Evil Dead (2013)

Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore

Directed by: Fede Alvarez

Rating: 1 2 3 and a half

Jane Levy as Mia in Evil Dead

When Joss Wheedon and co. were looking for the archetypal horror scenario around which to base that clever, post-modern subversion of the genre The Cabin in the Woods, it's no surprise that they picked the plot of Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead.

Taking gung-ho, no-holds-barred, low budget horror movie making to new heights (or should that be depths?) this infamous 1981 'video nasty' holds a special place in the hearts of many, establishing many of the golden rules of horror: stay away from creepy forests; don't go into the cellar alone; and for God's sake, if you find a scary, evil-looking book covered in human skin, LEAVE IT THE F**K ALONE!

The first time I saw The Evil Dead it was already ten years old. Like The Exorcist and A Clockwork Orange, it was one of those films I was almost afraid to see, in case it scarred me for life (it didn't, but The Exorcist did...). And while perhaps already showing its age a little, like a grizzled (chainsaw-wielding?) boxing veteran, it still packed a powerful punch, more than living up to its reputation as a seminal classic. How then, to replicate that punch for a 21st century audience, for whom the post-modern knowingness of Scream is as old school as Hammer was to me as a teen?

Eri (Lou Taylor Pucci) reads the Book of the Dead. Big mistake. Huge.

Firstly, our fated fivesome are given a backstory, a nice attempt to put some flesh on the bones of the characters and loan some sense of reality to their situation. Fragile Mia (Jane Levy) is a drug addict, dragged out to her family's dilapidated, long-deserted cabin in the woods by her concerned friends, including older brother David (Shiloh Fernandez), whose repeated absence from her life she has come to resent. So when, you know, they find a scary, evil-looking book covered in human skin, and Eric (the bespectacled intellectual one who sees the clearly deranged, blood spattered tome as some kind of voodoo brainteaser – doh!) speaks the fatal spell that unleashes hell, the group at first assign Mia's paranoid freak outs and projectile puke ups to an extreme case of the DTs. And once it becomes clear that this is no ordinary cold turkey, well, by then it's rather too late...

Secondly, the whole thing is played completely straight. No sly winks to the camera, tongue-in-cheek humour or 'hey, it's just like being in a horror movie' quips – although, following the age-old rule that if you see a gun in the first act, you have to see it go off in the third, you can be assured that any dangerous DIY devices you spot lying around near the beginning will have been put to good, gory use by the end; so much so that in the climactic scene I was practically standing on my seat yelling 'Chainsaw! Chainsaw!'

Boo! Mia as a demon in Evil Dead

And thirdly, well, they actually bothered to make it kinda good – now there's a novel idea for a remake. Rather than gutting its heart and serving up a bland, modern facsimile, full of Google searches for demons and lame reasons why no-one's mobile works, director Fede Alvarez (with guidance from producers Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell perhaps?) has managed to retain the blood-spouting, stomach-churning, demoniacally disturbing wrongness of the original – albeit with less use of plasticine. In the spirit of Raimi, it's light on the CGI, instead relying on good ol' latex and fountains of gore to induce collective winces from the audience, and utterly relentless in piling on the goo, drowning its poor participants in blood and other bodily fluids like a particularly grim episode of a Japanese endurance show.

Yes, it does occasionally descend into farce ('if it bleeds, duct-tape it' is the medical moral of the movie) and the moments that made me laugh out loud probably weren't intentional; and no, it will never replace the original, but Evil Dead 2013 makes an exuberantly gruesome addition to trilogy.

  • Share on Tumblr