Warning: This entry contains spoilers.
Brother and sister, Mia (Jane Levy) and David (Shiloh Fernandez), decide to head up to a cabin deep in the woods along with three of their friends. During their stay, the group discovers a hidden basement full of animal corpses, and a mysterious bound-up book, called The Book of the Dead. One of the group members decides to take a peek into the book, is greeted by gory and disturbing images and unreadable text, and despite multiple warnings not to explore any further, starts reading aloud. By doing this, he unknowingly summons demons. Mia is soon possessed and starts acting under the demon’s control who has an ultimate goal of killing five human beings to be able to raise an ultimate being from hell.
Fede Álvarez’s 2013 movie Evil Dead was, at its very core, a slasher film, even though it may have veered off course at some of the usual tropes and traditions within it. The movie followed a specific formula wherein a group of friends decide to go to an isolated and secluded setting cut off from the rest of civilization, and one by one, each of the friends die, except for one person – the Final Girl. In Carol J. Clover’s article, “Her Body, Himself: Gender in the Slasher Film,” she gives definition to the Final Girl by saying that she “is introduced at the beginning and is the only character to be developed in any psychological detail.”1 True to form, viewers learn early on that Mia is still hurting from the loss of her and David’s mother, and she also has a drug problem that she’s seeking to recover from. She is the character we learn personal details about, and we are able to visibly see just how these problems are affecting her.
But Evil Dead starts veering away from the usual Final Girl trope, who we know and expect to be the victim and a prey to everything happening on-screen. This relates with Linda Williams’ article where she states that “when the woman looks, she is punished.”2 Early on, we see Mia pacing outside the cabin, looking into the distance and seeing an unknown figure. She becomes fearful and tries warning her brother and friends who dismiss her, accusing her of coming up with excuses so as to aid her drug addiction. Determined and angry, Mia then goes off by herself in a car, and undubiously crashes into a body of water. Here, Mia is still aware that there is a dangerous entity out in the woods that is coming to get her. She tries escaping, but she becomes trapped, and is paralyzed in horror when she looks face-on at the demon she encounters. The viewers then witness the disturbing scene where the demon enters and penetrates Mia, thus assuming control of her body. Through looking, Mia was punished and hurt, and here, we see the start of the reversal in roles in the movie wherein the Final Girl turns into the killer.
Clover’s article talks heavily about gender roles in slasher films. Here, it is women who are seen as weak and helpless – with the female friends of the Final Girl usually being the first to die.3 In Evil Dead, we see Olivia (Jessica Lucas) and Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) die after Mia becomes possessed. But these female characters don’t stay still in death, instead, they become living corpses who become possessed as well, and start attacking the male characters of the film, David and Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci). In Álvarez’s movie, it is the women who are to be feared, and the men are there to be seen as characters the viewers can identify with.
All throughout the film, viewers are cheering for David, Mia’s brother, as he seeks to reluctantly kill his friends and sister who are being possessed by demons. When David finally gets rid of all the demons, we see that he then chooses to sacrifice himself to save Mia. Through this, viewers are shocked, expecting him to be the one to live until the very end. This stands in line with Clover’s article, who states that “no male character of any stature lives to tell the tale.”4 Even though all previously visible demons were vanquished thanks to David’s efforts, the story doesn’t end there. Another devious being rises from hell and is now set on killing Mia. There is then another shift in who the viewers start cheering for. While before, viewers were expected to actively root for Mia’s death, now, the same viewers start actively rooting for Mia to kill the new demon.
Without the presence of her brother and friends, Mia, the Final Girl, is left to fend for herself. Here, we see that she doesn’t need the others in order to survive anymore. In the final scenario, Mia faces her fear, looks directly at the killer and starts fighting the killer back. With the last scene of Mia holding a chainsaw above the demon’s now-split-in-half body, viewers share in Mia’s relief and feelings of triumph at having defeating the killer. She becomes “the slasher film’s hero.”5
Evil Dead was one of those movies that didn’t leave me any room to breathe. It was a gory movie that both terrified and thrilled me – with more emphasis placed on the former. It was a stressful movie to watch, yet one that I still enjoyed. While Evil Dead may not be bearers of any deep philosophical moral lessons, it is definitely one of the horror movies that will leave an impact on you, leaving you no choice but to think about it even days after having seen it.
1 Carol J. Clover, “Her Body, Himself: Gender in the Slasher Film.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002), 79.
2 Linda Williams, “When the Woman Looks.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002), 62.
3 Carol J. Clover, “Her Body, Himself: Gender in the Slasher Film.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002), 78.
4 Ibid, 78.
5 Ibid, 79.