Opens April 18th 2013 (UK)
Please note: This trailer contains scenes that may be distressing to some
32 years after Sam Raimi brought us the classic The Evil Dead, the newest entrant from the conveyor belt of remakes hits our screens. Online comments such as "Oh God, please don't let them fuck this up for me" started popping up as trailers got released. Fans of the original remember vividly the first time they saw it and for that reason it became quite a personal film for them. The people brave enough to attempt "not fucking this up" had themselves quite a challenge from the off. Not least the fact that remakes amongst the horror community don't exactly have the best reputation these days.
So who were these brave (foolish?) souls that believed they could re-imagine such a well loved film. Well the director, producer and star of the original of course. Upon the knowledge of this, a collective sigh of release was felt the world of horror over. However this was just as producers. They needed some poor sucker they could place the blame on if it all fell apart. So they brought in director Fede Alvarez for his debut feature to help recreate their visionary original for the modern audience. He came to their attention after seeing his short film Panic Attack (Ataque de Panico) came on YouTube (if you want to watch it, here is the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dadPWhEhVk).
As far as remakes go they've been smart in a variety of areas. They've gone for, essentially, an unknown cast, they've come up with a different approach for keeping them in the cabin, said no to CGI, jettisoned the comedy of ED2 and Army of Darkness and haven't tried to get someone to recreate Ash (as director Alvarez put it "how can you recreate God"). So what is the set up if they have changed it from the original?
Mia (Jane Levy) is there to try and kick her drug habit and what better way to do that than in a remote cabin, watched over by her closest friends and estranged brother. The catalyst for this arranged intervention seems to be the death of Mia's mother who suffered from a debilitating mental illness. Whilst getting the cabin back into a livable condition, they come across in the basement what they believe to have been, the practice of some form of black magic. Dead animals, stabbing implements and a strange package tied up with wire adorn far reaches of the underneath of the cabin which explained the deathly stench that drove them down there in the first place. They bring up some of the artifacts and when one of the group takes a particular interest in the package, upon opening it they find the Book of the Dead and begin to read the passages that no-one should not read. Naturally this releases the demon is and Mia is the first to become possessed.
The potential for mental illness to be hereditary and the fact Mia is going cold turkey are able to explain away her early unusual actions following her possession in order to believably keep the group in the cabin. What ensues is of utmost importance to the strength of the film. With many a horror, you can forgo any inadequacies in the build up so long as the pay off is suitability good, however even if the build up is perfectly adequate (which this was) you still need the pay off. Early on I did have reservations as, whilst competently made as it is, it felt very much like any number of modern day horrors. From the lighting, the framing, the acting, all the way through to the wardrobe it all felt far too familiar. But what Alvarez did very well with this film was defy your expectations of what was to come.
The style began to shift as things became more and more desperate in the cabin, the gore ramped up and the story went out the window. Once things really took hold it was just one big ending as the story was only strong enough to go so far. There were some clever plays on the first two Evil Dead films (such as the hand from ED2 - you think it's going to go one way but Alvarez plays on your expectations) which allowed those in the know a wry smile to themselves, knowing they'd be able to be smug about it afterwards (yes I am one of those).
What ultimately stands out with this film and is both good and bad, is the gore. There are some fantastic moments (a syringe needle, a nail gun and a straight razor being just a few) that will keep most gore-hounds happy (this one included) but it delivers this in place of any scares. The overriding experience of this film is that it is a fun, blood drenched ride but void of any real fear. The supporting characters are also very hollow, with little to no background and are simply there to provide a suitable body count. But as things progress you don't really care too much about that.
This film could very easily have stood as a sort of sequel rather than remake as it is different enough from the original to be seen alongside the others as just another adventure for the book. Will it be remembered a classic? No. Will be vilified for defecating over the good name of The Evil Dead? No. This is a solid horror film which goes for gore over scares and is really just good fun. You'd be able to pick at it all over the place if you really wanted to but I found myself enjoying it and not feeling the need to pick and I probably had a better cinematic experience for that.
So in summary, don't expect anything outstanding as you'll be disappointed but go along for the ride and you should find enough here to make this a decent watch and to forget it's supposed to be a remake.
As a final note, if I was to sit and compare it to the original then it falls down. It lacks the atmosphere of the first Evil Dead and fails to bring anything really new or inventive to the party. So as a direct comparison then I might have given it 2 out of 5 but I am judging it on its own merits and I can happily say I enjoyed it.