Thursday, 18 April 2013
Review: Evil Dead
I'm guessing everyone reading this is more or less fed up with remakes, especially of classic horror and gore movies. The question isn't that there wouldn't be any material to develop or improve upon. It's that most remakes tend to be Hollywood's most shallow, boring retreads of ideas that were already made to better effect decades ago. But the Evil Dead remake at least was made with a bit more ambition than usual.
Produced by Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, the new version doesn't just have the same characters nor the same storyline. The basics are there, but director/screenwriter Fede Alvarez has left plenty of room for the audience to be surprised, too. Which is quite essential when attempting to scare people, to say the least. Thus, instead of a new wise-cracking Ash we have a couple of red herrings leading on who the actual lead might be.
The basics are still the same worn-out story so mocked in The Cabin In The Woods: Five twenty-somethings and their dog drive for a weekend in a secluded cabin. The intention is to make Mia (Jane Levy) get off her drug addiction. Helping her are his stoic, wood-faced brother David (Shiloh Fernandez), his boring blonde girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore), rock chick Olivia (Jessica Lucas) and the newly started science teacher Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci).
As if they hadn't enough trouble with Mia's mood swings, caused by the withdrawal effects, it soon dawns to everyone that something else is a lot more wrong in the cabin. Skinned cats are hanging on the cellar ceiling, and there are evidences of a strange ritual having taken place there. Eric finds a leather-bound old book, and makes the mistake of reading it aloud. Soon the evils of the forest catch up with the group, possessing them one by one.
Whereas the original Evil Dead played around a lot with the wrath of nature itself, making the secluded cabin feel a lot more claustrophobic, the horrors in the new one are much more human-based. It takes a while for the characters to notice that something within Mia is unnatural, since they all figure she acts weirdly because of her drug withdrawal. Likewise, girls shedding blood, screaming out, acting moody, crazy or even threatening isn't by itself enough to really freak David nor Eric out. Both of the boys are in a relationship with a woman, after all. There's a bit of a whiff of misogynism here.
The start of the movie is played out quite seriously, which makes one fear whether the trademarked Evil Dead humor is lost entirely (Yes, even the first one did have comedic sequences, albeit much subtler than the pure slapstick sequels. Watch it again if you don't believe me.). Luckily, splatter humor crawls into the movie slowly, going all out in the final scene. There's no denying that the tone of the movie is spot-on, and the practical gore effects are brilliant. Not a single CGI shot was used in the movie, and it's all for the better. It makes the film more physical, and makes the cringe-worthy scenes really feel in your guts.
The problem then, is that the actual characters aren't very interesting. Even if there's some attempt to flesh them out early on, they never grow on you and subsequently you don't really care what happens to them. Except for Olivia, but then again Jessica Lucas is ungodly hot in this movie. Even if the characters weren't retrieved from stock archives, at least the film could still tighten the terror and hysteria a notch or two. Maybe Alvarez didn't have the heart to torture his cast as much as Sam Raimi did.
The movie does worst when it attempts to recreate the most iconic scenes of the original. For instance the tree-rape is now more graphic, less painful and a lot more unbelievable. In the original one the fast cutting allowed imagination to fill out the most nasty parts (pun unintended, sorry). A similar effect could've worked better in several places here, too.
It's a film made for metal heads as much as anything Rob Zombie has ever produced. This is evidenced by the fact that Evil Dead brings to life several lyrics from Slayer's 1987 magnum opus, Reign In Blood. Like, say 2007's Halloween, however, it is a film that has several inventive, even great parts, but as a whole just can't carry out the legacy of the original. Shame, this one had more promise. But perhaps Alvarez will produce something entirely his own now.
Director: Fede Alvarez
Screenplay: Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues Mendez
Cinematography: Peter Deming
Starring: Shiloh Fernandez, Jane Levy, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore