Sam Raimi’s horror cult classic “The Evil Dead” back in 1981 is arguably one of the most debated genre film created. Its fans just genuinely love it while I know some people who just loathed it. Someone even told me that the original low-budget movie may have established Raimi as a master of horror and comedy but it wasn’t intended to be as such. I am not sure just how true those statements were, but be that as it may, despite its simple plot and characters, it was able to connect with its goals as a horror film. It was able to shock, maybe scare, and entertain its viewers that it even held up well up to this day.
The original filmmakers who created “The Evil Dead” 30 years ago (Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Robert Tapert) makes “The” silent and simply calls this 2013 remake, re-issue, re-boot, make-over “Evil Dead”. It was a good approach to have the original folks involved in this remake with director Fede Alvarez at its helm and they even went all the way as to make this film an R-Rated affair despite the flooding of PG-13 horror films in theaters. “Evil Dead” may have the same basic core plot mechanics, but this movie is not a simple rehash, it is another flavor entirely. Fede Alvarez approaches its premise with a darker, more violent and serious tone that separated it from the original’s more campy atmosphere. This remake is billed as “The Most Terrifying Film that you will ever experience”, but it does not hold up and ends up as a mere exaggeration.
The film begins with an event in the past where a group of people have burned a young girl in an undisclosed place. It then fast-forwards to five friends who are going to go to a remote area to do an ‘intervention’ with Mia’s (Jane Levy) heroin dependence. The group made up with Olivia (Jessica Lucas), Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) and Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) may have gone through this before, but this time, Mia’s brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) is joining in the intervention. This makes Mia much more optimistic that they will succeed. But when the group finds an old book in the basement, and with Eric, because of his nosy, idiotic decision to read something that he does not understand awaken an ancient evil that possesses Mia, the group has more than they bargained for than heroin dependence.
Yes, “Evil Dead” takes its material much more serious in mood and tempo. While it is true that the film has its own set of tributes to the original movie such as the Oldsmobile, the chainsaw, the crazy creative racing camera work, a segment with the original voice from the original movie, among other things, this 2013 film tries to be much more than a rehash. It creates a place where there can be a valid reason for the group to be in an isolated place, and why Mia’s friends have issues believing what she was warning them about (because of her drug withdrawal). I know the film does have an area where it could’ve answered a lot more questions and therefore an area for improvement, but the screenplay somehow misses it.
I appreciated what it wanted to do with the inclusion of certain scenes to give tribute to the original, but in doing so, it does seem to have mimicked the style of Raimi’s film, albeit in a serious mood. I am not sure, I feel that it may have limited itself by trying to have the violence, blood and gore to dictate its pace and flow. Do not get me wrong, I loved the fact that the film opted to use practical old-school effects rather than the use of CGI, but it seems as if the direction struggled to generate genuine tension and suspense. The film does promote a feeling of unease as one gory scene superseded the other, and the film does have the blood by the bucket loads (that it came dangerously close in becoming a Japanese Pink violence serving), but the characters themselves were just your stereotypical ones caught up with its ‘evil in the woods’ premise.
Yes, Mia does have that sympathetic feel that made it easy to be scared and root for her character. Played by Levy, Mia was able to add in that ‘root for the victim’ kind of deal. Randal Wilson makes for a very scary abomination, but I guess it missed that feeling of subtlety. I know, the film was intended to be in your face when it comes to its graphic violence, but with the shallowness of its supporting characters, it feels that the film was allowed to wallow in blood and violence alone. Eric, Olivia and Natalie were obviously fodder, and therefore it should be alright to leave them undeveloped. David’s character and involvement does promote that emotional connection, but as soon as it had achieved that little bit of dramatic impact, the script goes for the jugular with more violence.
Fede Alvarez’s direction together with the cinematography and set designs did make for a very creepy atmosphere. The film tried to preserve that atmosphere which made the original movie different, but this time, it feels a little more darker and creepier while having that light feeling of ‘camp’ wrapped around the designs. The color scheme was perfect for this type of film and horror fans may be pleased with it. The blood effects were just outrageous to the point of silliness, and yet it was charming because of the manner it embraced its material. The gore designs were pretty good, they rivaled the best ones I’ve seen these days with the use of prosthetics and practical effects. Mainstream horror fans may cringe at the serving of such brutality but I enjoyed each second of gross-out gag.
“Evil Dead” may have all the makings of a successful remake. But unfortunately, the way it tried to be serious in tone was hampered with the need to pay homage to the original film. I liked the way it served up different devices, and just how it flowed through the gross-out scenes into something fun and entertaining, but it really did not do anything to improve on its concept. It isn’t a great remake such as “I Spit on Your Grave” and “The Last House on the Left” that they arguably proved better than the original, but “Evil Dead” is a competent horror film. It does not have a lot of substance, but it is an easy movie to have fun with that it gets a light recommendation from me. It is a decent genre picture that comes up so short with its poster as “The Most Terrifying Movie you will ever experience.”, but maybe that was the joke within the remake. [3 ½ Out of 5 Stars]