Title: Evil Dead
Director: Fede Alvarez
Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Jessica Lucas, Lou Taylor Pucci, Elizabeth Blackmore
Plot: David (Fernandez) and his friends arrange to meet at his family’s cabin with the plan to help David’s sister Mia (Levy) kick her heroin addiction by going cold turkey. However when one of the group discovers the Naturom Demonto (aka the book of the dead) they unwittingly unleash the evil in the woods.
Review: When this film was first announced it was unsurprisingly greeted with groans of disapproval from the fans of Sam Raimi’s original trilogy who for years had held out for a forth film, something that was seemingly being squashed with this film. Equally with the current track record for remakes for horror remakes not being exactly spectacular you can understand why most people were sceptical and really the main reason it’s taken me until now to actually watch it. However what we have here is not so much a remake or rebook, but rather an indirect sequel of sorts which carries over the ideas of the trilogy while at the same time introducing a new group of characters instead of trying to work in any members of the established cast, an idea which would also convince Bruce Campbell to sign on as a producer having long resisted the idea of remaking the films which helped him rise to cult stardom as he didn’t want to see anyone else play Ash.
Clearly a fan of the original films director Alvarez here making his feature debut while also co-writing the script with Rodo Sayagues (with further script doctoring from Diablo Cody) clearly isn’t trying and reinvent the wheel here, as builds he film following the same rules of the previous films, while at the same time peppering the film with numerous nods to those film, as he even manages to find a way to work in Raimi’s trademark Oldsmobile.
Despite the cast being made up of Unknowns with perhaps the exception of Jane Levy (sadly not a red head here) they are still make for an interesting group with each character different enough or having their own role, to stop them from being yet another disposable group of teens. Sadly this doesn’t seem to stretch to general intelligence as seen by the fact that we have one of them messing around with the book, which this time comes wrapped in plastic and barbwire, let alone numerous notes scrawled in its pages not to read it, which for some unknown reason still doesn’t deter Eric (Pucci) who you’d wrongly believe to be the smart one from reading it and of course unleashing all kinds of gooey terror on the group.
One of the main concerns going into this film was that the gore which made the first two films stand out, let alone land the first film on the Video nasties list would be absent especially in these times were studios are actively seeking lower ratings in order to guarantee larger box office returns. Thankfully this wasn’t the case here as it more than delivers in the gore stakes, perhaps even surpassing that of the original as over 70,000 gallons of fake blood were used with 50,000 alone being used for the finale were it literally rains blood. To further put this into context the original only used 200-300 gallons and here it really is put to effective use, more so with Alvarez insisting on using old school effects and only using CGI to touch up which is always welcome.
While the film follows several similar beats to the original film such as locking a possessed member in the cellar, here Alvarez aims to bring his own shocks even reworking the notorious tree rape scene from the original film which honestly comes off a lot more shocking than the original. Elsewhere we get plenty of bodily mutation with such highlights as arms being torn off and one character attempting to cut their own jaw off. A lot of the gore is also surprisingly refreshing in its originality even if perhaps some of it does come off a little cornball such as one character taking a bread knife to her possessed arm.
While the setting for the film is certainly haunting enough as it combines scenes of heavy rain and creepy mist which made me wonder if they were taking art direction from “Silent Hill” as especially seen with the opening featuring a girl staggering through the woods only to be ambushed and bagged by a bunch of deformed yokels, only for Alvarez to pull the rug from under us as he reveals that these are actually good guys and trying to help her father soon leading to one of the early shocks. While this general tone is maintained throughout it does however suffer thanks to a plodding plot which certainly causes the film to sag in the middle as Alvarez doesn’t seemingly know the direction in which to take the film. This becomes especially present when things start getting distracted with trying to reverse the possession instead of sticking with the original concept of making it to dawn. We also get some confused plot about a demon being summoned by the souls of the group being possessed something which lost me largely down to it seemingly being written into the plot in the final quarter.
While certainly better than the most of the horror remakes currently being churned out and an enjoyable enough experience, it suffers largely due to the pedigree of the films it’s trying to remake so the fact that Alvarez clearly was trying to do something different than just remaking the original certainly was a welcome surprise, it’s just a shame that its questionable plotting stops it from being better than it is.