Film Review – Evil Dead (2013)

Evil Dead (2013)

Directed by: Fede Alvarez

Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci

Three stars

Review by: Julian Wright

Shoestring budget video nasty classic Evil Dead (1981) made the remarkable achievement of being a rip-roaring, hilariously good time while also managing to scare the bejesus out of its audience. The roller coaster ride of gags and guffaws was filmed over several months with a crew of amateur college kids. Their skills might not have been honed but unknown director (at the time) Sam Raimi showed style and directorial flair and the team’s ambition was potent. The fact that the same team oversaw this remake inspires confidence, but the final result is nowhere near as inventive as the original.

Upping the drama by having the five characters head to the infamous remote cabin in the woods for an intervention so that Mia (Jane Levy) can kick her nasty drug habit (and some family issues with her brother thrown in for good measure), this remake takes itself more seriously than its inspiration. Stripped of the laughs, Evil Dead re-imagined forges ahead with deadly serious intent, aiming for a more disturbing, sombre feel than the playfully horrifying one of the original. Tonally, this one has more in common with other recent horror classic remakes such as Marcus Nispel’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (2003) and Rob Zombie’s Halloween (2007), with the added brutality and grittiness. But unlike Nispel’s and Zombie’s characters, the victimised bunch in Evil Dead are more likeable and sympathetic.

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Alvarez’s attempts and intentions are admirable, but trying to take a possessed book seriously doesn’t quite work. It was easier to go along with the reading of the passage from the forbidden book that unleashed evil spirits in the first version because Raimi’s tongue was firmly in cheek. Here, it is passed off as reality, which doesn’t sit right. While Mia’s battle with her own demons makes for more interesting plotting – and her violent withdrawals making her look demonic before the evil ghosties take over is a nice twist – it leaves little room for giggles. Raimi wanted us to have fun, Alvarez is only interested in grossing us out.

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Alvarez is true to the original with the gore content, but the advertising does him a disservice by promising “the most terrifying film you will ever experience”, because unfortunately, his version is not. Sure, there is a sense of dread that hangs heavily over the film from the get-go, and the dreary look suggests a sense of unease, but Alvarez is more successful in putting you on the edge of your seat with the build up than pushing you off it with the highly touted practical horror effects money shots (CGI was shunned to please gore hounds). The horror suggested with the inventive sound effects prove to be more unsettling than the close-ups of gaping wounds, gallons of blood and needles in the eye.

A more thoughtful plot and fleshed out characters was a noble idea, but their impact is often let down by the exposition-heavy dialogue. The sentences these characters speak seem less like conversations you would hear from real people and more like a scriptwriter spoon-feeding information. This blood drenched but humourless affair is not the nightmare inducing remake it thinks it is, but its enthusiasm for the graphic makes it a passable entry in the horror genre.

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