Remakes of films are a strange thing. In most cases it’s best to try and forget about what’s come before and rate the new version on its own merits. So with that in mind, how does the remake of one of my favourite horror films of all time fare?
David & his sister Mia head to their parents old cabin in the woods with 3 of their friends, to try & help Mia kick her heroin addiction.
While dealing with Mia’s withdrawal a strange smell cause the friends to investigate the cellar where they discover a mysterious book, as well as the remains of animals suspended from the roof.
Despite the warnings on the pages of the book, Eric starts to read from its pages & unwittingly release the evil held within, which takes possession of the vulnerable Mia.
Now the friends have to try and survive the night if they can, as the full horror of the woods is unleashed.
As I said at the beginning, with remakes you really need to let go of whats come before and judge the film on it’s own merits. The problem with that is, Evil Dead pays so much homage to what has come before that it is impossible to forget the original, and this new version suffers by comparison. Chainsaw? Check. Molesting tree? Check. Iconic shot of speeding camera through the woods accompanied by the Deadite howl? Check. Character loses hand? Check and double check. Hell, they even manage to throw in a shoutout to the sequels sequence of Ash taking his own hand!
It’s easy to forget that the original Evil Dead was an extreme horror film, unlike it’s sequel which added some more comediac aspects to the tale. But even saying that, there was an amount of black humour in the film along with inventiveness and stellar performances from it’s unknown cast – especially Bruce Campbell in the now iconic role of Ashely “Ash” J. Williams.
Why am I banging on about the original version of the film in this review of the remake? Simply because the remake doesn’t possess anything approaching the black humour, inventiveness or performances that we had in the original and instead replaces all of this with wooden performances from it’s young cast and blood. A lot of blood. While the original film did involve quite a bit of blood, the remake ups the amount to the ridiculous, especially in the final act of the film (which I’ll come back to in a bit).
There are some amazingly nasty sequences in the film, which if seeing the cast of a film tortured within an inch of their lives – and beyond – is your particular cup of hot beverage, then maybe you’ll get something out of this. Personally I am well beyond the attraction of the torture porn horror, and I was quite surprised that Evil Dead decided to go this route for the remake.
The young cast are pretty much forgettable, with only Jane Levy as Mia really standing out in anyway and giving it her all in a performance that, while probably not destined to win her any awards or add her to the popular conscience alongside Bruce Campbell’s Ash, will resonate with horror film fans. The rest? Meh. They’re there to die in various horrible ways, and they do manage to excel in that, however they are all so vapid and one dimensional that you don’t find yourself caring about them before they die, so you don’t care about them after either.
Fede Alvarez, who also co-wrote the screenplay for this, does prove himself as an adept filmmaker, so it’s easy to see why Sam Raimi entrusted the remake to him, but at the same time he is too slavish to the original while seemingly forgetting what made the original original! There is a decent film somewhere under all the blood and nastiness, which if it had been slightly better crafted or managed to capture the black humour people associate with the franchise then maybe it would have been more than just another throw away modern horror.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t manage to capture the magic of the Evil Dead until the final 15 minutes or so, where they suddenly embrace the slightly over the top cartoonish violence that the series is renowned for and the film suddenly springs to life. It’s just a shame that we had to wait so long for it happen before they got there. If it had happened sooner, then this may well have been a totally different review.
There’s a part of me that wonders if this would have been slightly better if we hadn’t been spoiled by Joss Whedon’s deconstruction of the genre with Cabin In The Woods, but at the same time maybe the film makers should have taken some notes from Whedon’s film & managed to make the characters slightly more aware of what was going on. Instead, we are once again treated to kids in the woods who seem to exist in a world where they have never seen a horror film before.
As it is, while the Evil Dead (2013) is watchable it doesn’t linger in the memory and I won’t be rushing to watch it again. Next time I need a Deadite fix I’ll stick to the originals. I just hope that when they make the sequel that they remember what made the Evil Dead great and deliver a film that captures that magic again rather than just another generic “cabin in the woods” horror.