Directed by Fede Alvarez.
Starring Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas and Elizabeth Blackmore.
Five friends head to a remote cabin, where the discovery of a Book of the Dead leads them to unwittingly summon up demons living in the nearby woods. The evil presence possesses them until only one is left to fight for survival.
Over the past few years we've seen virtually every iconic horror franchise get the remake treatment, usually to huge fan outcry and less-than-impressive results (see A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Friday the 13th, The Amityville Horror, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, et al). However, this year's remake of Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead managed to avoid much of the criticism typically reserved for such endeavours; perhaps it was down to the original Evil Dead trio of Raimi, Bob Tapert and Bruce Campbell being involved as producers, or the lashings and lashings of gore in a time when PG-13 appears to be the order of the day. Either way, first time director Fede Alvarez's reimagining of the 1981 video nasty proved to be the exception to the horror remake rule, although I have to admit I'm at a bit of a loss to say why.
Sure, it's gory (exceptionally gory, as it happens), and many of the typical elements of the Evil Dead franchise are present and accounted for (Necromonicon Ex-Mortis, chainsaws, infected hands, tree rape and buckets of the red stuff), but it's lacking any of the humour and inventiveness of the original Evil Dead movies. And, for me, it's biggest problem is that it's also missing one Ashley J. Williams. In fairness to Alvarez and company, the Ash situation is a Catch 22: leave the character out in an effort to do something different, or recast the role and have someone deliver a watered-down impression of Bruce Campbell in his signature role. As it happens, the filmmakers have gone with the former (the lesser of two evils, I'm sure), but despite the best efforts of the cast - Jane Levy and Shiloh Fernandez in particular - there's a giant Ash-shaped hole at its centre which the film never really manages to overcome.
Although that last paragraph is pretty critical, Evil Dead is by no means a bad film. It's just a bit of a pointless one. The story - a group of friends visit a secluded cabin where they accidentally unleash demonic forces and start dying horrible, gruesome deaths - is well-trodden these days, but it has to be said that this one is done very well, and it's head and shoulders above the majority of Evil Dead rip-offs that have popped up over the past three decades. Considering it's Alvarez's first feature, it's a very polished production with some fantastic make-up and special effects, and unlike many horrors, it's also entirely unpredictable (beyond the basic plot, obviously). Even the most hardened of genre fans will be happy with the amount of gore on offer, but ultimately the film falls into the same trap as most remakes in that there's nothing here that we haven't seen before.
If you're unfamiliar with the original movies, and you've got a strong stomach, then I'm sure you'll enjoy Evil Dead (okay, maybe "enjoy" isn't quite the right word, but you know what I mean). As far as mainstream American horrors go, it's one of the best from recent years, but for me personally, I'd much rather have seen Evil Dead 4.
Flickering Myth Rating - Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Gary Collinson is a writer and lecturer from the North East of England. He is the editor-in-chief of FlickeringMyth.com and the author of Holy Franchise, Batman! Bringing the Caped Crusader to the Screen.