By Jonatham Kellam
Evil Dead (2013)
Directed by Fede Alvarez
** out of ****
Jane Levy as Mia
Shiloh Fernandez as David
Lou Taylor Pucci as Eric
Jessica Lucas as Olivia
Evil Dead is a remake of the 1981 film, The Evil Dead, which produced two sequels and has since attained cult status. The remake features a group of five twenty-somethings who have gone to a dilapidated cabin in the woods to help Mia, a drug addict, kick her bad habit. Shortly after arriving, they find some bizarre things in the cellar, including a book that appears to be made from human skin. Someone decides to read from the book and it turns out that he read a spell that awakens a demonic force intent on possessing and/or murdering all of them. I hate when that happens.
The reason for remaking a movie should be because the original could use improvement, although usually it’s done because studios feel there is more money to be made off a title and too much time has passed for a sequel. Horror movies have bore the brunt of remakes and those that actually surpass their original in quality are few and far between. Evil Dead is certainly not one of them. The original was incredibly cheesy, almost a comedy. It was the kind of film where it would have been totally appropriate for the main character to suddenly have the ability to build a defibrillator out of a car battery. When it happens in this film, its completely and utterly ridiculous because the entire film up to that point had been far more serious than the original.
A significant part of the success of the original trilogy is due to its hero, Ash, played with tongue firmly in cheek by Bruce Campbell. None of the characters in this are nearly as entertaining or memorable. The biggest issue with this movie, however, is that my pulse never got above 85. This film just isn’t scary. But it is gory. I often find that scariness and goriness have an adverse relationship. Fear in film, for me at least, is created by suspense, not by watching someone get bludgeoned with a poker for five minutes. The film did have its upsides, though. I very much appreciated the minimal use of CG. I also thought all the actors did a fine job. The tension that existed between some of the characters felt very real. Also, in an age where young people wouldn’t dare spend a vacation somewhere their smartphones wouldn’t have reception, I thought the concept of staging an intervention was fairly creative. There are also some subtle references to the original trilogy that fans will enjoy.
This is director Fede Alvarez’s first feature-length film. I think he is potentially very talented, but it’s not easy to tell in a film like this. He no doubt faced pressure not only from the studio, but also from the fans of the original. I’d be very interested to see a film of his own creation. At one point writer Diablo Cody (Juno, Young Adult) was attached to the project for rewrites, however her name does not appear in the end credits so its unlikely any of her rewrites survived, although she is still listed on IMDB.com. I would have loved to see what she would have done with the story. She is very good at writing memorable characters and subtle comedy, two things this film badly needed.
I’m betting that overall fans of the original trilogy are not going to be impressed with Evil Dead. Moviegoers unfamiliar with the original may possibly find it as an acceptable way to spend two hours, but their time would be much better spent seeing the re-release of Jurassic Park.