In 1981 Sam Raimi made a small low budget film called The Evil Dead. At the time it was so controversial, with it’s over the top gore effects and a certain tree based scene, it was branded a video nasty and banned for years in the UK. 2013’s remake/reboot/loose continuation going under the same name makes that film look tame in comparison.
Eager to distance itself from Raimi’s film (aside from a few cute visual gags, like the demon POV shot, and a tooling up sequence), director Fede Alvarez takes an altogether different tone for his Evil Dead. After a prologue detailing the history behind the chaos that will soon ensue, we follow five friends retreating to the cabin in the woods to help one of their number kick a drug habit by going cold turkey. It’s a decent premise and makes their staying in the obviously haunted cabin a touch more believable. However none of the characters, aside from Jane Levy in a dual role as Mia and the demon possessed Mia, are particularly memorable or make much of an impact and are just eventual victims to the carnage that’s about to reign down upon them. There’s no character as charismatic as Bruce Campbell’s Ash here.
After about half an hour of perfunctory exposition and set up, most of which is serviceable if a little clichéd (for example, one character reads a passage from the BOOK OF THE DEAD, which is bound with BARBED WIRE and has warnings written IN BLOOD not to read it YET STILL DOES and then it takes him ages to realise that it MIGHT HAVE BEEN HIS FAULT) said carnage arrives.
[this is especially frustrating with the film coming so soon after the conventions of the genre were so successfully lampooned in last years The Cabin In The Woods]
But once the evil spirit is summoned, it doesn’t half announce its presence. Beginning with a recreation of the most infamous scene from the original and escalating from there, the blood, guts and dismemberment rarely lets up. Yet while the original film had a sort of campy lo-fi quality to it, this Evil Dead is full on torture porn from the off. The effects are, I’m pleased to say, mostly all practical with very minimal CGI and shot in unflinching close up; you see all the wounds and injuries inflicted on our group, and whether it’s by others or by self mutilation, this stuff is vile. If there’s a sharp object on screen anywhere, chances are it’ll be embedded in someone’s flesh in a few minutes. If you’re in anyway squeamish you’ll want to avoid this like the plague.
Unfortunately for all it’s enjoyably OTT gore the film is never anything more than mildly troubling and far from scary. There are only one or two genuine scares in the whole film, and as such most of the running time is dedicated to making the film as disgusting as possible. And strangely the directors have decided to give the possessed a variety of clicks and jerky movements more associated with J-Horror monsters from Ju-On or Ringu. It feels very out of place and robs them of any fear they may have had. Plot wise the film follows the same beats as the original film and countless other horror films (teens gets picked off one by one) with the only real surprise coming during the finale, which I’ll not spoil here, but it creates a really striking visual for the final showdown.
Gorehounds will love it as it does what it sets out to do very well (i.e. be as revolting as possible), but it sticks too closely to the standard formula when you want it to try something new. No better or worse than the slew of horror remakes we’ve had over the past decade, but if you’re looking for a scare, look elsewhere.
2 and a half stars
Review by Jonathan Cardwell.
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