Sunday 21 April 2013

EVIL DEAD review

Re-imagining the trip into the woods for a new generation, Evil Dead sees a whole new group forced to suffer through a terrifying ordeal in one night of madness that few will survive.

As opposed to the original film's jolly weekend away, this group know they're in for some hard times, making the trip to allow Mia (Jane Levy) time to recover from her ongoing drug addiction cold turkey. It's an interesting addition to the premise, giving Mia's subsequent transformation an added spin. Along to help are nurse Olivia (Jessica Lucas), teacher Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) and Mia's big brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) and his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore).

The cabin is as much as it always has been, complete with impressively roomy cellar and workshed at the side. What's different now is the history of the cabin; recently used as a ceremonial execution site for the last poor girl to be possessed by the woods (as seen in the excellent profanity filled opening sequence), and home of the book of the dead. For future reference, if you ever find a barbed wire wrapped book covered in human flesh, just leave it where you found it.

Despite the complete overhaul of the story, they're are plenty of nods to Raimi's original (and in no small part the sequel), ranging from simple audio cues (an echo of "join us" as they arrive at the cabin, a vocal cameo from Ellen Sandweiss) to fan pleasing moments involving severed hands and shots of Raimi's moss covered Oldsmobile parked near the cabin.

When this remake was announced the internet was all a buzz about who should play a modern day re-incarnation of Ash, before Raimi and Campbell made the bold statement that this version would not focus on the character of Ash, but rather on a new cast of characters led by Jane Levy's Mia. It may have seemed at first like a Hollywood re-write with added girl power, but after seeing the film, it could be argued that Evil Dead shows the opposite.

Again featuring a cast compiled of two men and three women, just like the original it's the women who fall foul to the woods first. The film could be accused of delighting in making its female characters the victims, with the destruction of their physical beauty more obvious than any psychological horrors they may be enduring. This old fashioned mentality is offset somewhat towards the finale, as Mia's fate takes an interesting turn and she finds the courage to stand up against her demons.

There are some stand outs in the cast, with Jane Levy and Lou Taylor Pucci both impressing. Levy, as the addict Mia who becomes host to the Candarian demon first, makes Mia a character you can both empathise with and fear, and as the bookish Eric, Pucci makes the role more than just the resident nerd. On the whole the ensemble lacks that little something. That little extra. That panache. Or, if you'll allow me a horrendous play on words, pan-Ash. It probably was a wise move to not include a newer version of Ash as the film's successes and failures would have rested on the poor soul brave enough to take on the role, and as such, Evil Dead 2013 is open to wider praise and criticisms.

It's hard to know what to judge Evil Dead 2013 against. In comparison to Raimi's original it doesn't quite match up; in comparison to more recent, knowing horrors it's either pleasantly old school or missing that extra edge that Cabin in the Woods did so well. There's gore aplenty and has some incredibly disturbing moments (Olivia's possession is chilling and the outcome is horrific), but it doesn't quite live up to the hype of the ads promising "the most terrifying film you will ever experience". If you've seen the trailers you've seen most of the best bits.

Unlike the Oldsmobile that makes a cameo appearance in this film, the original version isn't looking that rusty. It may not be able to match this remake for gore and sheer acts of repulsion, but it's still the scarier of the two films and more successful at getting under your skin. Having said that, Evil Dead 2013 isn't completely soulless and ranks high among recent straight horrors remakes just down to the fact that they've tried to do something a bit different with it. 

Not as crowd pleasing as Cabin in the Woods or Raimi's Drag Me To Hell (a film I always considered to be a de facto Evil Dead sequel anyway), this is worthy of the time of those fans of the original, curious to see whether this commercial exercise has any artistic merit. Think of it this way; it may just be a curious simplification of the title for marketing purposes, but whilst this film may bear the title Evil Dead, Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell's 1981 horror classic will always be THE Evil Dead.


1 comment:

  1. Nice review Colin. I don’t mind when a flick like this uses blood and gore to it’s advantage, but at least give me something more than just that, and that alone.