Evil Dead (2013)
(18) Running time: 91 minutes
Director: Fede Alvarez
Writers: Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues, Diablo Cody
Cast: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish
When a sort of Evil Dead remake was announced, naturally fans were a bit upset, sceptical and no doubt angry that one of the finest horror films of all time was getting ‘the treatment’. Director Fede Alvarez must have been nervous as hell when he was handpicked by Sam Raimi to helm Evil Dead, but he went ahead with one of the bravest re-imaginings of all time. The big question is, does Alvarez deliver? The simple answer to that is hell fucking yes! The other questions is, will this “re-birth” (as Alvarez calls it)annoy the fans, or have them cheering with joy? I am a fan of Raimi’s The Evil Dead trilogy, with a passion, and even I was questioning this new version in the beginning. However, it is not often you find me laughing with sheer joy, and actually waving my fist in the air and letting out a “hell yeah!” while watching a film, Evil Dead made me do that for two reasons. First, because it is hands down one of the best horror films of the year, and secondly because Alvarez has given the fans something bold, brilliant and totally in the originals debt (in a good way).
Make no mistake, this is Alvarez’ film, and granted with a little help from producers Sam Raimi and the God-like Bruce Campbell, he was able to deliver his own unique take of the familiar story, but also gives plenty of nods to the original. Not for a second does this film feel like it is copying Raimi’s versions, or stealing its ideas. Instead, when we do see something we have seen before (the tree rape, the cabin, the cellar, the ‘wind’ in the woods, the Book of the Dead, the use of shotguns, the question “did you see her eyes?”, etc) it never feels like a cheap copy, and 100% feels like a mark of respect, a homage to the brilliance Raimi delivered some thirty years ago. I can’t imagine these nods annoying fans at all, instead they will cheer them on, letting everyone else in the cinema know that they are also fans of what has come before, a proud of it.
Alvarez takes the familiar story of five friends going to a cabin in the woods, and unleashing something evil, and gives it a very clever twist. Instead of having a holiday, these five friends are here to help Mia (Jane Levy) sort out her drugs problem. Other methods have been tried, tested and failed, so as a last resort the friends decide to head to a remote cabin and literally make Mia go cold turkey. This clever idea means the friends don’t realise something is seriously wrong with Mia until it is too late. The idea comes mainly from student nurse Olivia (Cloverfield’s Jessica Lucas), and along for the ride are geeky Eric (Pucci), his girlfriend Natalie (Blackmore) and Mia’s brother David (Fernandez). The characters are all here to suffer some horrific violence, but for once they are not empty shells simply used to shed blood. They are all quite likeable, and each has his or her own characteristics that make them stand out. Alvarez has already won by creating a cast worth caring about, and boy will he test your emotions once the intensity and violence cranks up!
We arrive at the cabin, like in Raimi’s film, within the first five minutes, and it is full on from that point. After a quick whizz back in time to see a girl quite literally burned liked a witch, we head to present day and meet who will be our friends for the next 90 minutes. The films following ten minutes or so will be your only relaxation, so enjoy it while you can. Complaining of a “bad smell” in the cellar, Mia eventually gets everyone to investigate, and lots of dead cats and “voodoo shit” is found. With the cabin showing signs of a break-in, Eric finds a mysterious book which no doubt was left there by the same people who left all this black magic lying around. Tied up with barbed wire, you’d think it best to leave it alone, but not Eric, he cuts it open and reads words out loud. Considering there are warnings and creepy Demonic markings all over this book, you have to question why he did it, but he does, and the silly sod unleashes hell (literally). Mia is the first to suffer. In a fit of rage over the ‘cold turkey’ business and of some horrific visions of a dead girl, she steals the car and does a runner, crashes, and ends up in the clutches of perverted vines with a fancy of females. You all know where this leads, and Alvarez delivers the infamous tree-rape scene with style and brutality, and this will likely be some viewers first (of many) look away moments.
From here on in the promise of “the most terrifying film you will ever experience” is well and truly delivered. Granted Evil Dead is not quite as scary as we were all hoping for, but as an all out vicious horror intent making the US R rating, or the UK’s 18, actually worthy of being used, it succeeds. Yes there are plenty of cleverly executed scares (the familiar mirror in the bathroom, the sudden silence and crippling wait for the shock moment, dark corners and some wonderful moments with a possessed Mia), but Evil Dead will have you literally not knowing whether you should be puking, pissing yourself or nervously laughing because you thought you were tough enough to handle this. Alvarez’ film is an assault, plain and simple, and is a horror film that will test the nerves and stomachs of even those hardened horror fans who claim they never get scared, or can eat hot dogs and nachos while watching, and never feel physically sick.
Evil Dead will definitely separate the men from the boys, and I guarantee you will see these hardnut horror fans pretending not to be scared or revolted by laughing at the bad bits. Listen out for them in the cinema, they will be in there, and then you can laugh at them if you are still standing. The assault goes on and on, and just when you think the makers have run out of ideas or weapons, they introduce something else. Nail guns, shot guns, fucking needles (one of the worst scenes), electric meat carvers, metal bars, even vomit are used as weapons of some kind, and it is glorious fun watching it. A big hats off to Alvarez for using practical effects rather than CGI, and his film looks all the better for it. When you see fingers smashed, limbs torn off, faces cut off and nails entering arms and faces, you feel it, and if you are looking away, the stunning sound effects will ensure you have no escape.
Then, as you might well be feeling that you cannot take anymore, the film delivers a finale that takes things to a whole new level. The finale is just brilliant, and if you were questioning anything to do with this film for whatever reason, the finale completes the onslaught perfectly and with panache. The finale will leave you breathless and desperate for more, and will no doubt have fans lining up to see a sequel.
Evil Dead is a modern horror masterpiece, filled with such desire to give horror fans a ‘proper’ horror again. It is clear all involved adore the genre, and respect the fans of the genre. Alvarez has pretty much come out of nowhere and delivered a brave, ballsy, brutal horror flick that is destined for cult status like the film it aspires to be. We have a new scream Queen in Jane Levy who delivers an utterly convincing and frightening performance, and Evil Dead is all of a sudden brought to life once more. This film has used its own unique tricks to open up a whole new universe for fans, and will allow Alvarez to take this into his own direction with the proposed sequel. Raimi and Campbell will no doubt be extremely proud of their protégé, and very happy with the results. This is a horror film made by fans for the fans, and in short, Evil Dead is a horror fans wet dream. One word of advice though, stick with the film right to the end of the credits, there is something very special in store.