Release date: 9th May 2013
Director: Fede Alvarez
Cast: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore
Review by Peter Gray
Horror remakes tend to not bode well with fans of the original films, and more often than not you can understand why. When it came to the rebooting of ‘Evil Dead’, the response was unanimously negative, and there was good reason for it; Diablo Cody, who penned ‘Juno’, was on board for writing duties, there was talk that the character of Ash (the original hero of the film played by Bruce Campbell in arguably his most iconic role) was to be re-written as a woman, and given that so many remakes water down their material to cater to a broader audience, would we even see material that remotely resembled Sam Raimi’s legendary 1981 gore-fest?
Thankfully everyone involved with the 2013 incarnation of ‘Evil Dead’ (which include original star Campbell and director Raimi, both on board as producers) knew exactly what fans wanted to see – or more importantly didn’t want to see – as it plays out more like a modern sequel rather than a cash-in remake. Sure the set-up is the same as the original (group of friends alone in the woods – ancient text is read – demonic possession ensues) but it takes its own distorted path with the material that it manages to stay fresh. One angle that particularly works in the films favour is having lead character Mia (Jane Levy) be subjected to isolation in the woods to help her break her drug addiction, and so when she starts showing symptoms of demonic possession her friends mistake this as withdrawal, making it all the more feasible when they ignore her pleas to leave. The horror genre tends to revel in its characters stupidity but director Fede Alvarez, who co-wrote the script with Rodo Sayagues and an uncredited Cody, has tried to keep proceedings and reactions as realistic as possible, a tough feat considering the violent ridiculousness that consumes the film.
Though Alvarez has conducted a sombre, serious tone around the films quintet of characters, and manages to even weave some subtext regarding drug addiction and family remorse, this ‘Evil Dead’ is still a horror film at its core, and a violent one at that, so don’t be caught off guard thinking there’s serious character development here; though it should be noted that all the cast deliver surprisingly solid performances for the genre, particularly Levy and Shiloh Fernandez as her long-suffering brother. The film pushes its R18+ rating to its limits, and it’s having an absolute ball in the process. I won’t give anything away as half the fun of these films is witnessing the carnage, but there’s enough blood and gore on hand here to perhaps even challenge the most desensitized of viewers (one sequence involving a flipped over car arguably proving the most brutal) and even better is that all of the effects are practical and aided by make-up, so there’s no CGI to lighten the blow.
It goes without saying that Sam Raimi’s original ‘Evil Dead’ trilogy is a classic staple in cinematic horror history, and Alvarez’s take is by no means going to change that, but he wasn’t trying to and so much of this ‘Evil Dead’ owes its success to the fact that it wasn’t being made in a bid to go toe-to-toe with Raimi’s, but moreso exist on its own merits. And on its own it’s a pretty damn good movie that manages to both compliment the original whilst acting as its own visceral experience for a new horror audience. It’s not the most terrifying film you will experience, as the advertising has so boldly stated, but it is far better than what an ‘Evil Dead’ remake should be and deserves to be seen by horror fans the nation over.
My rating 4/5 (Not for the faint of heart)