Sam Raimi’s cult classic gets a darker update.
Over the last decade Hollywood has been steadily remaking its way through some of horror’s most iconic movies. Almost every major franchise has been resurrected, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th are just some of the greatest hits of horror to be brought up to date and it was only a matter of time before The Evil Dead got a new modern make over.
There are few films within this genre as highly regarded as Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy, blending comedy with horror effortlessly his shoestring budget debut has served as inspiration for a generation of filmmakers.
Labeling this a remake is strictly speaking not accurate, the darker tone and absence of humour would suggest a re-imagining but it’s actually closer to a pseudo-continuation than anything else. The setting is practically identical to the first two films (the second being a remake of the first), it’s as if the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis simply rebuilt the cabin as soon as Ash was zapped back in time at the end of Evil Dead 2.
Forced to stay in the remote cabin whilst on a her latest attempt to get drug free, Mia (Jane Levy) is joined by her brother David (Shiloh Fernadez) his girlfriend Natalie and a few other future cadavers. Mia takes an instant dislike to their temporary accommodation which her friends put down to her detox, but when the group find a cellar full of dead animals and the charred remains of a body brings with it the discovery of the Book of the Dead aka The Necronomicon Ex-Mortis.
Despite warnings and even barbwire around the book one of the group foolishly reads from it and unleashes hell, at this point it becomes difficult to care about the fate of the group as they have brought the oncoming nightmare entirely on themselves. First time feature director Fede Alvarez was handpicked by Raimi, making the smart choice Alvarez doesn’t try to copy what’s gone before aside from a few little in jokes including a cameo from Raimi’s Delta 88 car that has appeared in every film the director has made.
For the most part the gamble pays off with some truly stomach churning gore including a scene involving self mutilation with a Stanley knife, the infamous ‘tree rape’ scene gets a more vivid reworking and a chainsaw once again proves to be a must have item for a horror movie survivor. There are some clever plot twists that suggest these events are not real and Mia is having a psychotic breakdown, whilst these misdirections are swiftly abandoned their inclusion adds a psychological layer to the relentless blood soaked carnage.
What will please the hardcore fans is the decision to use only practical effects and not include any digital trickery, this fits in with the previous Evil Dead world but the amplified nasty streak coursing through its veins would be more at home in the torture porn likes of Hostel or Saw. The genre bending antics of Joss Whedon’s Cabin in the Woods was the cinematic equivalent of a full stop for this type of horror movie. When will these young people learn to stay out of the woods and if they find any kind of wood based structure (cabin or otherwise) they should run like their life depended on it rather than stick around, haven’t these kids ever seen a horror movie themselves?
Modern horror movies could learn a lot from their 70s and 80s counterparts, 35 years ago filmmakers weren’t afraid of injecting comedy or even a bit of camp value into their work. Today we are inundated with dark and serious horror films that spend 90 minutes slaughtering an array of one dimensional characters, Raimi’s own return to horror with Drag Me To Hell reminded the world he could still cut it as a master of terror but his lighter side was still evident. So the fact that this was conceived as a straight up horror is a little disappointing.
What does give the movie a full extra star is the post credit scene which brings exciting possibilities to the future of the franchise, without spoiling it for you i’ll just say it’s “Groovy” and well worth sticking around for.
The Evil Dead is out now in cinemas.