Evil Dead (2013)
The “Evil Dead” trilogy from “Spider-Man” director Sam Raimi is one of the more famous in the horror genre, not the least of which is because each installment is so different from the last. While the starter is a straightforward brutal horror movie, its sequels would play up comedy in increasing amounts until the concluder “Army of Darkness” contained very little traces of horror anymore. Now, as much as I love the first one, and it is still a great little B-movie, the crudeness of its appearance makes it riper for a reimagining than many other hallowed horror classics. With that in mind, the prospect of young blood coming in to rejuvenate the original in remake form had me excited, particularly because newcomer Fede Alvarez was determined to return to the horror elements that begin the trilogy.
After a prologue that establishes the grim mood, Alaverz and his co-writer Rodo Sayagues admirably avoid the cliché of kids going to a cabin in the woods to party. There is a real reason for this group to go there: their friend Mia is attempting to kick a drug habit cold turkey with the help of them and her estranged brother David. This provides a bit more of a backbone to the characters than I expected, and I appreciated that there was an attempt at creating actual characters we can care for.
From there, as is expected in an “Evil Dead” movie, they find the book of the dead, someone reads it, and then it all hits the fan. Or at least it should have. The largest problem here, and one that looms over the whole movie once the demons are unleashed, is that every time the movie feels like its gearing up to the next level by building momentum it stops dead in its tracks. There is a pervasive start-stop-start-stop feeling to the pacing that often kills the excitement and tension that previously looked like it was building, leaving only the dread-induced atmosphere to carry it along when the thrust lets up.
Taken as individual parts and scenes, the set pieces are fairly impressive on their own. If there is one thing that is unquestionably great about this remake, and boy is it incredible, is the gore factor. Raimi’s first two “Evil Dead” movies certainly let the blood flow liberally (to put it mildly), but they look restrained in comparison to the torrent of violence and gore on display here. Alvarez achieves all of this almost entirely through practical effects, and the hard work put into them pays off with their startling shock value and cringe inducing moments. Once the climax draws closer, it only gets more and more over-the-top until reaching a final kill that is spectacular in its gleeful abandon.
Alvarez’s heart is in the right place, and his intentions to diversify his iteration from the 1981 original (when he isn’t referencing or recreating specific bits) are mostly successful, although even he can’t escape many of the tired tropes of the genre. Some of the more effectively done jump scares are often overshadowed by hackneyed ones, and the movie has a couple look-away-look-back scares too many, as well as another predictable bit with a mirror. Also, and skip to the next paragraph if you want to avoid a minor spoiler, the black character is once again the first to die. Come on, this is 2013, we should be over this by now.
Even with these issues, this remake of “Evil Dead” can be enjoyed if entered with the right mindset. There are certainly many callbacks to the originals, although this definitely feels more like Alvarez’s “Evil Dead” than Raimi’s “Evil Dead.” The gore and violence is very extreme, so the faint of heart (and stomach) will want to skip out. Additionally, the tone is one of dark horror, so don’t go in expecting the slapstick humor that was injected into “Evil Dead 2.” This is a hardcore effort in mainstream horror, where horror movies are usually toned down for mass audiences, that is often fairly entertaining even though it doesn’t all come together into an unrelenting stream of suspense.