Review: Evil Dead / Cert: 18 / Director: Fede Alvarez / Screenplay: Fede Alvarez, Diablo Cody, Rodo Sayagues Mendez / Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Elizabeth Blackmore / Release Date: April 19th
After years of rumour, fan outrage and speculation, and amidst more rumour, fan outrage and speculation regarding Army of Darkness sequels and Bruce Campbell cameos, the Evil Dead remake is finally here. And with it, a long-held sigh of relief: against all odds, this remake is actually very good.
The movie hits the ground running, with a disconcerting prologue which feels culled from a backwoods Hillbilly movie or something. As the first blast of ultraviolence hits like boomstick shrapnel to the face, the tone is set perfectly - it's Evil Dead, but not as we know it. And then, to the cabin in the woods, where we are introduced to five pretty young things and their lovely dog, Grandpa. Mia (Levy) is a recovering drug addict, driven out by her friends to this remote shack to kick her drug addiction. Also present is her estranged brother David (Fernandez), wearing a very familiar-looking denim shirt. As they batten down the hatches and prepare for the onset of Mia's withdrawal symptoms, the group discovers something awful hidden in the cellar...
Wrapped in black bin liners and barbed wire is the Necronomicon (never actually named as such) and hippy Eric (Taylor Pucci) is stupid enough to read a few passages aloud. No audio book required, nor a PHD in Deadite translation - this version of the book is good enough to have written the most dangerous lines of text in English. It's The Necronomicon for Dummies. Deep within the woods, something stirs...
Ranting about being attacked by the woods themselves and not being alone in the cabin, everyone at first attributes Mia's change in behaviour to her going cold turkey. Eric suspects differently though, having seen all this depicted in the book. But by now it's too late. It has begun. And it doesn't let up again for the rest of the movie. Evil Dead 2013 is the most relentless, harrowing, violent horror movie experience in years; in fact, it's perhaps the bloodiest cinema release of all time. At one point it literally rains blood. It's torrential. At times it feels less like a remake of The Evil Dead than Peter Jackson's Braindead by way of (a far less pretentious) Antichrist. From the misty, foreboding cinematography to the excellent (and practical) FX, Evil Dead is gorgeous. That seems like an odd word to use to describe a movie in which one character vomits gallons of blood into another's face, but it's true. Alvarez and cinematographer Aaron Morton do an outstanding job of modernising the Evil Dead experience.
Looking past the grit, the grime and the gore, however, the movie isn't without its flaws. The script is particularly clunky, with many of the lines not gelling with the film's more realistic style. At least we're spared any of the kids saying “groovy” though. Likewise, the young actors are a mixed bag. Jane Levy is wonderful as Mia, both sympathetic and terrifying at the same time. She and the others handle an insane level of abuse – particularly poor Lou Taylor Pucci, who winds up getting a brutal beating from every character in the film at some point or other. Oddly unaffected is Shiloh Fernandez, who somehow manages to avoid too much bodily trauma and seems almost disaffected by the carnage around him. Perhaps he too was distracted by the constant references to the earlier films – from the props (there's the boomstick! And chainsaw!) to certain shots (the roving camera is back) to a scene very much influenced by Evil Dead 2. The film's obvious reverence is lovely to behold – and it will win much fan favour – but there's a sense that it holds this Evil Dead back from ever truly becoming its own entity. It stands tall alongside Alexandre Aja's The Hills Have Eyes and Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead as a solid horror remake which does its predecessor justice without ever going the extra mile.
Beyond a slight lull towards the end and one strange twist, Evil Dead is unrelentingly fun. Again, fun might be a strange way of describing a movie in which a woman cuts her own jaw off with a shard of glass (not really a spoiler, since there's so much dismemberment going on that this barely scratches the surface. No pun intended) but horror fans should love it. It's the loudest, messiest and cruellest horror film in years. And be sure to stay in your seat past the (beautifully designed) end credits too, for a treat that would put Marvel to shame.
“The most terrifying film you will ever experience?” Not quite, but it's certainly an experience, all the same.
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10