Review: EVIL DEAD (2013)

No fake shemps here, folks! This is the real deal. Read it, or it will swallow your soul.

 

 

Directed by: Fede Alvarez

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

MPAA Rating: R

 

 

evil_dead_red THE EVIL DEAD is a very specific horror experience from a very specific group of people with very specific sensibilities. The personalities of those behind the Evil Dead series (Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and Rob Tapert) play such an integral role in the saga of Ash, the Necronomicon, and the demons they unleash that it is difficult to imagine an Evil Dead movie without them behind or in front of the camera. Alas, we now have a remake of the film, simply titled EVIL DEAD. The three men are on as producers, but they’ve handed over the reins to new writers, a new director, and a new cast. This means there is primarily one question that is on many horror fans’ lips: is it any good?

EVIL DEAD finds five young people convening at a cabin in the middle of the woods to facilitate the rehabilitation of one of their own, Mia, as she endures withdrawal after quitting her drug habit for good. During this, a secret cellar is discovered with many mysteries contained within, including the Book of the Dead. One incantation later, and a horrifying force is awakened in the woods to terrorize them all and take their souls one-by-one.

A word of warning for Evil Dead fans: if you hold the original film as sacred to the point where any changes or deviations from form will make you unhappy, then this film is absolutely not for you. Outside of the most basic idea, everything is completely different. Wildly different, even. This is a true reinvention of the Evil Dead mythos. Not just in the events themselves, but even the rules and character archetypes are all new. It’s still very much in the Evil Dead vein, just not in any way for which most fans will be prepared. If none of this sounds appealing to you, go ahead and skip the film. However, if you are more open-minded or if you have never seen an Evil Dead movie, get ready for one hell of a ride.

EVIL DEAD is a refreshing, creative, and well-made take on the ideas from the original film. It’s a very fine movie on it’s own, but much of it’s brilliance lies in the differences between it and it’s source material. The differences will not be outlined here so as to avoid spoiling anything, but it is safe to say there is more purpose to the insanity; a method to the madness. This does mean that the original was more unpredictable. But this also means that the remake is more coherent and cohesive. In place of the wild tonal shifts of the original, we get a more consistent tone and pacing in this new entry. This is not to say that the experience is diluted. Not at all. When things get crazy, they get crazy. The amount of blood in the finale alone makes it a miracle this received the R rating from the MPAA.

The script for EVIL DEAD is written by Fede Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues. Writing the remake for a classic horror film is a daunting task, yet they have risen to the challenge with their bold take on the material. They manage to make the events horrifying and brutal without resorting to meanness, something many horror remakes in the past decade have failed to do. There are also nice homages and references to the previous films peppered throughout; some subtle and others not-so-subtle. The only quibbles I have with the script are relegated to the characters themselves. They are mostly fine and very suitable to the material. However, some of their dialogue and arcs can be pretty hokey at times, especially in the introductory scenes. One character in particular gets shafted in terms of character development, making her appear shallow and inconsequential in comparison to the others. Those complaints aside, though, this is a surprisingly well-written and thoughtful script.

Fede Alvarez also directed the movie, and he has proven himself to be someone to watch in the future. His direction lacks the madcap liveliness of Raimi’s style, but Alvarez injects his own brand of energy and intensity which helps to give the film it’s own unique identity. Also, there are several beautifully composed scenes in the film that would make for a great artbook. There’s a specific shot during the climax that will likely be adorning smartphones and PC’s as backgrounds for several horror fanatics.

Despite any shortcomings from the script, every member of the cast proves to be the perfect fit for their role. Each one of them must dish out and receive plenty of abuse; sometimes self-inflicted, and sometimes inflicted upon others. It is to their credit that each one is convincing and believable. Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, and Jessica Lucas do most of the heavy lifting in terms of emotional arcs, while Lou Taylor Pucci and Elizabeth Blackmore receive a larger share of the physical torment. All of them perform very well, and all of them are game for the extreme duress they are put under for a majority of the film.

The photography and lighting are top-notch, with some eerie and haunting work throughout. The special effects are simply incredible. There is a small amount of CGI, but the practical effects are the main stars and responsible for most of what appears on-screen. All of it is deliciously and disgustingly joyous to behold. The production design is also well-done. The cabin and nearby shed will certainly please Evil Dead fans. The music score marvelously accompanies the film, never intruding and never spoiling a scare moment. Overall, this is one of the better-executed productions for a horror remake that we’ve seen in decades.

EVIL DEAD is a terrific example of how to remake a classic horror movie. It honors what came before whilst also striking out on it’s own and creating something new. The film is inventive, bloody, gory, no-holds-barred, uncompromising, and unapologetic. The sugar on top is that it is also a lot of fun. So, ready your boomsticks and chainsaws, horror fans! EVIL DEAD is a wild ride very much worth taking.

EVIL DEAD opens in theatres nationwide on April 5, 2013. It comes very highly recommended by this critic.

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