Evil Dead (2013) Review

Evil Dead (2013) Cover

Horror remakes. Every classic horror movie and its sequel seem to have had a remake in the last decade. The majority have been horrible and not in a good way.

The Evil Dead franchise is a beloved keystone of the horror genre, one that transcends horror into the realms of fantasy and even comedy. It’s been a long time coming, but Hollywood finally got its talons into the flick, and now a remake has been made. Is it a film that’s up to snuff? Is it a horrible snuff film? Is it a film that respects its legacy? 

Well hail to the king, baby. This is Evil Dead. Though it’s not quite the Evil Dead you know and love. It’s more of a bloody reincarnation that goes in a slightly different direction and is all the more brilliant for doing so.

In what is more of a pseudo sequel/spiritual successor to 1981’s The Evil Dead, Evil Dead follows an entirely new cast of characters as opposed to Bruce Campbell’s iconic Ash Williams. A group of friends and family find themselves at a cabin in the woods as part of an intervention for Mia (Jane Levy), a former drug-addict who had OD’d in the past and had since gotten back into the habit.

Evil Dead (2013) (Shiloh Fernandez)Mia’s brother David (Shiloh Fernandez), as well as friends Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), Olivia (Jessica Lucas) and Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) all join Mia at the cabin, a place they soon discover to be a location where mysterious and gruesome rituals took place in the basement. What was once set to be a stressful night of Mia trying to go cold turkey takes a turn for the worse, as Eric’s curiosity gets the better of him and he invariably wakes the evil demons that once laid dormant.

From there, the awoken spirit possesses Mia and all hell breaks loose. Almost literally.

To class it as a remake is questionable, in the same way that Evil Dead II feels like both a sequel and a remake of The Evil Dead. Though it isn’t a reboot either. 2013’s Evil Dead is a film that very much channels the original, homages it, follows a lot of the same beats, but at the same time goes off in a different direction with the different characters to make something new, bold, and interesting.

There are many nods to the original, with some concepts being twisted on their head this time around, and others being gleeful Easter eggs for fans. The second half especially is rewarding in this regard. And it’s not just rewarding for Evil Dead fans, but also for new viewers going in to see what the trailers promised them to find.

And gosh does the film deliver. While a little iffy to start – the film does overuse the jump scare and other usual scare tropes – once everything is unleashed on the poor unsuspecting inhabitants, it’s wonderful. From nods to the original’s brilliant cinematography and effects to the very climax, Evil Dead goes above and beyond most other contemporary studio-released horror movies in regards to how much blood, gore and horrific imagery is thrown at the audience. It isn’t just like that for the sake of being like that; there is good rhyme and reason towards the film’s choices. They did awake a great evil set to destroy after all.

Other than the gore and other effects being thrown left, right, and centre that make the film a great experience, it is also just a technically excellent film in its own right. It might be a bit jarring for the Evil Dead fan expecting Sam Raimi’s kinetic visual style and not finding that here, but director Fede Alvarez is able to make the film his own without relying too much on emulating Raimi’s legacy.

It also doesn’t rely on too many occasions where things jump into shot once the film is in its stride; instead they are slowly revealed one way or another. There is less a focus on what’s around the corner and more a focus on already knowing what’s around the corner, but anticipating what happens next.

The sound is also used very effectively in this way. Like most horror movies, it relies on the eerie calm before the storm, but it is never in your face with the audial pay-off. For the most part it is the fear of the supernatural and sheer body horror what works best on the audience. Once the film hits the third act at full speed, you’re in for a show.

Even the writing is on key. While it is lacking in classic one-liners for the most part, the script just does a fantastic job at foreshadowing. There are so many elements set up that once they all come back around it is very satisfying. There is a king in the details, and one that shows it is more than just a carbon copy remake.

One should not go into Evil Dead expecting a revival of Bruce Campbell’s glorious Ash Williams. The film is very much a child of the first Evil Dead film as opposed to the increasingly cartoonish splatter horror of the sequels. For those expecting more of a lean towards the postmodern genre-blend of the Evil Dead franchise, the perfect successor has already been made: Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woods.

2013’s Evil Dead is an update to the original’s formula that lives in the memory of its predecessor and celebrates it. Not so much a recreation as it is a revival. It is a gloriously brilliant and bloody film that does not disappoint.

There are eerie coincidences and brilliant rewards for those who love the original, but it can also be seen as an entirely new storyline. That’s just the way the Book of the Dead works. Lightning can strike twice; so can Hell.

And that’s just groovy.

Evil Dead is out now. It stars Jane Levy and Shiloh Fernandez and is directed by Fede Alvarez. Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues wrote the screenplay based on 1981’s The Evil Dead.

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