Evil Dead, 2013.
Directed by Fede Alvarez.
Starring Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas and Elizabeth Blackmore.
A group of friends find themselves travelling up to stay in a secluded cabin in the woods, so as to help their friend Mia finally kick her drug habit which has almost killed her on numerous occasions. However, the cabin’s new occupants find themselves coming face to face with a demonic presence, sired from a cursed book that threatens to brutally kill them all and damn their souls forever.
We once more return to my beloved Evil Dead series. This time however, we take a look at perhaps the oddest instalment in the series; of course, I’m talking about the 2013 remake/reboot simply titled Evil Dead, which re-introduced the franchise for a new audience of horror viewers.
Gone is Sam Raimi from the director’s chair, acting a producer this time, and in his place we have newcomer Fede Alvarez, who brings the series back to its blood-drenched roots, offering a much more visceral and brutal horror experience than the previous installment.
This film is definitely the darkest installment of the series, ditching the comedic aspects entirely in favour of more dramatic and morbid interpretation. Our characters, for example, are not at the cabin for a vacation of drinking and partying – they are there to help their friend come off drugs, fearful of what will happen if she doesn’t’ come off the poison.
The scenes of Mia struggling to go cold turkey are very unpleasant to watch, with her screaming in pain as she goes through withdrawal or constantly walking around in circles while the rain hammers down on her.
The dark and depressing mood is only made more twisted when the demonic forces are released, possessing Mia in what is a truly disturbing re-imagining of the “tree rape” scene of the original film, as the demonic entity physically enters Mia’s body in the form of a black worm-like shape.
The performances of the cast are terrific throughout, with Jane Levy as Mia being the best of the bunch. Her scenes prior to her possession are touching as well as painful, from her reunion with her estranged brother to her aching desperation when trying to go cold turkey.
When the demons do take over her, Levy jumps between near silent terror, and truly terrifying villainy, taunting and cackling her friends like a psychopath. Yes at times she goes a bit Jack Nicholson on them, but it’s a stellar performance none the less.
The film is possibly the goriest in the franchise, and thankfully the majority of these effects are achieved through the use of practical effects. We have bloody vomit, people cutting their faces to pieces, needles to the eyes and for the second time this series, self-dismemberment. Arguably the most cringe-inducing moment is the tongue splitting scene, which when I saw the film in the cinema, was greeted by a chorus of “ewws” and “I’m going to be sick”. The violence is a bit over the top at times, and you do find yourself laughing at some of it, but you can’t deny the welcome return of practical effects to horror filmmaking.
Of course, we don’t have Bruce Campbell this time around (*cough* post-credits scene *cough*) so we lack a wise-cracking hero to lighten the mood. But in all fairness, this time, we don’t really need one. Much like the original Evil Dead, in which it seemed like the macho Scotty would save the day, the film kind of fools you into thinking who the hero of the story will be. I won’t spoil it here, but you’ll see what I mean if you watch it.
Also, the film is less of a remake than you would think, instead feeling like a very loose sequel, like Ash and his friends have been and went (Ash’s burnt out car even makes a cameo appearance early on). The cabin has already seen the horrors the Necronomicon has reaped, Mia and her friends are just the latest victims.
While there have been rumours of an eventual crossover with Ash’s series, that for the time being looks unlikely, but the way this film presents things it does a plausible story for future installments to tell.
In short, Evil Dead is a rare remake of a horror classic that isn’t a total disappointment. It was obviously made by a director who knows and loves the franchise, respecting the original films and paying subtle tribute to them. However, Alvarez does not hesitate to put his own distinctive mark on the franchise, creating an installment that takes a welcome turn down a much darker avenue than its more light-hearted predecessors.
While I don’t love it as much as the previous installments, mainly due the lack of Bruce Campbell, it’s still a bloody good time and easily one of the best horror remakes out there.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★