Evil Dead (2013) Review

evil-dead-remakeDirector: Fede Alvarez

Writers: Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues

Certificate: 18     Running Time: 1hr 31 Mins

Cast: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lewis, Elizabeth Blackmore 

Producers: Bruce Campbell, Sam Raimi, Robert G. Tapert

 side effects rating

Plot: Mia (Jane Levy) suffers from a drug addiction, her friends decide to take her on a retreat to a remote cabin in the woods to help in the rehabilitation process. They are confronted with a mysterious book and a sacrificial tomb, neither of which should have been opened…

An ordinary afternoon in Montevideo, the year 2009; rookie Uruguayan director, Fede Alvarez uploaded his superb short film ‘Ataque de pánico!’ (‘Panic  Attack!’) onto Youtube. The very next day, Alvarez was inundated with hundreds of emails from Hollywood’s finest producers. A mere week later, he was on a plane to the city of angels, Los Angeles. On his fateful trip, Alvarez had what turns out to be a life changing meeting with iconic director Sam Raimi, the visionary filmmaker of the genre defining masterpiece ‘The Evil Dead’ (1981). Raimi was excited by Alvarez’s potential and was keen to produce his very first feature film, with talks of an Evil Dead remake already on the cards; Alvarez was entrusted with the daunting task of resurrecting the film and making it relevant for a contemporary audience. He succeeded. Evil Dead is a no.1 US box office hit. Alvarez is the definition of an overnight sensation.

Given its surprisingly resounding commercial success, Evil Dead (2013) stormed into UK cinemas with a strong marketing campaign generating enormous hype.  Although, it doesn’t quite live up to its billing, Evil Dead is still a well-crafted and rip roaring debut. It is well paced and engrosses the viewer in its gore-laden horror whilst ensuring fans of the original are satisfied with nostalgic nods throughout. To Alvarez’s credit, rather than creating an identical remake, he uses his own imagination and develops a unique vision which is arguably the most brutal mainstream release in years. Evil Dead appears to be an episode (rather than a rebirth, reboot or remake). The isolated cabin and the book of the dead remain the heart and soul of the story which elicits a strong sense of déjà vu in every frame.

Whilst the original had a certain comic undertone, this is detached from any sort of humorous register; rather it opts for a far darker, straighter approach to the story. There is no respite for the viewer but instead a barrage of graphic violence of unrelenting nature.  At times, it as if we are simply waiting for the next bloodbath rather than feeling deeply unsettled by the atmosphere of seclusion. By the time the outrageous finale unfolds on screen, you can’t help but feel numb after a sensory overload. 

Much has been made of the ultra-violent scenes depicted in Evil Dead. On occasion, it does feel like an exercise designed to shock the audience into submission. Those frightened by scenes of gore and mutilation, prepare for a real shock. Others will find it crass, vulgar and lacking emotional pull due to a distinct lack of character development. There simply isn’t enough time to develop an emotional attachment with certain members of the story. Most characters feel repugnant and ultimately dispensable in the grand scheme of things. However, it is clear Alvarez isn’t preoccupied with the audience building such affinity. It results in an incredibly raw, visceral experience. Although the contemporary version is pregnant with clichés, the original Evil Dead (1981) gave birth to several of these therefore fans of the classic will feel satisfied.

The commitment to using conventional techniques for the special effects rather than CGI makes for a refreshing change and is credit to Alvarez. He joins Argentine Andres Muschietti (director of ‘Mama’) as the new crop of South American talent to take Hollywood by storm this year and is one to keep a close eye on. Evil Dead is certainly on another level to the wave of classic horror remakes in recent times such as Friday the 13th and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Joss Whedon’s highly polarising Cabin in the Woods (2011) took the Evil Dead concept and turned it on its head, it is a prime example of how modern filmmakers feel the story is dated and should be left in the past. Alvarez, to a degree disproves this hypothesis. Although it falls short of the Uruguayan’s lofty ambition of making Evil Dead timeless and ‘the scariest movie ever’, it marks a strong debut for a filmmaker of infinite potential.