Director: Fede Alvarez
Writers: Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues
Stars: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas
Release date: April 5th, 2013
Distributor: TriStar Pictures
Running time: 95 minutes
Best part: The ultra-effective gore.
Worst part: The uninteresting characters.
As of late, the world has become obsessed with director Sam Raimi. Geek girls and boys look up to this man due to his startling talent. Last year, The Amazing Spider-man adhered too closely to Raimi’s original Spider-man film. His most recent directorial effort, Oz the Great and Powerful, proved that he can handle popular material. Now, a remake of his 1981 masterpiece, The Evil Dead, is hitting our screens.
Evil Dead may be inferior to Raimi’s horror-comedy classic, but it’s still enjoyable. It’s a sprawling, excessive, and occasionally cloying horror flick. However, if you’ve seen the original, you won’t be surprised by this remake. Mia (Jane Levy) is an angsty young woman struggling to kick a nasty drug addiction. She also feels abandoned and angry after her mother’s death and brother’s self-exile. Her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) calls for an intervention at the family cabin. Three of their friends, Olivia (Jessica Lucas), Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), and Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore), decide to help. However, this spooky pseudo-rehab clinic soon turns into the perfect setting for the ultimate nightmare. A discovery by Eric awakens something foul in the surrounding woods.
Back in ‘81, Raimi changed horror cinema with a couple of inventive camera movements and some make up kits. I have to admit, I’m not the biggest horror movie fan. Having seen last year’s stand out horror flick The Cabin in the Woods, I find it difficult to take them seriously. Much like 2011’s The Thing, Evil Dead is a re-imagining that tries too hard to top the original. This version may have its positives, but it spends too much time digging its own grave. I’m still clueless as to whether it’s trying to be its own thing or an homage to the original. There are major story and character elements that have changed, yet it still takes the time to reference the original’s chainsaw, cars, tree rape incidents, and kooky dialogue. Despite my gripes with this version, I had a hell of a time watching it! (to be fair, it may have do with the audience I saw it with). It gripped me from the prologue. It’s a tight, tense, and gruelling first few minutes that also add to this series’ already stellar mythology. This sequence contains the remake’s best ideas. However, the film hurriedly slows down when it switches to the five lead characters. Sub-plots are introduced and dropped without warning and the back-stories are clichéd and forgettable. So why did I like this film as much as I did?
It has to do with the film’s technical elements. Director Fede Alvarez is obviously passionate about both the Evil Dead trilogy and horror genre logistics. Raimi’s version is a visceral and comedic ‘bottle’ film. Whilst lacking Raimi’s imaginative touch, Alvarez’s work here is highly commendable. After the evil book(Naturom Demonto)’s introduction, the tension and violence drastically increases. He makes a great decision in using practical effects instead of CGI. CGI-based horror never works (2011’s The Thing is a prime example). Here, CGI is used only to touch up vital sequences. Startlingly original and inventive; the gore creates a disturbing and sensory experience. Sharp objects, including Stanley knives, syringes, and machetes, all have their destructive and disgusting purposes. Every stab, amputation, gun shot, and slice will leave a lasting impression on you. Blood squirts and splatters cover the screen at nearly every turn. The stand out moments include tongues being sliced in half and arms being severed with electric carving knifes. Somehow, the practical effects make these gratuitous and gruesome events seem tangible. Alvarez emulates Raimi’s inventive cinematography and production design. Here, the camera barely stops moving. It ducks and weaves through every crevasse of the decaying cabin. The stylistic flourishes ascend in quality and quantity; building to the gruelling and wince-inducing final third. The sound design is also top notch. Whilst never becoming over the top, the sound effects elevate many of the film’s best jump scares.
I just don’t want to become the Devil’s bitch.” (Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), Evil Dead).
Raimi’s original trilogy has one powerful ingredient that elevates it above other influential horror franchises – Bruce Campbell. The expressive and charismatic actor, along with Raimi’s dark sense of humour, brought life to a low-budget trilogy containing simple stories and visceral thrills. This straight-faced remake lacks the original trilogy’s charismatic characters. The five lead characters here lack chemistry and quickly become unlikeable. None of them are anywhere near as intriguing or beguiling as Campbell’s character Ash. Once the blood-curdling theatrics begin, the character development stops. The acting is also hit and miss. Levy gives it her all as the psychologically-damaged lead character. Alvarez makes another compelling choice in telling this story from the drug addict’s perspective. Mia is forced into some uncomfortable and slimy situations; depicting the darkest sides of her physical and mental trauma. Playing both a sweet girl and a writhing demon, Levy’s immense talent shines through in every scene. Pucci also stands out, becoming both a charming comic relief and human knife block. Fernandez is as wooden as the notorious cabin. It doesn’t help that his character makes some painfully stupid decisions.
Despite its flaws, Evil Dead is a fun and exhilarating experience. The gore is startlingly effective and the atmosphere is gripping up until the film’s final frame. Raimi’s original Evil Dead films are difficult to emulate, let alone top. Alvarez smartly focuses on many of the original’s most creative and alluring elements.