I return to the woods and watch Evil Dead 2013 starring Inca - bring a raincoat it gets bloody - Evil Dead Review

Friday, April 19, 2013 Craig Grobler 0 Comments

American horror has had a tough time of it of late, for a genre based around scaring people it is constantly being shoehorned into the lucrative but tame family entertainment market - which kind of shoots itself in the foot.

But every once in awhile a film comes along that breaks all the rules, thinks out the puzzle box and eschews the demographics to tell a story in an exciting and original way of how the unknown, with hidden rationale and motivations relentlessly inflicts unreasonable amounts of punishment upon its victims  - leaving  you the viewer feeling as if you have  just been dragged through a thorny bush and once its over you are relieved to be on the other side. And whilst there will always be an argument for horror being about ideas which are infinitely more scary than a visual  bloodletting, but it is my experience that it is actually the combination of the two that makes those rare great horror films.

You know the kind of film I am talking about Sir Ridley Scott does, John Carpenter does, Clive Barker does, Neil Marshall does,  Tobe Hooper does, Hideo Nakata does, Wes Craven does, Alexandre Aja does (most of the time), David Moreau & Xavier Palud do, Pascal Laugier does, Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sánchez do and Sam Raimi does, but does Fede Alvarez the Director of the Evil Dead 2013?

Evil Dead 2013 Poster
Evil Dead 2013 Poster

Well if you watch the video below Sam Raimi seems to think so. So if you have enjoyed any of Sam Raimi's recent films it stands to reason that you'll probably enjoy Evil Dead 2013. So stop reading now and go watch the film.
Video: The Establishing Shot: EVIL DEAD SIZZLE FEATURETTE - 18 APRIL 2013

Back in 1981 Sam Raimi made one of the films I am talking about when he unleashed a torrent of disgust in his first feature film Evil Dead after an incantation was read from an ancient and evil book the Naturom Demonto: the Book of the Dead or rather the Necronomicon Ex Mortis as it is now known, there are few films from my teens where I can remember where I was and how I watched them - The Evil Dead is one of those films.

A combination of low fidelity grittiness, truly heinous antagonists, realistic special effects, innovative camera work, dirty voyeurism and an outlandish situation that is inescapable made The Evil Dead one of the horror greats (as well as banned and reviled). Possibly it attraction was the incongruence of the terrifyingly realistic schlocky B grade film that was clearly made by someone who understood and loved film and a talent that belied by the content portrayed. The only film to come close to tapping into a level of terror with similar content came 18 years later with The Blair Witch Project.
Evil Dead - David (Shiloh-Fernandez), Olivia (Jessica Lucas) & Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci)
Evil Dead - David (Shiloh-Fernandez), Olivia (Jessica Lucas) & Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci)

Over the last 10 years horror films from the US have had it even tougher as their cautious approach to horror has put them at a creative disadvantage to foreign competition both the Japanese and New French Extremity horror have swept audiences away with their no holds barred and innovative storytelling.

I envy you if you have not discovered their delights yet. Quick to capitalise on this Hollywood forgoes originality and sets about either remaking foreign films (The Ring, Quarantine, Grudge, Shutter) for the domestic audience or attempts to clone them or recruits foreign talent  (Pascal Laugier, Alexandre Aja) hoping that they can bring their own innovative style of filmmaking to Hollywood projects.
Enter Uruguayan commercials Director Fede Alvarez who rose to fame when his short film Ataque de Pánico! (Panic Attack!) became a YouTube hit back in 2009 and convinced Sam Raimi that Alvarez had a fresh and hungry approach that would revitalise Evil Dead for modern audiences.
Evil Dead - The Necronomicon, He'll Suck Your Soul
Evil Dead - The Necronomicon, He'll Suck Your Soul

If I am to be completely frank, initially I wasn't that interested in watching Evil Dead, happy to wait for the possibility of the original trilogy to pick up again (if ever) but with promises of Evil Dead being the most terrifying film I will ever see! Combined with the early buzz snowballing - how could I resist?

Evil Dead - Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) reads the Necronomicon
Evil Dead - Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) reads the Necronomicon

Remaking the The Evil Dead seemed like a prime opportunity to reinvigorate the Evil Dead legacy, bring it to a new audience as well as back to its considerable and eager fan base, as well as have some fun with the genre - but trying to capture the essence of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead is surely an almost insurmountable challenge as the essence of the Sam Raimi's Evil Dead mythology is difficult to quantify or to pin down as it is so broad -

EVIL DEAD - Greenband Trailer - From The Producers Of The Original Classic

The original Evil Dead was a dark film that pushed the boundaries of decency and shocked audiences it was groundbreaking, the sequel Evil Dead II was a bat sh*t crazy return to the cabin that had as much oddball stooges like humour in it as as horror with a strong leaning to the adventure serials of the 30s and homaging the stop motion work of Ray Harryhausen, again groundbreaking.

The final in the trilogy Army of Darkness pushed the boundaries yet again as we travel back in time and Ash has to fight the The Medieval Dead. So what do you take forward into the new age?

Evil Dead - Mia (Jane Levy) Feels the terror
Evil Dead - Mia (Jane Levy) Feels the terror

Well it was decided that the re-imagineering of Evil Dead would be a straight up redux of the original.

Evil lives again in 2013! From the producers of the original cult horror classic comes a terrifying new vision set to carve out its place as one of the must-see horror films of the year for both newcomers and genre aficionados alike. Five twenty-something friends become holed up in a remote cabin. When they discover a Book of the Dead, they unwittingly summon up dormant demons living in the nearby woods, which possess the youngsters in succession until only one is left intact to fight for survival.

The Establishing Shot: EVIL DEAD IN HERE WITH US CLIP - 18 APRIL 2013

Fede Alvarez's Evil Dead starts off well and very quickly opens up the scope of the film and I was loving it, it goes somewhere new somewhere fresh and the possibilities of where we could go seemed endless - but sadly just as quickly it jumps back to form and pretty we are back at the cabin - with the story focussing on 5 new victims; Mia (Jane Levy) a recovering drug addict and the reason we are at the cabin, David (Shiloh Fernandez) her estranged brother, Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) a bitter family friend shaping young minds, Olivia (Jessica Lucas) family friend and Eric's nurse girlfriend, Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) David's new girlfriend and most importantly Grandpa the Dog (played by Inca) who has as much, if not more personality than the other characters and the only one I could muster up any consideration for.

Alvarez replaces Sam Raimi's oddball genius with logic and there is more rationale to the story than ever before. Fede Alvarez's Evil Dead is a technically proficient film that is particularly well shot. He uses visual iconography from the original as well as gives the story a bit of a face lift but I felt it failed on two big elements:

Despite Alvarez being a technically proficient craftsmen who is clearly more than capable of making a good film he does not have a grip on the human elements of the characters, resulting in them being so unlikeable that not only did I not care about any of them - I couldn't wait till they were slaughtered. This may be part of Alvarez's twisted genius but it deflated much of the drama of the piece for me.

Evil Dead - David (Shiloh Fernandez)
Evil Dead - David (Shiloh Fernandez)

Part of what they get wrong is that none of the actors are given any time to develop screen personas, as they are busy building a rationale as to why we are at the cabin rather than exploring new ground, bringing me to my second point - the pacing of the narrative is completely off. The camera is like a jack rabbit in heat and it felt like we never see anything for longer than a couple of seconds. Sometimes less is more and whilst that may have worked for Alfred Hitchcock sadly it does not for Evil Dead.

We never linger on anything long enough to absorb it or for the full impact of the danger to reach its full potential or the gore to wash over us. Another casualty of this, are the special effects which seem to be genuinely top notch but are completely wasted as between the fast pace and the mood enhancing lighting we can't fully appreciate them.

There is no build,  release and re-build of tension at all, which, rather than leading to the film running at high tension, it just seems like we are watching a film at twice its normal speed and all impact of what could otherwise be a horrifying experience (some seriously bad ass stuff goes down) but it ends up like a very well made music video.
Evil Dead - Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) gets her hand on an electric carving knife
Evil Dead - Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) gets her hand on an electric carving knife

Those are some of the things I felt muted what could have been the most terrifying film I had ever seen but then again this may all work a lot better for someone who prefers their entertainment at full throttle without a need to think about what is going on or who isn't as immersed in the Evil Dead mythology as I am. In fact I think new audiences may absolutely be blown away by Fede Alvarez's Evil Dead

Fede Alvarez brings some clever plot devices to the tale and as I said before it is very well shot for a horror film. Evil Dead is technically brilliant, but now that this meh foundationary tale is out the way I am looking forward to seeing where they go next with the Evil Dead.

Evil Dead - Mia (Jane Levy) on Sam Raimi's 1973 Oldsmobile Delta (From the original Evil Dead)
Evil Dead - Mia (Jane Levy) on Sam Raimi's 1973 Oldsmobile Delta (From the original Evil Dead)

More information about Evil Dead can be found here: www.facebook.com/EvilDeadUK

Evil Dead is in cinemas from today, 18 April, 2013

Five friends head to a remote cabin, where the discovery of a Book of the Dead leads them to unwittingly summon up demons living in the nearby woods. The evil presence possesses them until only one is left to fight for survival.

Fede Alvarez
Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues, Sam Raimi, Diablo Cody
Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci