The Evil Dead trilogy, which consists of Sam Raimi’s 1981 The Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2 in ’87 and the hilarious horror comedy Army of Darkness in ’92 is a perfect set of films, as shocking and brilliant now as they were way back when first released.
Raimi’s first proper feature – banned as a video nasty in the UK – The Evil Dead, was made on a shoe string budget using the imagination and innovation of the cast and crew to create graphic gore, sensational special effects and creative camera effects. This includes the now legendary ‘demons eye view’ camera shot that so many other horror films have ripped off, and all of which is documented in Bruce Campbell’s excellent autobiography If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor (a must read for all horror lovers).
Spawning computer games, comics and even a musical, the legacy of The Evil Dead is epic. So this horror lover was equally unsurprised and disgusted by the news that The Evil Dead was up for a ‘reboot’.
As with Halloween, Friday 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street and so many other horror films, it seems Hollywood, bereft of ideas and keen to cash in, latched its blood sucking tentacles on Raimi’s original film, ready to revitalise it for a whole new generation – regardless of whether we needed it or not.
And so it’s 2013 and The Evil Dead is back. With an amazing visceral opening which is both creepy and brutally violent, things initially seem to be going along the right track. Sadly though, this great start soon dissipates as the main body of the movie gets going and we are introduced to the characters that are about to face the forces of the Evil Dead.
A bunch of old friends arrive at an ancient cabin in the woods to help one of their number, Mia (Suburgatory star, Jane Levy) detox from her serious drug addiction. Especially concerned is her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) who feels that he has failed his sister after their mother’s death by being absent from the group of late.
Things seem strange at the cabin with the smell of death in the air, and the group discovers a secret cellar where it seems some sort of ritual has been conducted. Amidst the rotting cat carcasses the gang find a book which Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci from Horsemen) takes upstairs to study.
Eric’s obsession with the Necronomicon (the book of the dead – a disturbing book of black magic) brings about an even more frightening awakening as the forces of evil slowly start to possess first Mia, then other members of the group as they act out the blood letting and mutilation that the Necronomicon dictates. Little do they realise however that the series of events which are now in motion will lead no only to their destruction, but yo the bringing about of the end of the Earth.
With both Raimi and Campbell on board with the remake, selecting first time feature director and obsessive Evil Dead fan Fede Alvarez to helm the project, one would hope that the re-imagining of The Evil Dead was closer to what had been before than other horror remakes.
Although this may be the case with the plot and story structure (and of course the use of the Necronomicon to summon the powers of darkness) it is the tone and the characters which are the real problem here as both totally miss the mark.
As with all recent horror reboots, it seems that the people behind the movie including Alvarez feel the need to make things a whole lot darker and more serious that the original. Although the effects and the gore are far more disturbing and distressing than those in the earlier films, with some absolutely disgusting scenes of body mutilation on offer that some horror fans will lap up, the blandness and utter lack of depth in the characters leads the audience towards apathy, meaning no matter how bad things get for the characters, it’s hard to really care.
Bruce Campbell’s Ash in the original is a movie legend whose place among the pantheon of iconic horror characters is firmly secured. What we forget is that his journey from nerdy bumbling idiot during the first film to chainsaw handed hero in the last and this maturation and emotional connection is sadly nonexistent in the remake.
As mentioned, the much darker, disturbing tone is an interesting take that some may love, but without any light or laughter in the script, for some it will fall flat. Also, although the infinitely bigger budget delivers some excellent effects that are all realised without computer generated imagery, which is a bonus, the creativity and originality of the original film is missing from Alvarez’s direction. Instead all the boring traditional horror movie tropes are rolled out alongside nods to Raimi’s movies that fans will enjoy which are shoved in along the way.
All that said, there are some positives apects. Primarily the effects and make up, which coupled with an extended explanation of the Necronomicon and the mirroring of the characters deaths with the images in the book works well as an innovation within the confines of the Evil Dead world.
Most impressive and entertaining of all is the final climax where the film takes a turn into the chaotic and crazy as blood rains from the sky and the last remaining characters fight to the death for the fate of mankind.
As with the very start of the film, it’s here that we see some real flair and frightening fun and the true essence of The Evil Dead seems to be finally captured in all its bat shit crazy, blood soaked brutality. It is just a pity we have to wade through the rest of the film to get to it.
Best to be viewed after seeing the first three films again, overall Evil Dead (2013) is not a bad reboot. It’s just frustratingly not as good as the promise it fleetingly shows and Alverez seems to do his best with his first feature, from the almost impossible position of pleasing everyone.
This reboot will definitely satisfy modern horror audiences but for me it’s not a patch on the original trilogy. Still, compared to other Hollywood rehashes of classic horrors, it could have been worse.