Evil Dead (2013)
Director: Fede Alvarez
Stars: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore
1/2 (out of 4)
It’s just a flesh wound…
I’m not against remakes – some of them can be quite good, even better than their originals. Take The Blob (1988), The Thing (1982) or The Fly (1986) – these movies took the timeless themes from 50s horror and updated them with modern film-making to great effect. We seem to be in a period where 80s films are now being remade, like Sam Raimi’s classic The Evil Dead being given a makeover for 2013 by director Fede Alvarez and writer Rodo Sayagues, two relative unknowns (they did short films, this is their first full-length feature) with Raimi’s blessing (this time, Raimi and Bruce Campbell serve as producers). The result is that Evil Dead 2013 seems to have divided a lot of people. Personally, I think that those who love it and those who hate it both have valid reasons for doing so, but for me, I’m more willing to forgive the film’s faults. I think it comes down to how you choose to perceive the film.
Evil Dead 2013 uses the same setting as the original film – a group of twenty-somethings spend the weekend at a cabin in the woods only to discover the evil “book of the dead,” and one of them reads passages from the book, which resurrects demons who possess them one-by-one. The twist thrown into the plot this time is that this is an intervention of sorts for Mia (Jane Levy) who is trying to kick her drug addiction. So naturally, when Mia complains of being haunted by demons or attacked by the woods, everybody thinks she’s just going through withdrawal. As you may expect, things get worse and Mia’s brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) tries to drive her out of there, only to be turned back by massive flooding from a rainstorm. Soon everyone starts getting possessed by deadites, and the only ways to stop them are those described in the book: burning, bodily dismemberment, or a “live burial.”
Screw you I’ll do what I want!
The good news about this remake is that it’s probably one of the goriest R-rated films ever made. Limbs are sawed off, tongues are sliced, and at the end it even rains blood, which feels like a tribute to Andy Grainger who originally told Raimi “My advice to you if you’re making a horror picture is to keep the blood running down the screen.” It all culminates in a rather gnarly chainsaw death; the whole thing is over-the-top and much more amusing than scary. Of course, that’s part of the problem here – nothing in this film scared me. There’s nothing like the shock of the pencil-stabbing, tree-rape, headless humping, or deadite-eating-its-own-hand-off sequence of the original Evil Dead. I suppose that’s because by 2013 we have pretty much seen it all, which gives the remake an uphill climb. It’s not that the special effects aren’t as good (or better); they are, but then again they are missing something that the original had – a kind of joy in the whole process. When you watch the original movie, everything in it feels like a labor of love. In the new one, it just feels like a job.
See, Evil Dead 2013 is Raimi’s film stripped of indie authenticity and creativity, replaced by big budget Hollywood cynicism. If, however, it’s looked at as a stand-alone film and not a remake, it’s actually decent for a Hollywood horror, a nice roller-coaster ride, only bogged down in spots by bad acting (I don’t think Jane Levy was up to the task as main lead). Lou Taylor Pucci and Shiloh Fernandez fare a little better, and I liked how Pucci is constantly abused the entire film (stabbings by various instruments, including nail gun) but keeps on ticking somehow (one of the very few elements of humor in the film). Anyway, I think Evil Dead 2013 is best taken as a gore soaked tribute to the original as well as The Exorcist (demons talk like possessed Regan) and some Jason Eisener stuff (bloody stumps). In the end, I still liked it for its energy, and also as an example that while originality is lacking in Hollywood these days, there’s still some life left in it (and thanks to the MPAA for finally lightening up).
- Bill Gordon
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Mosquito on your head… got it!