Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Froemming picked “Evil Dead.”
The Movie: “Evil Dead” (2013)
Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Jessica Lucas
Director: Fede Alvarez
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) Five friends head to a remote cabin, where the discovery of a Book of the Dead leads them to unwittingly summon up demons living in the nearby woods.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 63 percent
Froemming: So far, there has been a lot of laughs and very little gore with our Halloween Month picks.
That is about to change.
With Bruce Mother(REDACTED) Campbell in “Maniac Cop,” it reminded me of my love of the film series that built his and Sam Raimi’s career: The Evil Dead franchise. And my original pick was going to be “Army of Darkness.” A movie that was another piece in the puzzle of Brown and I’s budding friendship in college, what with it being endlessly quotable and allowing us to call people who dropped stories at our college paper “primitive screwheads.”
Anyway, I realized I had never seen the 2013 remake/reboot, so I decided to pick that instead. I am always leery of these projects, especially if a property I love as much as “Evil Dead” is concerned. Would it try to recreate the perfect comedy/horror of “Evil Dead 2” or go more serious(ish) like the original? Raimi and Campbell produced it, but does that mean anything in this work-a-day world we live in?
We are about to find out.
Brown, you will need to recite the following ancient words before we continue this review: Klaatu barada nikto. I will go grab a soda while you do this, and then we will hear your first thoughts.
Brown: For how beloved the Evil Dead series is, I had only seen “Army of Darkness.” Actual horror movies, not for me. But if you’re not gonna take it serious and let Bruce Campbell ham it up, I am so down.
That… is not what the “Evil Dead” remake went for. But was it enjoyable? We’ll get into it. I will say this makes me want to watch the Sam Raimi original to see what ideas were cribbed and which ones were scrapped.
Froemming, get us started while I hail to the king, baby!
Froemming: We begin with a woman walking through the woods like she has had one hell of a night…you did recite those ancient words, right Brown? It is important that you recited those before we get into the review. *apartment starts shaking ominously*
Brown: This bloody woman walking through the woods gave me HUGE “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” vibes.
Froemming: As she is walking, we are basically assuming she is the final girl of a movie we never saw. Especially since she gets kidnapped by reject hillbillies from “Deliverance.”
When she comes to, she finds herself tied to a wooden beam, surrounded by even stranger hill people, an old woman reading from the Necronomicon and her father telling her she murdered her mother.
Things turn as we see this woman has actually become a Deadite, mocks the father and, well, he throws gas on her and sets her on FIRE!
Cut to opening credits!
Brown: Yeah, our possessed woman goes from “Hold me and take me home, daddy” to “I’ll kill you (REDACTED).” So yeah… that took a turn.
That’s when you realized that oh, they’re going to play this pretty serious. Good? Bad?
Well, I know how Bruce Campbell would answer this:
And to give my pal Froemming flashbacks, the opening of the movie shows a car driving through nothing but pine trees. It was like every trip I’d taken to Bemidji to visit Froemming.
It’s a few years later, I guess? And we’re off into a cabin in the woods. It’s one of those creepy, dilapidated cabins in the woods. Not like the one where Hopper and Eleven made Eggo waffles and Eleven became the most adorable ghost ever.
Froemming: So this follows the basic premise of the first two movies: A bunch of friends gather at a cabin in the woods and wake up an unholy monster. This slightly strays from that, in that these friends are at this cabin to help their friend Mia kick heroin.
Not sure who had a worse heroin experience, Mia or Alice in Chains:
Mia’s brother even shows up from Chicago (the film takes place in that third world country existing in the United States: Michigan) to help her kick the habit. And when David goes to talk with Mia out back of the cabin, we see Raimi’s old Oldsmobile Delta 88. Not sure if this implies that it is Ash Williams’ car, abandoned after he flew back in time to fight the army of darkness, but for my head canon, I am going with that.
Brown: This movie has the unfortunate habit of really leaning into its references to remind you that you could be watching a different, more revered movie. I mean, how many glory shots of chainsaws are throughout this movie?
So when our fivesome wander into the cabin, they notice blood all over the floors under a rug.
… When you see bloody floorboards, you cut your losses and leave the cabin. If you’re really that curious, wait until daytime to explore.
But no, they have a literal red flag that they ignore.
Froemming: You underestimate the buffoonery of white people in horror movies, Brown.
Brown: Like Tommy Lee Jones to Jim Carrey, I cannot sanction their buffoonery.
Froemming: Me seeing a blood soaked floor with a trap door to the basement? I am politely walking out of the cabin, getting in my car and driving off. Never looking back or speaking to any of these people ever again.
But no, these good-time buddies have to go down into this creepy basement, where they see RED FLAG No. 2, dead animals skinned and hanging around like this was Leatherface’s man cave to relax and get away from it all.
Also, I know Mia is detoxing so she is more sensitive to smell, but I think I would be able to smell that shit from outside the cabin. How none of them vomit from the smell is amazing, how none of them vomit from the sight is downright implausible.
Brown: Also, when you go down to the basement and see a book wrapped in a black garbage bag and barbed wire, that’s RED FLAG No. 3.
And then when you look at this book and see the cover is human skin, that red flag is (REDACTED) CRIMSON!
Froemming: Look, I knew Eric was trouble from the start. He had glasses. Which means his eyes are terrible from reading like a nerd all the time.
So he doomed them all with his stupidity curiosity. He is also mad that David moved away to better his life. Man, if you are angry about that after years and years, maybe you were not his friend but just toxically codependent on the people in your life.
Brown: At this point, everyone at this cabin needs to pull a Grandpa Simpson.
Again, the JOE-DOWN does not sanction the buffoonery of white people.
Not only is Mia freaking out about the smell, she starts catching glimpses of the 2000s favorite horror movie trope: scary, frail women.
Mia sees said scary woman out in the woods. Then in a freakout where she steals a car to try and leave the woods, she almost runs into said scary woman.
In avoiding a head-on collision, she pulls a Michael Scott and drives bear right into a body of water.
Froemming: Now, if this was not connected to The Evil Dead, it would be an interesting horror movie to see what Mia is noticing is real or a detox-fueled hallucination. But this is an Evil Dead movie, so as she tries to escape out of the water, she is attacked by …tree branches.
I asked this last review, but I will change it a bit here: How much cocaine does one have to be one to be paranoid of tree branches?
Anyway, we get a toned down version (if you can call it that) of the tree rape scene from the original two, which means Mia is now possessed by whatever the hell keeps knocking shit over as it rushes through the woods.
Brown: When scary lady comes out of the lake, she looked like the Swamp Thing. I thought we were going in a whole ‘nother direction and making Evil Dead join the failed Universal Monster Universe that Tom Cruise and co. killed after just one movie.
As for the tree rape scene, I’m kind of surprised they did as much as they did in the year of our lord 2013.
Yeah, all this happened because dumbass Eric had to go and read aloud the haunted book that I’ll call the Necronomicon because I’m not learning the actual name.
Froemming: Let’s also remember there are NUMEROUS warnings in bold, red letters pleading with people to not recite the words of this book. For a nerd with dumb eyes from reading all the time, he sure has trouble comprehending what is on the page.
Brown: How far does the evil go for Mia now that she’s possessed? Well, David seems to think that Mia beat his dog Grandpa to death with a hammer.
So, welcome to David’s John Wick origin moment.
Froemming: Yeah, David’s dog is killed. I hate when animals die in movies. It is why I refuse to watch movies where an animal is a lead character. Also, we assume it is Mia because we get a glimpse of her whacking the poor thing with a hammer. Mia deserves all the bad things happening to her after that.
As he goes to confront his good-for-nothing junkie sister for killing his beloved pooch, he finds Mia has turned the hot water all the way up, resulting in bad burns. Burns so bad we see the flesh on her face bubble up like a bad blister. And, given Brown’s love of body horror, I knew we were in for a treat with this movie.
Brown: Yeah, but this was happening to someone possessed. At least she wasn’t going full Cronenberg.
Hoping to bring Mia to a hospital and FINALLY trying to leave this goddamn cabin, it turns out they’re trapped. Apparently these Michigan woods are more prone to flooding than Fargo.
Froemming: Look, I have been to Michigan and visited the Mystery Spot, where my uncle pissed off the people running the place because he pointed out how basic physics created their illusions.
My theory is this cabin is the original Mystery Spot and all these people need to survive is my uncle to point out what a ripoff joint it truly is. He could probably explain the flooding too. It is simple: When it rains a lot, it floods. Case closed!
Brown: Going back to the cabin, things only get worse. A corrupted Mia shoots her brother in the arm with a shotgun (guessing it was birdshot or else that arm is gone). She also spews red bile onto their friend Olivia. To help contain this problem, Eric locks Mia in the basement. Later, I assume, he feeds Mia a bucket of fish heads every night like she’s Hugo Simpson.
Froemming: If I am at a cabin, and someone starts looking like Linda Blair in “The Exorcist” and vomits what looks like a gallon of blood into the mouth of another friend, I am politely walking out and risking the swim across the flooded river, never to look back or speak to any of these people again.
Now, Olivia is rightfully shaken up after someone puked blood into her mouth. And while she is trying to fill a shot with some drug to calm Mia down, she sees a disturbing version of herself reflected in the mirror. As she tries to run away, she is frozen and pisses herself. No shame in that, Olivia, I probably would have pissed myself numerous times by this point on this cabin vacation by all I have seen.
Brown: Being the old, beat up man that I am, my first thought hearing Olivia’s neck cracking during her twitchy movement was “Oh man, that’d probably feel really good!”
What wouldn’t feel good is when Eric checks on Olivia and she Joker’d herself.
And in the first of two moments that made me squirm, she stabs Eric right below the eye with a needle. I thought she got the eye. But yet, the image of Eric pulling out said needle will haunt my dreams.
Eric is able to survive the ordeal when he bludgeons Olivia to death with a broken piece of toilet.
Yes, this movie kills someone in nearly the same fashion as “The Boondock Saints.”
Froemming: I laughed out loud when Eric slipped on part of Olivia’s face and hit his back on the toilet. And yes, he just straight up murders Olivia with a toilet like he is in that piece of (REDACTED) movie you mentioned.
Things are not going well for David’s girlfriend, Natalie. As this is going on, she is being menaced by Monster Mia, to the point she is dragged into the basement and bitten like when Jon Voight bit Kramer.
Brown: During the attack, there was also squirm part number two for me: when Mia slices her tongue in half with a box cutter.
This then references the arm infection that Ash has, and much like our buffoon hero, Natalie saws her arm off to fight the infection. Only, since this is more gore gore and less ha ha, she basically is bleeding out and is in need of medical attention. No chainsaw is going over that wound.
Brown: These folks know they need to cauterize wounds like this, right?
It’s at this point where I had this movie figured out. It’s very much a popcorn horror movie where there’s not a lot of thinking and if you need a low-effort gorefest, it works extremely well.
And hey, we’ll get more body horror. The budget amputation didn’t quite work and Natalie is possessed. And she somehow got a hold of a nail gun. How the nail gun is shooting nails like a bullet without any compressed air attached is beyond me. But yeah, David’s face and David’s arm are now filled with nails.
Eventually, David is able to grab the shotgun and blows Natalie’s other arm off, causing her to turn back to normal and bleed out.
Froemming: Look, when Deadites begin speaking like normal humans again, remember the sage words of this doofus:
Brown: Around this time, we fully find out what’s happening: a being called the Taker of Souls needs to claim five souls to unleash something called the Abomination.
So yeah, this movie is pretty much a Cannibal Corpse song. Somewhere, Ace Ventura is all for this idea.
Froemming: Eric, now full of nails and his eye all goofed up from being stabbed with a needle, says the only way to save Mia is to basically kill her. And David asks a rather stupid question: Will it work. Eric is in the right here to say he has no (REDACTED) idea, it is just in that book he read with all the warnings to not read it or recite any of it that he ignored. So, these two go into the basement to grab Mia to, you know, murder her by fire or whatnot.
So David is dousing the cabin in gasoline like he is about to burn down the Banana Stand. David hears Mia singing the song their mother used to sing, and this just seems to piss him off, what with him taking the advice from George W. Bush about not being fooled again and whatnot.
So, he begins digging a grave like he is Henry Hill in “Goodfellas.” A grave where he intends to bury her alive. And he goes back into the cabin to grab his sister.
Only this brings about more trouble. Eric passes out and David just PUTS HIM FACE DOWN IN THE FLOODED BASEMENT TO DROWN.
I guess David really was a bad friend. Now I am angry Eric was right about that.
Brown: I kept thinking of “Step Brothers” as David is burying Mia.
I would have also accepted “Casino.”
Once again, the demon that has possessed Mia is messing with David’s head by having Mia tell him he was a terrible brother and son. But, he follows through on the burial.
Thinking that his sister’s at peace, David walks inside the cabin to find the car keys, only for Mia to be alive.
So… burying her alive AND putting a plastic bag over her head didn’t kill Mia?
Also, he has that problem of not killing Eric that comes to bite him in the ass.
Froemming: After he buried her, he brought her back to life with a battery and the OD scene from “Pulp Fiction.”
Brown: Oh yeah, dude MacGyver’d a defibrillator.
Froemming: So they broke the curse over Mia, only causing the deaths of all their friends. And then David goes inside for the keys, only to be stabbed in the neck by Zombie Eric, who again was right about David being a bad friend.
Also, the first letter of all their names put together spells DEMON.
Brown: I hate that, and I hate you for bringing that to my attention.
Well, David’s set on not being a bad brother. Because he gets Mia out of the house, then blows the house up using video game logic! Apparently when you shoot a gas can with a shotgun, it ignites the whole goddamn house.
The nightmare seems over. And then the movie goes full Slayer. But more like this kind of Slayer.
Froemming: I feel needle drops are done too often, but damn, if there were ever a time to needle drop “Raining Blood,” this was it.
Mia’s monster other is now after her. And it is not joking around like Evil Ash, Evil Mia is down to the meat and potatoes of trying to murder her. To the point it picks up a car and crushes Mia’s hand. And she basically rips it off completely, though she does not bleed out like Natalie because Mia has plot armor. So, we have her do her version of Ash with the chainsaw. And, while I felt the chainsaw reference was not really needed, it was pretty rad when she saws her doppelganger’s head right in half like a Fatality from “Mortal Kombat.”
Brown: We got blue-balled from that goddamn chainsaw for 80 minutes. So when Mia finally used it… yeah, it was sweet, sweet release.
I am a little concerned about her lack of medical care after, you know, tearing her arm off. But that one moment where she deep-throated her evil self with a chainsaw was worth all of this.
Froemming: So, the sun rises, the horror is over. Mia has to explain to the cops why all her friends are brutally murdered and her brother burned to death locked in the rubble of the cabin. I have a feeling this will be a long trial for old Mia.
We also get a stinger at the end of the credits of Ash saying “groovy,” which makes me wish they were able to go through with plans of uniting this series with an “Army of Darkness” sequel. But we did not get that. Hollywood sucks.
Anyway, Brown let’s go shoot nail guns down in recommendations!
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Froemming: I would. It is not as classic as the originals, but for a reboot it did its job. I am glad it didn’t go for the campy humor, you can’t replicate the originals without endless comparisons.
Brown: Ehh, it’s not for me. It would have appealed to me much more if there was some of the Bruce Campbell charm. If you’re a horror aficionado, I can see this appeal as a horror popcorn movie, but it’s not my style.
Here is what’s coming up for the next JOE-DOWN: