SXSW ’13 – Evil Dead Review


A wet, nasty remake that is scary, suffocatingly self-referential

Evil Dead is a great remake but it is not a very good film. The movie, a surprisingly faithful – except when it isn’t – adaptation of Sam Raimi’s seminal ‘80s horror film amps up the violence and gore for shocking results. The movie really pushes the boundaries of splatter horror in a way that audiences haven’t seen since perhaps Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive. Unfortunately, a cop out ending and excessive fan-service in the third act ultimately hamper the film.

The result is a movie that should please most horror fans with its dedication to excessively gory practical effects and deadly serious approach to horror but with any serious examination of the movie’s structure, though, the final product stands revealed to be a fan film made by The Evil Dead‘s ultimate fans – its original creators.

When a group of young adults decide to spend the weekend in an isolated cabin – part of an intervention designed to help one of their own detox from their drug addictions – they unwittingly evoke the ancient, formless demons that live in the woods. One by one, the friends are possessed, mutilated and dispatched in increasingly violent ways until there is only one. Winks and nods to the original films permeate the movie’s already faithful approach to the original’s story.

What separates Evil Dead from the original film is a slickness to its production and, unfortunately, the lack of an overwhelmingly original style to the director’s approach. Where Sam Raimi deftly announced the appearance of a fresh and original filmmaking voice with his debut feature-length film, Fede Alvarez’s film looks like it could be made by any of the anonymous music video directors that have been farmed out to the Platinum Dunes remakes that have angered so many horror fans in the last decade. Gone are the memorable creature designs, unsettling sound design or frenzied camera angles that made Raimi such a memorable director.

SPOILERS follow – so beware!

Despite all the small quibbles, the film really is entertaining in its unrelenting brutality. The movie is a marvel of technical wizardry when it comes to the gross and stomach-churning. It could have easily had been a contender for one of the better Hollywood-produced horror films of the last decade if it wasn’t for its infuriating third act.

In what should have been a novel example of misdirection, Jane Levy’s Mia is thrust into an unexpected character arc that, while admirable in its desire to subvert expectations, is completely unearned. The finale underwhelms in scope and its excessive fan-baiting nature leaves the film a flaccid promise of future sequels cynically designed to appeal to the horror convention crowd.

While any Evil Dead movie lacking Sam Raimi’s wild approach to the camera feels lacking, Alvarez’s movie comes admirably close to finding a voice of its own (even if it is a slightly less interesting voice) whenever it cam pull itself away from the circle-jerk cycle of self-referencing that constantly threatens to suffocate the movie.

Evil Dead. The movie is very entertaining and there are sequences of raw, wet nastiness that come close to great. The third act, as frustrating as it is, does not ultimately damn the movie. Hell, it could be worse – Evil Dead the remake is legions better than any of the video games or comic books that Sam Raimi has felt comfortable slapping the series’ name on in the last several decades.

Directors: Fede Alvarez
Writers: Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues and Diablo Cody
Notable Cast: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Jessica Lucas and Lou Taylor Pucci

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