Something horrible is coming, something evil, with no soul or pity, it wants to manipulate you, take something you hold dear and turn it inside out, draining it of all that is good, it is…. yet another remake of a much loved, classic horror movie. I’ve enjoyed perhaps five or six horror movie remakes in total, but have seen what feels like a thousand of them in recent years, nearly all of them utterly disposable, pointless garbage, so it would be understandable if I were dreading Evil Dead like a trip to a drunk dentist with grotesquely large hands. However, Evil Dead 2013 has better credentials than most. For a start, Sam Raimi, creator of the original movie, has retained the rights to his story and, along with new director Fede Alvarez and original star (now producer) Bruce Campbell, has made some promises regarding this new movie (R/18 rating, no CGI, no attempt to recast Ash, the original series’ hero) that made me quite optimistic that it would avoid the pitfalls of many a crappy reboot.
The first half hour of Evil Dead had me worried. The first scene in particular seemed to belong to some daft hillbilly torture flick, it really didn’t feel like an Evil Dead movie and I was concerned. The next twenty minutes or so did little to allay those fears, as the characters/fodder are clumsily introduced, alongside some fairly heavy handed subtext. Mia (Lane Levy) is a heroin addict, staying in a remote cabin with her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) and friends in an attempt to battle her demons, but unfortunately ends up battling actual demons when dumbest human being in existence Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) reads a passage from an incredibly ominous, evil looking book that he discovers in the cabin’s basement, despite scrawled warnings to “leave this book alone” on every other page. Credibility is strained to breaking point during this section of the movie, not only does Eric read from this clearly labelled book of purest evil, he discovers it in a basement that also contains maybe thirty freshly mutilated and hanged cats. I would suggest that the sort of person who cuts the eyes out of three dozen felines and then strings the poor creatures from the ceiling is the sort of mentally unbalanced fruitcake that you would try pretty desperately to avoid, but the five idiots stay at the cabin regardless.
I was pretty much resigned to the idea of Evil Dead 2013 being another resounding disappointment at this juncture, there was only the faintest glimmer of hope that the movie might recover. Fortunately, that hope was very much rewarded once the demonic possession part of the story kicked in and Evil Dead brought the nasty in spades (and nailguns, and electric carving knives, and, yes, hell yes, chainsaws). It’s at this stage that director Alvarez ditches any attempts at subtlety in favour of all out, unhinged lunacy and ferocious, gory-as-hell brutality. Suddenly, it starts to really feel like an Evil Dead film, the deadites are fantastically sadistic, delighting as much in screwing with their victim’s heads and hearts as they do stabbing those same body parts with any and every thing that comes to hand. There are a few unintentional giggles here and there, some of the dialogue is too silly by far and falls flat, but for the most part this is the Evil Dead that you know and love, but with the level of violence and gore ramped up to a quite insane level. Mutilation is the order of the day here, and there is some truly glorious and inventive carnage on display, all of it created through genuinely breathtaking practical effects that are just wonderful to behold in these times of cheap digital rush jobs, seriously, the FX in this movie are magnificent.
The cast do their best despite being given some impossible dialogue to chew on, Jane Levy suffering the most at the hands of some really daft lines (though her last one is a very Ash-esque doozy), otherwise everybody aquits themselves pretty well, Levy and Fernandez in particular improve consistently throughout until I found myself really rooting for them both.
Evil Dead 2013, despite a pretty poor start, has defied the odds to become a pretty damn excellent addition to the franchise, it’s a deliriously entertaining riot of insane bloodletting and pitch black laughs from a director who knows what the fans want to see and delivers pretty consistently. It’s not all that scary, but it is a hell of a lot of unhinged, gory fun.
Evil Dead is out in cinemas 19th April 2013.
Director: Fede Alvarez
Stars: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci
Runtime: 91 min