Of all the holidays celebrated worldwide, no single day is loved by the Substream staff more than Halloween. With October’s arrival, the time has finally come to begin rolling out a slew of special features we have prepared in celebration of our favorite day.
31 Days Of Halloween is a recurring column that will run throughout the month of October. The goal of this series is to supply every Substream reader with a daily horror (or Halloween-themed) movie recommendation that is guaranteed to amplify your All Hallows’ Eve festivities. We’ll be watching every film the day it’s featured, and we hope you will follow along at home. Reader, beware, you’re in for a… spooky good time!
Day 1: Evil Dead (2013)
Fede Alvarez’s feature-length debut is arguably the most violently gory and graphic horror film to be released by a major Hollywood studio. To be selected by the director of a cult classic film to write and direct a modern version of his original vision over three decades since its original release has to be quite an honor, and as Sam Raimi himself produced the “remake” to 1981’s The Evil Dead, the hype leading up to its premiere at 2013’s SXSW was immense. For a relatively low-budget film, though, Alvarez and crew fared rather well, turning a decent profit and disrupting many a viewers’ sleep with demonic, blood-soaked nightmares fueled by the disturbing imagery flooding their 90-minute flick.
As to not spoil the best thrills of the feature, I’ll keep the synopsis as brief as possible: Following an opening expository sequence that sets up the R-rated tone of the film and touches on a bit of the history of the Naturom Demonto (Necronomicon)—essentially the film’s antagonist, which harnesses the power to summon The Evil—we’re introduced to our five main characters: David, his sister Mia, his girlfriend Natalie, and their friends, Eric and Olivia. (Using the first letter of each of their names you can spell DEMON. How fucking clever.) The group has retreated to David and Mia’s parents’ old cabin in the woods in order to help Mia kick her heroin habit, cold turkey. Upon discovering the ancient, demonic book in the cellar and an ill-advised choice by Eric to read from it, all hell, of course, breaks loose, putting Mia’s sobriety on the back burner.
While tonally quite a departure from its source material in Raimi’s original trilogy—with zero camp and no Bruce Campbell charisma—Evil Dead is unadulterated torture terror that relies heavily on its shocking visuals more so than its script and the ability of its actors. While the overall plot is mostly simple, it makes it easy to focus on the film’s dialogue—nothing to write home about in this case—so it’s the incredible makeup and effects work that gets nailed to the walls of your mind more than any line or plot point. To be fair, though, there are a couple laughs to be had and at least one obligatory, bad-ass one-liner. However, you’ll likely also find yourself irritated with the occasional idiocy of the cabin-dwelling college kids (especially Natalie) as their questionable choices begin adding up quickly. Let’s be real, though: without characters’ infuriatingly dumb decisions, a good bulk of horror films probably wouldn’t even exist.
To continue the praise on its effects, one of the most impressive feats of Evil Dead is the fact that very little CGI was used, leaving a vast majority of the many cuts, slices, gouges, stabs, burns and full-on dismemberment to bask in the glory of highly respectable practical effects use, an unfortunate rarity in film these days. Furthermore, the loads of fan service is definitely a highlight. Callbacks to the original series include Ash Williams’ 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88, a chained-up cellar door, arm removal, fast and low POV tracking shots through the woods, the valuable use of a chainsaw, and yes, even a take on the infamous tree assault scene, for better or worse.
An at-home viewing of Evil Dead may not be quite the thrilling, hoot-and-holler experience it was in a packed theater during its opening weekend, but the movie’s still effective if you’re big on intense gore and visually impressive dread. Roque Baños’ score for the film is a draw as well for those who love killer horror soundtracks. If you’ve only got time for one track, at least experience the terrifyingly intense roller coaster of “The Abomination’s Rising.”
As far as where the 2013 entry sits in the echelon of the beloved franchise, die-hard fans seem mostly divided on whether or not Alvarez’s re-imagining lives up to the original, but regardless of the comparison, Evil Dead is a pretty fun way to spend 90 minutes if you’re looking to get grossed out and/or terrified leading up to Halloween.