Review: Evil Dead / Cert: 18 / Director: Fede Alvarez / Screenplay: Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues / Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore / Release Date: August 12th
Remaking The Evil Dead had all the hallmarks of being a doubly thankless task, in that the result has to reckon not only with the fondly remembered original but with Cabin in the Woods, Joss Whedon's knowing dissection of the whole dead-in-a-shed subgenre. Yet against the odds, newbie director Fede Alvarez has pulled it off, and in fact has managed to deliver one of the most celebrated horror reboots of recent years. How did he do it? Well, turns out you really can't go wrong with some power tools and plenty of ketchup.
The story (which takes place in an alternative timeline to Raimi's movie) sees drug addict Mia (Levy) planning to spend a few days in the family pad in the countryside, with the intention of going cold turkey and breaking her habit forever. There to watch over her are her friends Eric (Pucci) and Olivia (Lucas), while her brother David (Fernandez) and his girlfriend Natalie (Blackmore) have also come along to lend moral support. It's a while since anyone's been to the place, though, and it shows signs of having accommodated some very dubious squatters. For starters, the basement is full of mummified cats, and further exploration downstairs reveals a sawn-off shotgun and a book bound in barbed wire. Not at all put off by the fact that its pages are covered in bloodstains, nerdy Eric can't resist opening the book and reading out certain forbidden words. Hey presto – evil Mia!
What happens next is a good demonstration of how legitimately dramatic on-screen gore can be as long as it's allied to a reasonably coherent scenario and set of characters. Not that there's a whole lot of deep psychology here, mind you, just a few lightly sketched in pre-existing tensions (Eric acts almost like a jilted lover around David, while there's a glint of sadism in Olivia's tough love towards Mia). Still, it's enough to lend that bit of weight to violence which is already harrowingly fast and furious. Eric is stabbed in the specs with a syringe, characters shed body parts the way ordinary folks lose gloves and socks, hammers and nail-guns crunch through bone and tissue.
Alvarez retains a number of the original film's motifs (the demonic hand gag, the chainsaw), but he also brings some striking imagery of his own to the table, such as a scene where Mia is talking to David through a dirty plastic bag that has been pulled over her head: it's haunting, and it's all Alvarez. The film builds and just when you think it's ending, it throws in what has to be the most blood-drenched finale since Carrie. Add a fine performance from Levy, and you have a bold, visceral redo that at least deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence as the first Evil Dead.
Extras: Directing the Dead / Evil Dead the Reboot / Making Life Difficult / Unleashing the Evil Force / Being Mia