Remake Sam Raimi’s ultra low-budget classic The Evil Dead? Does that sound like a good idea to anyone?
Well, as it turns out, it’s not a bad one.
Writer/director Fede Alvarez pays homage to the original, but also gives his film enough separation from the source material to stand on its
The original 1981 film spawned two sequels (Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness). It launched Raimi’s filmmaking career and made actor
Bruce Campbell one of the most beloved cult film stars of all time.
Raimi’s hyper-energetic direction, the films’ bizarre mix of horror, gore and comedy along with Campbell’s wonderfully hammy performances
make the series a wonderful guilty pleasure. Just for the record, I prefer Evil Dead II. It’s a masterful blend of dark comedy and creative
Alvarez’s version is slightly more serious tonally. Gone is the pure cheese of Campbell’s one-liners and laughing mounted buck heads.
Alvarez appears to have taken some visual inspiration from Raimi, however; delivering some fun camerawork that provides a kinetic energy
to many sequences.
There is a lot of fun to be had, but it comes almost exclusively from the cringe-worthy gore, which is so over-the-top it’s funny.
Alvarez’s best revision is in the film’s setup. A group of friends head to an old cabin in the woods as part of an intervention. Mia has a
severe substance abuse problem and the isolated location is their final desperate attempt to get her to kick the habit.
When bizarre things begin happening to Mia, her friends write it off as withdrawals.
From here Evil Dead begins its descent into madness and increasingly gruesome violence.
And while the film is always entertaining and very well-paced at a brisk 91 minutes, it’s hard to critique it as anything more than an adequate
update of a cult classic.
Firstly, the cast and their characters are disappointing. Jane Levy is the most notable as Mia. She does a fine job with what she is given to
work with, but there really isn’t much by way of development or inspired performance.
Campbell’s work was always compelling in the original trilogy of films and no one comes even close to filling that void.
Moreover, there are a few too many moments where characters pause in conflict when they should be running from danger or fighting
against it. I know this is a horror film tradition, but it’s also a tired cliché.
It’s also almost impossible to avoid comparison with last year’s The Cabin in the Woods. That film handled the conventions of the genre in a
far more intelligent and original way. So while at its best Evil Dead comes across as an enjoyable, serviceable nod to what came before it,
The Cabin in the Woods has already innovated and rejuvenated the genre.
Put next to each other, Evil Dead doesn’t look as good as it might have a couple years ago.
Still, this is a satisfying horror film in terms of both nostalgia for the series and plain old blood-soaked fun. It’s a guilty pleasure. If you
require more than that, The Cabin in the Woods is available on Blu-ray and DVD.
* * ½
(out of four)
Directed by: Fede Alvarez
Written by: Fede Alvarez & Rodo Sayagues
Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci,
Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore
Music by: Roque Banos
Cinematography by: Aaron Morton
Released: April 5, 2013; 91 Minutes