out of Five
Running time: 91
Fede Alvarez's Raimi-approved Evil Dead remake is well made and delivers buckets of the red stuff, but it's hampered by poorly developed characters, a lack of humour and a tendency to substitute gore for actual scares.
What's it all about?
Directed by Fede Alvarez, Evil Dead is a Sam Raimi-approved (he produced, along with Bruce Campbell and original collaborator Rob Tapert) ‘requel’ (part remake, part reboot, part sequel) of Raimi's 1981 horror classic. Updated to the present day, the film stars Jane Levy (Suburgatory) as Mia, a heroin addict whose brother (Shiloh
Fernandez) and three friends (Jessica Lucas, Lou Taylor Pucci and Elizabeth Blackmore) have taken her to a remote cabin in the woods so that she can go cold turkey. However, when the group find a mysterious book in the cabin's basement, they unwittingly release an evil demon that wants to possess them all and soon they are fighting for their lives.
Sam Raimi's stamp of approval puts Evil Dead a notch above other recent remakes of classic horror movies and Alvarez is certainly faithful to the spirit of the original film, maintaining a decent pace and, pleasingly, relying on old-fashioned effects rather than resorting to CGI. Similarly, the film is strikingly lit and shot throughout, courtesy of Aaron Morton's effectively shadowy cinematography, while Roque Banos' score creates an appropriately intense atmosphere.
The performances, however, are less successful. Levy is excellent as Mia, whether possessed (she puts in a lot of excellent twitching work) or unpossessed, while there's strong work from Lou Taylor Pucci (probably the best known cast member), who gets what is basically the film's only funny line. However, Lucas, Blackmore and Fernandez are entirely forgettable and thus completely interchangeable, to the point where it's impossible to care about whether they make it or not.
The main difficulty with the film is that, although it's well made, it doesn't really bring anything new or interesting to the franchise, which renders it rather pointless. It's also extremely difficult to pull off a cabin-in-the-woods film in the wake of Cabin in the Woods (much as Scream effectively killed off the straight slasher film); set against both that film and Raimi's own comedy remake Evil Dead II, the lack of humour in Alvarez's Evil Dead is something of a problem (the odd knowing nod to a significant object aside).
On top of that, the film opts for high intensity gore over actual scares, so it never really gets under your skin. That said, though the film gets a little repetitive in the middle section, it does at least rally for an enjoyably all-out, blood-soaked final act.
Evil Dead is an efficient but ultimately pointless remake that's unlikely to replicate the impact of the original film, though Alvarez has enough style to suggest that he could be a horror talent to watch.