Film Review: Evil Dead (2013)
Remakes in recent years are always a troubled proposition. Remake a cult film, like House of Wax or The Crazies, and you might just face the wrath of devoted geeks and fanboys. Remake a foreign language film, like Dark Water, and you risk losing what made the original work in translation. Remake a solid classic, like Dawn of the Dead, Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street etc., and people will simply wonder “what’s the point?”
Evil Dead, made by the debuting Fede Alvarez (handpicked by producer and original director Sam Raimi after making astonishing short Panic Attack!), could easily fall into categories one and three, as The Evil Dead, Raimi’s dark 1981 horror film, is quite easily a cult classic; not widely seen but hailed as a masterpiece by most who see it (My thoughts? The plasticine ending doesn’t cut it anymore). Will the new, updated, 2013 Evil Dead live up to the modestly successful 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead, or live down to Rob Zombie’s trashy remake of Halloween?
In its favour, it’s actually tricky to call Evil Dead an honest remake, despite how it’s presented, because, despite a few call-backs and references, it seems to be more of an unconnected sequel; it takes places in the same location, has the same Book of the Dead causing mayhem, and the same basic premise and execution. This time, rather than a bunch of all American young adults having a weekend away at a cabin, it’s a group of friends holding an intervention for crack addict Mia (Jane Levy), a darker premise that showcases the idea that Alvarez’s Evil Dead is much darker in tone (and irritating lighting). Soon, one of the group (geeky Lou Taylor Pucci) finds The Book of the Dead and reads aloud, bringing on demons and gore to the cabin. It’s the same basic idea, but brings on different and inventive uses of violence, blood and carnage.
If you go in expecting to be scared, sadly, you’ll be disappointed. There’s the odd attempt at a jump scare and some horrifying imagery, but Evil Dead is a gore film, plain and simple. There’s self mutilation with box cutters and electric knives, large torrents of blood puked up, and numerous severed limbs. At times, it even reaches the absurd levels of Evil Dead 2’s famous ‘blood shower’, and is probably closest in tone to Raimi’s underrated Drag Me to Hell. Sadly, by focusing entirely on gore rather than atmosphere, interesting characters or good acting, Evil Dead is simply unmemorable. None of the characters, except perhaps Mia, can be really remembered once the credits roll, and you’re unlikely to be shivering with fright at any point in the film. It’s not a bad film, far from it, and it’s certainly fun, but Evil Dead is not scary, funny or memorable enough to completely live up to the Evil Dead name.
As a ‘reimagining’, Evil Dead is quite unique and has an interesting central premise, but it’s ultimately very flawed. Playing like Evil Dead 2 without the laughs, Alvarez’s updated take on Raimi’s original classics is a fun and violent experience that provides some inventive action and lots of mayhem, yet still fails to really stick in the memory once it’s over.
By Harry J. Ford
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