This slice of late '80s horror offers blood, gore, and capitalist critique! Dig in.
Evil Dead. 2013. Written & Directed by Fede Alvarez; based on the screenplay by Sam Raimi.
Starring Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore, Phoenix Connolly, Jim McLarty, Stephen Butterworth, Karl Willetts, Randal Wilson, and Rupert Degas.
Rated 18A. 91 minutes.
So, to start, I want to just say that I love the original Evil Dead. I don’t think the remake is better, not at all. However, I think that as far as remakes go this one does a pretty good job at updating things and changing perspective just enough so that it isn’t a carbon copy of the original from Sam Raimi.
Of course there are obvious similarities and there are things which feel identical, but Fede Alvarez has really brought a script that tweaks Raimi’s original to make it his own while simultaneously remaining a remake of the beloved horror classic.
While this Evil Dead is stripped of the comedic element Raimi infused the film with – or should I say the man, the one and only Bruce Campbell really executed that aspect – this incarnation has replaced the comedy with absolute fear.
Now, before we go any further – this is how I feel about being scared by a horror movie.
When I say that a horror creeps me out, that it’s disturbing or scary, unsettling, any of these descriptors, I don’t mean that I’m sitting there in the dark cowering, that I can’t sleep at night. I’ve not been that scared in a long, long time. But I’m still scared by things in horror films. For me, there’s disturbing and creepy things going on in Evil Dead and it doesn’t mean that I’m up all night, terrified to turn out the lights; just means I’m unsettled by certain elements.
So when I say that this film replaces that comedic essence of the original with an air of terror, don’t try and say that I don’t understand what is scary or what is not. We all have our things. This remake comes with a lot of heart, good performances, and a ton of big fat horror balls.
Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead remake begins with David (Shiloh Fernandez) meeting with his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) at a cabin in the woods. Their friends, Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) and Olivia (Jessica Lucas) are also there. Everyone’s gathered to help David’s sister Mia (Jane Levy) do a homemade rehab, like a willing intervention or the second half of one anyways; she is a recovering heroin addict. Unfortunately, for more than one reason this won’t be near as easy as they’d imagined it would be.
A smell keeps bothering Mia, as if something is dead. Eventually they discover a door in the floor, leading to a room full of strange artifacts, dead animals, and other weird things. One of which is Necronomicon.
In a terrible decision, Eric keeps picking at the book, determined to look inside and read things he’s found. He releases something from its vile and wicked pages. Soon enough, the things Mia does to try and get out of her rehabilitation become more and more violent, more heinous, as if she’s not only jonesing for heroin: she is possessed.
But the possession doesn’t stop there. It won’t stop. Not until they’ve all been deal with.
I’m not exactly a huge fan of remakes. There are some I do enjoy – Alexandre Aja’s The Hills Have Eyes, that’s one I’m a particular fan of, and even though some hate it I thought Rob Zombie did a fun and disturbing job with Halloween. However, a lot of the remakes we get are sad, glossy jobs, then again much of those are the Michael Bay produced trashjobs like the jeans commercial that was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre starring Jessica Biel’s ass, the pitiful Friday the 13th reboot, as well as the downright shameful remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street.
But to my mind, I think that the Evil Dead remake does justice to the original. It isn’t better, though, I can’t say that it’s any less fun. To me, anyways.
Because the premise of the film is the same – people get possessed and terrorized by a host of demonic presences at a cabin in the woods. Still, Fede Alvarez changes things a little. Now we’ve got a new reason for these people being in the woods; not a massive game-changing move, but it’s enough in the script to make this his own, a remake yet fresh in a way. Evil Dead was awesome the first time around. This time, we get a bit of a different spin. Because even as things get creepy for the friends, before it all gets out of hand, there’s still an element in their minds which says “Mia is just tripping and getting crazy from withdrawals”. Of course, that changes, and then some! I just thought it was a good twist. Alvarez could’ve simply just updated things enough to feel like the 2010s, but he chose to bring something different and make the characters a little less similar to the first movie.
We get lots of awesome reminders to harken back to the original, I just feel that Alvarez did a nice job with adapting things and switching some stuff up. That’s what a remake should do. Yet people still want to trash it and say it’s garbage, yadda yadda. Whatever, man.
Love how the little electric meat cutter is first seen slicing up some quite raw – pork, I think it is. Can’t be sure. Either way, I thought it was great when you can juxtapose how viciously the electric kitchen accessory comes into play later. Not that this is anything super innovative concerning horror movies, I just love when a film does that in an effective manner. Alvarez could’ve just used the thing as a gimmick, thrown it in there wildly, but instead he takes the time to set this up early on so that you either remember it and enjoy seeing it come back into the movie in such a brutish way, or you’re just surprised; that works, too. I like that Alvarez makes specific use of the tool early within 15-20 minutes, especially watching it cut through some meat. Later, as it does some real cutting, it’s that much better.
There are some great effects all around – the face slicing, that whole part, I really loved. Even when Eric tries to back away, he slips and cranks his back on the toilet seat. That was just perfect. I love when horror doesn’t try to be perfect with its choreography; in horrific, terrifying moments there would definitely be so much clumsiness and ineffective escape. This was a classic moment like that.
A favourite line of mine from the movie I thought was darkly comedic yet a good piece of writing – the script recognizes horror movie tropes and how characters often don’t question each other enough. David is trying to rationalize what has been happening, saying it could be a virus, to which Eric replies:
“What kind of virus makes someone cut off their face with a piece of glass?”
I thought that Jane Levy was superb as Mia. From start to finish. There’s one scene particularly, the look in her eyes as she talks with her brother David – right after the forest has come alive and raped her – it is classic horror cinema acting, right there. If you say different, fine, but you’re blind. I liked Levy in the first season of Shameless, after which she was replaced/left. Here, I got to see her do some excellent work. Once she becomes Abomination Mia, it is really something.
What I love most about the Mia character is once the Abomination has hold of her, the make-up effects are beyond incredible. Excellent, gruesome stuff. Plus, the voice is creepy as all hell. I love when a film can go for great practical effects. Sure, there are pieces of CGI mixed in there no doubt, but so much is done practically with make-up special effects.
That part with the electric meat cutter is savage! I thought that was just pure gritty gore horror. So much in this movie, definitely once the last half hour starts to roll, is balls-to-the-wall gory horror fun. It is supremely nasty at times, in the best sense of the word when it comes to scary movies.
And I mean, the original Evil Dead was meant to be a wild horror. A bit of comedy mixed in, but mainly horror. That’s what we get here: in droves. It keeps coming and coming, over, over, until the last scene finishes. There’s a ton of blood, lots of pain and torture and death. It is what horror is all about, in the end. If people disagree, I understand. Well – I don’t. I’ll just agree to disagree.
I loved this remake. It’s one of those I’ll put on the list of remakes I truly enjoy because it deserves to be on there. For me, this is a 4 out of 5 star horror. I think a lot of diehard fans of the original are big time upset because Bruce Campbell isn’t Ash and Ash isn’t the big hero – instead we get a female hero, a recovering drug addict who overcomes the insanity of the demons pressing down on her, her friends, and that cabin out in the woods.
There are for sure a couple points I didn’t like, mainly those had to do with dialogue; some of it certainly could’ve been tweaked. Yet overall, I love the script because I thought Fede Alvarez did a wonderful bit of work adapting Sam Raimi’s original into something a little more today and a bit different. Because if a movie being remade simply goes for everything the original did – same story and effects and twists and characters – what is the point then? Why even do it? I’ve never understood shot-by-shot remakes, like Gus Van Sant’s Psycho (even though I dig it simply because it’s an update with new actors while most hate it and I love Van Sant regardless). At the end of the day, it’s useless to remake something that way, even if it’s enjoyable; you’re not bringing anything new to the table. Even enjoying something like Van Sant’s exact duplicate of Alfred Hitchcock, I can’t say it’s a good movie because Hitchcock did it already, exactly the same.
So basically, Alvarez here with Evil Dead impressed me by not having to copy everything completely identical, even if so much of it is familiar and obviously derivative of the first. It doesn’t matter that it’s a remake because Alvarez has given it enough heart and effort to say that this is a worthy effort. One of my favourite remakes out there, and will continue to be, no matter what other reviews might try and have me believe. This is a lot of fun, a LOT of gore to the point of absolute savagery at times, and a solid central performance from Jane Levy.
You can skip the POLTERGEIST remake. Stick to the Hooper/Spielberg original.