Reviews

Evil Dead

3

She said, there’s something in the wood shed…

"One thing that seems clear to me, looking back at the films that truly scared me, is that most really good horror films are low-budget affairs with special effects cooked up in someone’s basement,” said Stephen King.

Now, King has been the source for both clunkers and classics, but it was his quote – “The most ferociously original movie of 1982!” – that launched Sam Raimi’s all-but-homemade The Evil Dead upon the world 30 years ago, and his words are worth remembering as the remake hits our screens.

Urugyan writer/director Fede Alvarez exhibited similar ingenuity with his short Panic Attack!. A Montevideo-set Monsters costing $300 with basement-honed SFX, it impressed Raimi (now producing) enough to let Alvarez revamp Dead for a rabid new audience, and a slightly angry older one.

Unfortunately for Alvarez, glitches that were forgivable, even loveable, in a 1980s cult film – bad acting, poor dialogue, inconsistent plotting – can be lesser tolerated the second time around. Eager to establish his own mythos, Alvarez’s effort begins with a seemingly pointless prologue set in the distant past. In an eerily familiar cabin in the woods, a teenage girl is threatened with damnation for messing with the (also familiar) Book Of The Dead.

As she spits (modern-sounding)  vitriol at her captors (“I’ll rip your soul out, you pathetic fuck!”) and CG-augmented violence erupts, three things become apparent: 1) Alvarez and co-scripter Rodo Sayagues are no David Mamets in the screenwriting department; 2) a 12A certificate will not be required; 3) King’s dictums will be ignored to the film’s cost.

“Nightmares exist outside of logic,” the author warns, calling explanations “antithetical to the poetry of fear”. But there’s more wearisome backstory as we skip forward to the present(ish) day and meet a new Scooby gang – bad boy David (Shiloh Fernandez), his junkie sister Mia (Jane Levy), plus cannon-fodder friends so ill-defined we’ll call them Shaggy (Lou Taylor Pucci), Blondie (Elizabeth Blackmore) and Cloverfield (Jessica Lucas).

They’re helping Mia go cold turkey at the now-decrepit cabin, where the siblings have some unfinished family business. “I’m your big brother,” says David helpfully, “of course I care!” Full marks for anyone who feels the same or can remember which of the others is his girlfriend.

When Shaggy finds the Book wrapped in barbed wire in the basement then reads it aloud, the junkie subplot comes, briefly, into its own.

Mia starts acting like a woman possessed - with good reason - but the gang think her demonic ramblings are withdrawal symptoms and refuse to let her leave. As her condition worsens, so does the dialogue. “This is insane!” proclaims David, twice. “What kind of virus makes someone cut their own face off with a piece of glass?” ponders Shaggy, playing it straight.

We’d call spoilers here, but as night falls and the gang turn on each other - and themselves - it’d be quicker to list the weapons not used. If the shaky writing and anonymous performances make for a frustrating first hour, it’s all the more so because the technical specs are formidable.

Aaron Morton’s cinematography makes the woods (actually deepest New Zealand) seem limpid and alive with dark promise, while the practical SFX are distressingly vivid, allowing Alvarez to linger on every flayed limb and shivering flap of skin, of which there are many.

Indeed, this may be the most violent mainstream American movie we’ve seen for years. Mia’s line, “Your little sister is getting raped in hell!” goes a few steps beyond the mother-sucking blasphemies of The Exorcist’s Regan (who she resembles) with less shock value. A machete pierces a wall, then human flesh, twice - take that, The Raid. Stanley knives are extended, then licked; nail guns introduced, then emptied.

When a character with half of B&Q sticking out their cheek whines, “My face hurts!” it’s the only (amusing) understatement in a film that could be accused of favouring horribleness over horror. (But still, inarguably, exhibits a palpable love of the genre, unlike so many of the horror remakes of the past decade.)

By the final reel, the relentlessness of this tactic finally reaps dividends, and it feels like there’s hope for the franchise, if not the characters. Perhaps Alvarez needed to burn everything to the ground and start over, emerging in a wash of blood and viscera to make his mark in the next film.

We shall see when Part 2 arrives… and, given the skill and shading of the last 20 minutes of this movie, perhaps even welcome that inevitable sequel.

Verdict:

Closer to Eli Roth than Sam Raimi, this brutal retread combines J-horror atmospherics with torture-porn kills. It’s more evisceration than invention but at least has the courage of its bloody-minded convictions.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • CossieNuttas

      Apr 13th 2013, 7:38

      4

      Nah blud i saw this last week while i was in da states. First and foremost the film is phat. Let the haters hate, yeh its not perfect dont get me wrong but i knew it wernt gonna win any oscars. Everyone all i can say is this go watch it and make ur own minds up

      Alert a moderator

    • moviefreak

      Apr 13th 2013, 16:31

      it is awsome movie and Hd copy has already been relesed!! found it today at yebako . com

      Alert a moderator

    • Trickycustomer

      Apr 14th 2013, 22:15

      2

      It was ok i guess, a watchable version that is worlds apart from the raimi films unfortunately. It was definitely lacking in places.

      Alert a moderator

    • hulk68

      Apr 16th 2013, 9:20

      2

      Too bloody its gross rather than shocking, not scary at all, poor performances and a very stupid script. The last part of the movie was amazing but included another pointless humanitarian moment, why why why.

      Alert a moderator

    • tarinmaria

      Apr 25th 2013, 17:58

      4

      I saw this film on opening night, and being an avid horror fan, I was quite excited, especially considering how much I liked the original. Maybe people need to look at this a less of a remake, it's very different from the original, not as comedic, far more bloody and with far more back story. My issues with the original consisted of 'why is there a book?' and 'how did it get there?' and an after thought about the writing in the book, who had written it, why not just try to destroy the book? This film satisfied my questions much more, of course, common sense with the writing expressly telling Eric NOT TO READ IT OUT LOUD, and yet he does. But I guess it is a horror film, and people need to be stupid. I did think that the final scene did drag on slightly, but it was a very good conclusion, and obviously, as with all horror franchises, it was left open for a sequel. A good watch for younger horror fans, and anyone with an open mind. 8/10.

      Alert a moderator

    • tarinmaria

      Apr 25th 2013, 17:58

      4

      Alert a moderator

    • darkwave1984

      May 2nd 2013, 18:55

      5

      went in thinking it would be terrible, came out with a massive grin on my face. I loved it

      Alert a moderator

    • Igrayne

      Sep 28th 2013, 21:45

      Absolute tosh no humour, no point, even chessier than the original. All this film is is blood, torture porn just like the saw films and not scary at all, the real Evil Dead was scarier than this pile of teen slasher balls, avoid.

      Alert a moderator