Evil Dead (2013)


The Evil Dead is a remake/revisitation of the 1981 horror classic written and directed by Sam Raimi. The original film was a low budget (USD$90,000) supernatural horror that received excellent reviews in spite of the films rating (X in the US). The Evil Dead is widely regarded as one the seminal horror films of the 1980's and, while looking dated, that is more to do with the age and quality of the technology used than with with the quality of the storytelling, and still holds an audience today due to the (then) audacious camera work and black humour. The film spawned two sequels (each progressively more humourous), computer games, comic books and even a musical. The film's protagonist Ash Williams has become a cult icon, played by Bruce Campbell who has become a cult actor,

Here is the trailer for the original film:

The original film, and the sequels, are much loved and have a cult status few other franchises (let alone horror properties) possess which makes it an extremely risky remake in an era where remakes are generally looked upon with disgust and scorn. The Friday the 13th remake was an OK attempt to reconcile the various versions of that franchise into a singularly recognisable whole but failed to achieve anything close to the scares, slaughter or entertainment of the original. The Nightmare on Elm Street remake missed the mark by for the same reasons. A remake of something much loved faces the chance of even greater scorn than these other 80's franchises that had been great but not at all consistent through their many sequels.

Another thing that stands against the film is that horror audiences have come to accept different styles of horror film as the flavour of choice, films such as the Saw and Paranormal Activity franchises (the first of these films I rather enjoyed but couldn't make it through the sequel enough to go any further with the franchises), and while the original is loved for it's horror the sequels are remembered and revered for their black humour. There seems to me to be a predilection in modern horror toward torture that I don't enjoy or towards the found footage format with sub par scares (The last ones of each style that really stand out as excellent are Funny Games and REC). I have also found few characters in the last decade of horror movies that I like enough to watch them be killed let alone attempt to survive.
The film also has to contend with the excellent 2011 release of Cabin in the Woods by Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon which wonderfully pulls apart the this particular corner of the genre to delightful result.
So it begs the question, where should Evil Dead fall? Should it adhere to the modern horror sensibility of horrible characters torturing each other and being tortured for 2 hours? She it be a black comedy with horror elements? Does the film need Bruce Campbell in order to appease fans and gain an audience? Does it need to distance itself as far from the original as possible and make it on it's own merits? Should it be a shot for shot remake with modern technology? Does it need to self-aware or naïve?
Below is the trailer for the remake, which is easily the most intense horror movie trailer I've seen in a while:

Evil Dead (2013) takes the full blown horror movie route much like the original, although devoid of the black humour. It is a beast unto itself whilst also revelling in revisiting the 30 year old film.

There are a few nods to the original including a similar cabin for our little drama and a rusted out Oldsmobile (the same model as used in Sam Raimi's films), Fede Alvarez also used the same visual movement of the 'Evil' travelling through the woods with a very similar (same?) sound as the original.
The opening of the film sets the tone of all that is to follow and allows for the orginal trilogy to still exist chronologically, a approach I feel that is for the better allowing a broader tapestry to play with in the future.
Evil Dead uses a drug intervention for Mia as raison d'etre for being out in the woods, isolated from the big bad city to ensure they can get their friend clean. This also helps with the characters finding Mia's ramblings a little unbelievable and thus allow for some incredibly violent things to happen rather than just leave before its too late. The plot isn't a new one, and that's perfectly fine because in this day and age because when the jaded audience has seen it all before it must come down to the delivery. The actors carry the script well, but the true masters of this delivery lie with the Fede Alvarez and crew.
This is the first feature length film for director Fede Alvarez, and it is an excellent debut. The crew assembled to support this first time director do their job very well, each unit bringing a variety of experience and talent that is well used. The film is visually stunning for the genre with the cinematography containing a great balance of perspective shots, skewing or angling the camera just enough to add to your visual unease. The palette is very well used and the lighting of certain scenes perfect, allowing for an intense atmospheric experience. The film is extremely violent and the imagery brutal and presented up close and personal, but the real impact comes from the entrancing use of sound. Even when you know what you are about to see the audio takes you further into discomfort than you would expect. This is a testament to the Director and his crew for producing and blening the images with such a engrossing soundtrack that gets under your skin.
I consider myself pretty experienced when it comes to movies, and I've seen my fair share of them, so I can be pretty harsh with my reviewing. The Evil Dead is an excellent horror movie filled with excellently grotesque visuals and is one of the best new horror films I've seen in a long time, and it is definitely one of the best modern revisits/remakes of a horror film. It keeps enough of what Evil Dead fans want without coming across as too derivative, respecting the source material, and adding to the mythology. It has also brought a new director to Hollywood and I very much look forward to what Fede Alvarez does next (I'm rather hoping to see if he is capable of doing something other than a gore filled horror movie). The Evil Dead compliments the original 1981 horror in a way very remakes could. It does not eclipse the original but can stand on its own or together with.

Evil Dead needs to be watched in the dark with the sound turned all the way up.
This is a 8 out of 10 blood soaked ride (7 if you are a not a fan of the first films and leave without watching the entire credits sequence). 


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