07th Apr2013

‘Evil Dead’ Review

by Dan Clark

Stars: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Jessica Lucas, Lou Taylor Pucci, Elizabeth Blackmore, Jim McLarty | Written by Fede Alvarez, Diablo Cody, Rodo Sayagues | Directed by Fede Alvarez

Evil-Dead-Basement

Eliciting fear in a viewer requires a high level of keen craftsmanship. Sure scaring someone is an easy feat to accomplish. A well timed “BOO!” at the right decibel level can produce an easy jump scare or two, because a scare is just a simple reaction to an unexpected moment. On the other hand fear is on an entirely different level. It is lingering in its impact as it follows you long after the movie is over. Fear will haunt you for days causing you to constantly look over your shoulder. Most horror films aspire for that reaction but very few come close. Sam Raimi’s 1981 film The Evil Dead is largely viewed as one horror film that was successful at that goal. As we have come to expect in today’s age of movies it has now been remade with a new cast and a new vision. Fede Alvarez was given the responsibility directing a film that reimages Raimi’s past work for a new generation. Overall his work is a worthy entry to this established franchised. Evil Dead is a gruesome creation of hectic carnage and disturbing gore. While it lacks the dark sense of humor of the original it at least makes sure to bring the chaotic fun.

Many people argue The Evil Dead has already been remade previously, by Raimi himself when he made Evil Dead II. So most wonder why this is being made in the first place. That answer is most likely is financial. That does not necessarily mean it is impossible to make a quality film. Hollywood is a business first so it is the nature of the game. Though the motivation behind this version of Evil Dead is not as admirable as the original it still maintains much of the same spirit. The plot is very similar as a group of friends are setting off for a stay in an isolated wooden cabin. One shift is these are not a group going off for vacation rather they are there to aid in their friend’s sobriety. That small but important shift is an easy way to make these characters feel more adult and sympathetic. It also makes the idea of people staying is a desolated cabin make a lot more sense.

Mia (Levy), who is attempting to beat her drug habit, also has a complicated relationship with her estranged brother David (Fernandez). Again it was a quick and easy way to build these characters, though it does feel like a cheap way of cultivating deeper interactions.  Fortunately it does take its time in developing this story instead of rushing head first into the blood and guts. When you look at the great horror films one common factor is a strong lead you can easily get behind. Here that lead role is constantly changing to keep you on your toes. If anyone were to claim that title it would have to be Jane Levy who does do a fantastic job. Her character’s flaw makes her even more sympathetic. Trying to get over substance abuse and fight demonic forces at the same time is like trying to learn how to swim by being dropped in the middle of a shark invested ocean with handfuls of raw ground beef. Pain, blood, and screams are surely to follow. In addition it allows the other characters’ reaction to her strange behavior make more sense. Again it’s an easy and clumsy way to get a desired result, but at least better than the sheer ignorance most horror films give you.

Questionable decision making is a common trope with horror and it of course can be found here. The group comes upon a strange and horrific book that warns of coming doom. Curiosity gets the better of them and they end up releasing a hoard of demons and evil spirits. Now what started as a sequestered intervention has escalated into a life and death fight for survival. The atmosphere progresses nicely into a dismay of reckless human agony. We live in a world where it is easy to be desensitized. With shows like The Walking Dead on basic cable human disembowelment has become a weekly ritual. This makes The Walking Dead look like a less gritty version of Little House on the Prairie. The tearing of limbs, cutting of faces, and the licking of knives are some of the more heartwarming moments. It is the type of experience where many will become very familiar with the sticky floor of their local theater as they stare longingly in an attempt to escape the horrifying torture on screen. At times it does come off as unnecessarily exploitative. As if it needed to consistently apt up its own levels to keep your attention.

Another positive aspect was the reliance practical effects. Great uses of makeup gave a physicality to the contorted tears of the human body. Watching someone have to resort to cutting off their own arm is strangely more entertaining when it is done practicality. Brutality wasn’t the only way it provokes the audience.  Fede Alvarez uses his camera in inventive ways to bring you into the moment. Many of his techniques are reminiscent of the original, but he also brings some of his own ideas. Unlike many of the torture porn filled horror films of today the fear wasn’t completely reliant on the gore. Instead it exemplified the scares to a higher level. While it never did anything extremely new for the genre, what was there was well executed. It was a simple case of taking a familiar formula and executing it well.

The Evil Dead franchise has legions of loyal fans who are understandably apprehensive to see a movie they love in new hands. First and foremost Evil Dead is successful at being a quality entry to the horror genre. Tonally it was altered greatly from the original with a complete absence of any humor. Those who have weak stomachs will want to stay away from this barrage of gore and blood. Those looking for organic scares will be happy with the end result. By averting expectations in every turn it kept you on the precipice of fright.  If you can maintain yourself amongst a level of high violence you can appreciate the B-Movie artistry on display.

Evil Dead is released in UK cinemas on April 18th.

**** 4/5

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