and a total lack of control of the situation. And they hit their mark. The gallons of blood on the screen rivals any other in the genre. The effects are a mixed bag. Some practical, the blood and vomit and viscera are there, the contacts are in, nut some things are CG, and I think that’s fair, so long as it’s a tool and not a substitute a dash here or there is fine.
The characters are what you’d expect, sans the opening; yes, unfortunately this has a tacked on beginning that happens a day after the event, it’s not important, they wanted a cabin in this movie for a minute, let’s move on. The major players are leading lady Beth, a totally not-groupy, punk rock audio engineer chick who just found out she’s pregnant and doesn’t want to keep it, played by Lily Sullivan. The possessed to-be Ellie, struggling tattoo artist newly single mom. Oh Danny boy… the DJ. Eddie Munster… I mean Bridget, the middle child. Finally, we have Kassie the youngest who might be turning into a serial killer or and experimental artis with Staff-any. And their all…fine I guess, what drama there is-is brief, they know what their viewers want to see.
The story is one I like, this isn’t the same universe as Ash or whatever the 2013 one was, its in its own realm. The high rise that the family is staying in once was and odl bank, long since abandoned and turned into apartments the worse-for-wear rise has only a few weeks before demolition. This also takes place in Cali, so earthquakes (an homage to Wes Cravens New nightmare? Probably not), in the garage a hole opens to an old vault, Danny being the eldes and most aware of the financial situation explores to see if there’s anything valuable, he finds records and a book. I like this Necronomicon, not as much as the original but the teeth and it feasting on blood before opening is cool. This issue of no one speaking Latin or Sumerian is delt with via records. And shit hits the fan.
Mom gets possessed, vomits up the entirety of her insides, dies and resurrects. She attacks her family, literally marking her eldest daughter Bridget with the tattoo needle. The wrestle her out of the apartment and into the hall where she promptly kills the entire floor, and that comedy from the originals aren’t lost. Chewing a neighbours eye out to spit it across the hall choking another is chef’s kiss worthy, as if Raimi directed it himself. Like mother like daughter, Bridgett gets possessed and for the life of me Deadite-Bridgett looks like a CGI Eddie Munster, I couldn’t help but laugh. A scuffle. A cheese greater does more than waxing ever could and Kassie for the the kill with an assist from Staff-any. Unfortunately, Deadites don’t actually die, they just gain a sense of humour.
The final twenty minutes. All but Beth and Kassie are possessed running for their lives, stuck in an elevator filling with blood. Deadite Danny and Bridgette penetrate their mothers thoracic cavity, or just slide between her skin and ribcage, to chase after Beth and Kassie as a monstrous three-headed human spider. Trapped in the garage, being preyed upon the two are separated and Beth dawns the obligatory chainsaw to fight the beast in to a corner, or should I say ‘wood-chipper’ pouring the gore over the park to be discovered the next morning by the title opener.
The shots are spectacular, what do you expect it’s a big budget picture comparatively speaking. It lingers when it needs to, allowing for things to creep into the background, or frame it in such away that you have a gut-wrenching desire to yell at the screen for the characters to look behind them. The building and cutting of audio, and jump cuts to add that special comedic punch. It works well on a technical level.
I enjoyed the removal from the woods. I think that may have been a factor in Army of Darkness being my favourite, it was the only one that stood out. Also that was Ash at his zenith. I enjoyed the additions to the mythos, new monstrous forms the Deadites could be that the original were lacking because of financial and technological restraints. The timing is relentless, you hardly have a second to breathe once the possession starts. Adequate cannon fodder characters with enough personality to root for. Decent story, able to stand out of the pack since it (like Army of Darkness) it explore a new environment taking away the limitations the evil had in the previous iterations away. The flaw. The only flaw I can pick, and this sadly is a big one, is that it is a movie made by a major studio. Like the 2013 re-quel (which was not bad by any stretch of the imagination) is missing that crazy asses experimental spirit that that the original trilogy had, friends just going into the woods with gear and figuring shit out. With a large budget backed by Warner and New Line that small smack of desperation to nail this shot is taken away. Without stress or restraints there is little to no need for ingenuity. I liked it from an aesthetic, and technical point of view, it got a few jump and a loud laugh out of me, and this may just be the nostalgia goggles blinding me, but I feel there was no soul to swallow here.