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Review: ‘Evil Dead’ (2013)

Sam Dumitriu looks at the latest horror remake

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Fede Alvarez’s remake of Sam Raimi’s 1979 horror classic The Evil Dead was always going to be tricky. How do you make a fresh horror film for new audiences, while staying true to the original and not alienating loyal fans? The effort to please fans of the original has been formidable. Unlike other remakes, Evil Dead was made in close contact with original’s director Sam Raimi and star Bruce Campbell.

Five twenty-somethings go to the infamous cabin in the woods in order to help their friend, Mia (Jane Levy), go cold turkey. Unable to heed the warning in the trailer, they open the cellar door to find dozens of dead cats hanging from the ceiling. Amongst the cats, they stumble upon Necronomicon Ex Mortis, The Book of the Dead, now wrapped in barbed-wire and covered in warnings for the reader not to read it. Naturally, they read the magic words, and a demonic force attacks the cabin, possessing Mia in the process.

What follows is the standard Evil Dead fare of blood, guts and dismembered limbs.  Unconstrained by a shoestring budget, Evil Dead is able to pull off some impressive special effects. My particular favourite was a throwback to Evil Dead 2 with the role of the chainsaw being taken by an electric carver. If you’re a gore-hound, then you’ll find little to be disappointed in with Evil Dead.

Evil Dead tries to keep fans of the original on side by littering the film with references all the way to the credits and beyond (I recommend waiting around after the credits to catch them all).  Most amusingly, the filmmaker managed to find an even uglier necklace than in the original. Regrettably, probably the most problematic scene in the original in which a woman is raped by a tree is recreated. While efforts to tone it down were made, namely that the force enters through the belly button rather than elsewhere, still it suggests an immaturity on the part of Alvarez.

Alvaraz makes a smart decision in not recasting the role of Ash, who Bruce Campbell with his over the top style made iconic. No one could live up to the role, and his absence is therefore welcome. Sadly, without Ash the group lack charisma. David (Shiloh Fernandez), the natural leader is bland and with the exception of the nerdy Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) it’s hard to care about any of the group.

Lacking from the remake is the slapstick humour that made the original stand out from other horror comedies. Sam Raimi, a self-confessed fan, used many sequences from The Three Stooges in the original. The remake has a more serious and nasty tone, there are jokes but they’re few and far between. Sadly, the lack of humour has not been compensated for with increased scares. There are jumps and gore, but nothing approaching the scares of the original. It’s nastier but it isn’t scarier.

Evil Dead is a passable remake with enough nods to the original and gore to keep fans of the original satisfied, but it doesn’t come anywhere near close to the original in terms of scares.