Five friends shack up in a remote cabin in the woods to help one of their lot, Mia (Jane Levy), overcome her drug addiction. Misery soon kicks in for Mia and, after discovering The Book of the Dead in the basement, she is certain that a rather nasty demon is taunting her. Yet when things take a decidedly nasty turn, her fellow campers start to question whether Mia’s insane ramblings are actually true.
So here it is. After much hype and cautious optimism, the remake of Sam Raimi‘s seminal 80s shocker has finally hit British shores. At this point, debate as to its merit seems somewhat redundant. Unlike other supposed remakes, such as A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th, Evil Dead 2013 is neither a sequel or a remake, merely an episode in an ongoing saga. Whilst not explicitly said, this is the same cabin where Ash and co met their grizzly demise and, as such, allows the filmmakers to make their own iteration whilst paying homage to the best bits of the original.
So what here is different? On the surface not much, as the friends, the cabin and the Necronomicon are all present and accounted for. There is, however, a fairly neat twist to the proceedings by including the drug-addict-in-the-group sub-plot, which at least gives a reason for them all staying, even when things begin to take a macabre turn (it’s all in Mia’s head, don’t you know), and by the time the cabin begins to look like an abattoir, there really is no where to go or any hope.
But before the abattoir comes the main issue with Evil Dead 2013. Getting to know these people is somewhat of a chore, not helped by dialogue that would seem stilted in your favourite soap opera, and where character development stems no further than referring to each other via their professions and social status (“Mr. Hot-shot city boy” and so on). Shiloh Fernandez as Mia’s brother David has the charisma of wood and Elizabeth Blackmore is given the throwaway role as David’s girlfriend Natalie, whose sole purpose, it seems, is to be more splatter fodder.
Yet, unsurprisingly, it’s when the splatter starts that the film begins to hit its stride. Despite being populated with characters we couldn’t care about, there is a sense of impending dread and for anyone who saw the red-band trailers will know blood will be spilt with reckless abandon. And boy does it spill. Evil Dead 2013 isn’t so much gruesome (although there are moments that are excessively grim), but more flat out brutal, with power-tools aplenty utilised to inflict the maximum amount of bloody misery. In fact, the relentless nature of the second half ensures that the mediocrity of the opening scenes are all but forgotten, as the intensity is wrought to eleven.
It’s admirable in the post-torture-porn days, where kiddie brand horror like Mama and Dark Skies has come back to the fore, that a movie like Evil Dead is even considered. There is no sugar coating here, and director Fede Alverez has even stated his want to create a movie experience purely designed to shock. Here, at least, he is tremendously successful, and despite us being in April, this reviewer will bet no other movie this year will be so violent. It helps that the director knows how to pace a film. There is little breathing space when the bad stuff begins.
It’s clear to see that, though flawed, Evil Dead 2013 has its heart very much in the right place. Much like 2004’s Dawn of the Dead remake, it is a rare example of a remake/reimagining being made with care and thought. Sure, some elements don’t work (it’s deadly serious to a fault) and some better acting wouldn’t go a miss but anyone looking for a bloody good time can do far worse.
Best seen with a big audience. Those at this reviewer’s screening were screaming in both shock and delight.
Best scene: The nail gun scene. It’s brutal.
Best line: “Fine? Fine? She just cut her fucking arm off!”