Note: This review contains spoilers, reader beware
Unhinged. Gruesome. Paralyzing. These words and more aptly describe Fede Alvarez’s reimagining of the 1981 cult classic The Evil Dead. While not as campy as the original (though still with its humorous moments) it is a true homage to its predecessor in both spirit and visuals.
The updated story follows Mia, a young woman battling the demon of heroin addiction. With the help of her brother, his girlfriend, and two longtime friends, the group gathers at a cabin in the woods to help Mia kick her habit cold turkey.
Mia senses almost right away that something is off, commenting on the smell upon entering the cabin. The others dismiss her observation and chalk it up to a side effect of her addiction. This plot device works nicely, creating an air of disbelief on the parts of her friends when Mia desperately tries to convince them they need to leave because “There was something in the woods.” Of course Mia was right. There was something in the woods but by the time her friends figure that out it’s far too late.
From that moment on the film is one nonstop adrenaline rush taking the viewer on a blood soaked roller coaster ride that doesn’t hold back. This movie has it all: dismemberment, fire, self-mutilation, shotgun wounds, knife wounds, dead animals, demons, and yes, a chainsaw, this time wielded by Mia instead of a male Ash figure.
Which leads me to what I liked most about this movie: whether intentional or not this film could easily serve as an analogy to the horrors of drug addiction. Considered on a very basic level, the entirety of Mia’s ordeal is a battle with her inner demons. She is literally faced with a demonic vision of herself, a dark ‘other’ if you will, repeatedly throughout the film.
This other version of her actually impregnates her with evil not at all unlike a first hit of heroin that can hook you for life.
When first introduced to Mia we see a beautiful young woman determined to get her life in order but by the middle of the film she’s almost unrecognizable, a disgusting and dirty, foul-mouthed version of herself. Her friends and family repeatedly try to help her only to be shot down (or cut, or bit, or you get the idea). In the end only Mia can save herself which is a sentiment you often hear in regards to drug rehabilitation; you can’t force a person to quit, they have to want to help themselves.
The final bloody battle costs Mia a limb, the lives of her brother and her friends, and nearly her sanity. She has to kill the demon in order to survive and she does so spectacularly in nothing less than a bloodbath. In the end she is strong, triumphant, and as far as we, the viewers, can tell, once again pure. It appears safe to assume that, although at great cost to her, she has won. She is alive and we hope, no longer an addict.
Evil Dead is not for the faint of heart. It is unnerving, gross to the extreme, shocking to the senses, a downright nasty piece of celluloid, but if you can get past the skin it wears and listen to the message underneath you’ll see that it’s more than just a gore fest. It tells us that we all have the power to beat our own demons; that women especially do not have to be victims screaming and flailing in the face of adversity. If you’re willing to get a little dirty, to stand up for yourself and fight, you can live, really and truly live, and come out stronger in the end.
I applaud the filmmakers and cast for breathing new life into The Evil Dead. They did so with great talent and great respect for the source material. Jane Levy’s portrayal of Mia was nothing short of phenomenal, and I very much look forward to seeing more work from Mr. Alvarez.
Evil Dead opens Friday, April 5th. Go see it. I dare you.