The only thing that scares a horror director must be worrying they might not scare the audience. Try adding some humour to the mix, and most filmmakers end up making a joke of the whole film. Not Sam Raimi. His seminal indie horror picture The Evil Dead from 1981 (along with its two two sequels) set the standard for creepy comedy. Now comes the inevitable remake, which in many ways takes the safe route back to the famed cabin in the woods. The strategy? Double down on the gore and kill all the comedy. In other words, hope the bloody oozing prosthetics you created steal the show. And they did. Boy, did they ever.
I won't name names, but a friend of mine turned to me halfway through the movie saying he couldn't take it any more. He up and left me, alone, while I recoiled in fear and disgust as the film drove forward. Someone had to survive to tell the tale. I'm glad I did.
As a big fan of Face Off, the make-up special effects series on SyFy, I've acquired a new appreciation for your craft. When it's done right, practical special effects are spectacularly effective. Your work on the new Evil Dead certainly qualifies, never letting editing or camera tricks insinuate the horror. We have to watch the whole bloody mess unfold - or should I say, dismember. My biceps hurt just thinking about it (damn you).
The story, re-written by director Fede Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues (with uncredited polishes by Diablo Cody) uses a smart hook to isolate the five actors in their haunted house. Mia (Jane Levy) is a recovering drug addict who has recruited her friends (Lou Taylor Pucci, Elizabeth Blackmore and Jesscia Lucas) and brother (Shiloh Fernandez) to help her kick the habit cold turkey. They self-impose reasons for being cut off from others, and also attribute Mia's early misbehaviour as part of the uncomfortable recovery process. Of course, the theme of fighting your "inner demons" turns out to be more literal than they think, after a book of spells unleashes ungodly terror. Plot wise, that's it. What the film lacks in breaking new ground, it compensates for with crushing onscreen agony.
From splitting tongues in half, to tearing off faces, to boiling live flesh, everything you've done in the film is textbook terrifying. The pacing is initially even-handed, even if the scares become a bit relentless in the second half. Levy's possessed performance also creates a lot of genuine tensions and discomfort before her complete transformation (much like Jennifer Carpenter managed in The Exorcism of Emily Rose). I'm not a horror guy, but I can appreciate when a film is effective. And your work was, above all.
So I'm glad I didn't walk out, but you won't find me walking back in to see it again.