Evil Dead Movie Review
Written by Daniel Benson
Released by Studiocanal
Directed by Fede Alvarez
Written by Fede Alvarez, Diablo Cody, Sam Raimi and Rodo Sayagues Mendez
2013, 91 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
Released theatrically on 19th April 2013
Jane Levy as Mia
Jessica Lucas as Olivia
Shiloh Fernandez as David
Lou Taylor Pucci as Eric
Elizabeth Blackmore as Natalie
I'm going to lay my cards on the table: when it comes to remakes I really don't care. While I can't get my head around 'reboots' like starting the Spider-Man legacy only 10 years after Raimi's 2002 blockbuster, I've no problem with films from the '70s and '80s being remade to modern standards. And you know what? If you're a fan of an original movie that gets remade and you don't like the remake: you still have the original to go back to. No one's taken it away from you. No one's, heaven forbid, "raped your childhood", so just ignore the remake and enjoy the film you know and love.
Romero's Dawn of the Dead (1978) is one of my favourite movies. Ever. When I heard it was being remade, did I lose the plot and decry the new version before it was even made? Nope. Life's too short. I still love Romero's vision, and I find the remake immensely enjoyable too. Despite the fact they share a title and a vaguely similar premise, each is its own movie. No drama here.
Which brings us on to the 2013 reimagining that is Evil Dead (they've dropped 'The' from the original title), a film that has had so much advance hype that it should either be the horror release of this year or the biggest disappointment known to man. Ignoring the predictable, poster-quote grabbing hyperbole of the commercial horror sites seeing it at SXSW, I approached this screening with an open mind and few expectations.
Director Fede Alvarez has cut his teeth on a handful of short films over the last decade, with his most recent, Panic Attack being a viral YouTube hit. That's right, they let a guy who's never directed a feature loose on the Evil Dead remake.
And it paid off.
Taking some minor queues from the original; the cabin, the book, the kids and the evil in the forest, Evil Dead works off a solid screenplay that sees brother and sister David and Mia head out to the wilds with friends Olivia, Eric and Natalie to get Mia to quit her drug habit. It's a great premise to get them there, keep them there and pass off Mia's initial strange behaviour as a result of going cold turkey.
The tree-rape sequence is one of the few scenes that's lifted wholesale from Raimi's classic, but like every other part of this film it's rendered in a far more disturbing manner. It's hard to know if it was an influence, but those who are familiar with Fulci's City of the Living Dead will see a very significant pointer to the Italian's work as Mia first encounters the evil force.
Mia's gradual decline into full-scale possession takes little time, and the film's pace picks up at the same rate she goes downhill. It's a masterful control of the film's tempo that it manages to get up to speed within the first 20 minutes and never let go until the credits roll. The possessed characters seem to take their cues from The Exorcist, both in design and the way they communicate, but where Friedkin's film worked by shocking its audience with the actions of a possessed young girl, Alvarez goes for some extremely unnerving jump scares and an incredible amount of gore. There are so many scenes that had the audience audibly wincing that it was hard to keep track.
Like many other successful remakes, reboots or re-imaginings, Evil Dead takes familiar elements of its forefathers and stamps its own identity on the proceedings. There's thankfully no clumsy shoe-horning of Ash dialogue into the script (save for something Mia says near the end that I suspect is more a gentle nod) and the references to the 1981 film are subtle and respectful.
Is this "The Most Terrifying Film You Will Ever Experience"? No. Is it a capable remake and the most unrelenting and bloody horror film to come out of a major studio in a very long time? Absolutely.
Evil Dead is in UK Cinemas from April 19th