M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Three of my decade-long Retro-Best in Horror recap Countdowns begins officially on October 1, 2012 and goes through September 30, 2013. I have posted compilation lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t!

How did I compile this list? I simply looked through films released between October 1st, 2012 and September 30, 2013 and worked and reworked the list until I had the magic number—31. Again, I never call myself any kind of expert in horror. I simply watch a lot of horror films and love writing about them. Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!

Released on April 5, 2013 and available on digital download, On Demand and BluRay/DVD here!

EVIL DEAD (2013)

Directed by Fede Alvarez
Written by Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues, based on the film by Sam Raimi
Starring Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore, Phoenix Connolly, Jim McLarty, Sian Davis, Stephen Butterworth, Karl Willetts, Randal Wilson, Rupert Degas, Bob Dorian, Ellen Sandweiss, Inca the Dog, and Bruce Campbell as Ash!
Find out more about this film here!

When I heard about the decision to remake EVIL DEAD, I was one of the many who thought it was blasphemy. While the original is deeply flawed, it is one of the true classics in horror cinema—one that should be revisited, not remade. No one knew who Fede Alvarez was. He had just filmed a couple of short films before EVIL DEAD. And at the time, I had stomped my foot down saying that I would not support remakes in the theaters. Eventually I gave in and checked the film out after some friends I trust said it was pretty good. And while I was able to admit it was decent, I still had some kind of mental block and yes, I’ll admit it, a bias that made me look down on EVIL DEAD 2013 and look at it with an unfair eye. As I put together my best of list that year, I omitted the film from it and instead put my support into WITHER, a Swedish remake of EVIL DEAD that went absolutely overboard with gore and grime. WITHER showed up in this current countdown at #14, but something made me revisit EVIL DEAD before finishing the top ten and dammit, when I am wrong, I’ll admit it. Maybe it’s maturity. Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age. Maybe I had mixed feelings about the ASH VS. EVIL DEAD series which inundated us with wonky, gory comedy and I needed a bit of seriousness and dramatic heft in my Deadites again. It took a few years, but my bias against Alvarez’s EVIL DEAD had vanished and I ended up enjoying the shit out of it.

You know the story. A bunch of kids meet out in the cabin in the woods, they stumble across an ancient book called the Necronomicon, foolishly read from it, and unleash long-slumbering demons in the forest that attack them all night long. This time around, the reason to meet in the woods is not a fun-filled vacation. This time around the secluded area is a wonderful place for someone to quit drugs cold turkey. And that someone is Mia (Jane Levy). Joined by her friends for support, Mia struggles with sobriety and if those inner demons aren’t enough, now she has to deal with ancient Deadites rising from the forest and tearing her and her friends apart piece by piece.

I think the main reason I’ve come to love this film is the levels of gore and brutality Alvarez achieves. I still can’t believe a film this gory was ever released in theaters. Even the R-rated version is so over the top, it’s enough to make anyone who grew up with the uppity MPAA in the eighties and nineties slap their forehead in frustration. This is one greasy, grimy, gorefest as Mia and her crew sludge through mud, blood, and god knows what for pretty much the entirety of the runtime. There may be about a ten-fifteen minute rev up where we get to know the characters, but most of EVIL DEAD 2013 is one long bloodbathed action scene. Alvarez never lets the pace slow down or dry off, making the entire experience an awe-inspiring ordeal to endure.

Alvarez also manages to add suspense and tension to this gorefest, setting up one scene after another that both nauseates and makes the spine tingle. Alvarez seems to be one of the few people who can bridge the gap between gore and real fear. It’s not as easy as one would think as usually horror excels in one or the other rather than both. This is something even Raimi has some problem with, but Alvarez proves he can do it with ease.

While Jane Levy is busy translating thoughts into real life musical numbers in NBC’s ZOEY’S EXTRAORDINARY PLAYLIST, it’s a shame that she seems to have left horror for the mainstream. I’m hoping this isn’t the last horror film she’s in because she is one hell of a scream queen in EVIL DEAD and Alvarez’s follow-up DON’T BREATHE. Levy is fearless as Mia, crawling around in the slime with mud up to her nose holes. Her performance really makes you forget any of the other female actors in the EVIL DEAD series as she gives it her all. The rest of the cast is rounded out nicely with SPRING’s Lou Taylor Pucci and GOTHAM’s Jessica Lucas offering up the most memorable roles.

Though the tone is deadly serious and there is nary a moment for slapstick, Alvarez still manages to set EVIL DEAD into the same universe Raimi has developed all of those years ago. This one feels more like a direct sequel to the original than the original sequel (though I love EVIL DEAD II deeply), as it carries over the more dire and dreadful feel of the original’s tree rape sequence and the tarot card reading scene. Alvarez could have easily ignored the original like many remake directors do, but this one honors it and builds a grisly sequel to it. The awesome Bruce Campbell cameo at the end proves that the two worlds occupy the same space and I’d love to see Alvarez and Raimi team up for another outing in the woods.

Another thing that sets EVIL DEAD 2013 apart from many other horror films is the soul-shredding score that uses chants, screams, alarm noises, and guttural screams to flesh out the horror you are seeing even more. This creative use of unconventional music brings chills even without seeing the horror on screen. This is a soundtrack I need to own as it sets the mood perfectly for a trip through the lower bowels of hell.

So I gained respect for EVIL DEAD 2013. I realized it for the worthy successor as it is. Alvarez takes themes that are much more identifiable, a group of kids that are solid actors, sets the mood with a frantic pace and fantastic sound effects and score, and presto—you’ve got a damn fine piece of horror cinema. I was wrong about EVIL DEAD 2013 in 2013, but I’m not wrong now. This is one unforgettable installment in the EVIL DEAD franchise.

THE 2012-2013 COUNTDOWN!

#8 – EVIL DEAD 2013
#14 – WITHER
#16 – JUG FACE
#23 – V/H/S/2
#24 – MON AMI

M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.

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