“The most terrifying film you will ever experience” is the tagline for Fede Alvarez’s remake of the 1981 cult favourite The Evil Dead. By promoting the film in such a confident way, this technique is only ever going to backfire, as they’re overselling the product somewhat – this film is by no means the most terrifying film you will ever experience. In fact, it’s barely the most terrifying film you’ll see this side of summer.
Five friends decide to retreat to an isolated cabin in the woods (uh-oh) to help Mia (Jane Levy) find some tranquility and security in her bid to overcome her narcotics addition, with her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) also present to offer his sister some moral support. However, this soon becomes a mere side project, as the group have to start fighting for their lives, after Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) naively and curiously opens up the Book of the Dead, and unwittingly summons up the demons from within.
It’s intriguing to watch Evil Dead – not only from a comparative angle in regards to the Sam Raimi original, but also in the wake of Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woods, a satirical and witty deconstruction of the horror genre released last year. This does make the viewing of Evil Dead somewhat challenging, as although working as a compelling point of reference, drawing parallels between the two only seeks to expose some of this film’s generic horror conventions – thus detracting from the supposedly terrifying aspects.
However to leap to the defence of Alvarez, he isn’t trying to make a film that will necessarily frighten the viewer – Evil Dead is a far more riotous event, thriving within the overstated and immoderate approach, evidently proud of its frivolity. That said, it’s not quite nonsensical and fatuous enough to be taken as a comedy horror, and neither is it scary enough to provoke genuine fear – falling carelessly in the middle, preventing this from being the truly memorable cinematic experience it has set out to be.
The horror itself is gory and blatant, yet unlike the early 80’s – such a simple form of horror does little to shock audiences any more, as we’ve grown accustomed to such a style. Evil Dead relies too heavily on body parts being cut off, or nails going into eyelids, for example, to provoke shock amongst the audience, and it simply doesn’t feel unique or innovative in any way. Alvarez also makes the mistake of introducing all the gore and bloodshed too early on, whereas a more slow, pensive build up would increase the horrifying elements, intensifying the suspense and tension along the way. We are presented with the perfect opportunity to go down a psychological route, as once Mia is possessed she could play with her victims, passing off her actions as cold turkey – however this side to the film is not explored, bypassing it to leap straight into blood and guts.
Although good fun, Evil Dead is evidently a contrived attempt to gain cult status, with some one-liners that are designed purely to be quoted. However, obtaining cult status – much like the original has managed – needs to be achieved naturally. If you vie for it, you’ll struggle. Despite this, the final half an hour is brilliant fun, and you find yourself close to clapping and whooping on occasion. There may be a number of criticisms to be had in Evil Dead, but it succeeds from an entertainment point of view, proving to be a truly fun piece of cinema, even if a little forced.
Of course comparisons to the original are inevitable – and in most cases, somewhat damaging – yet the filmmakers deserve the right for this to be judged of its own accord and it’s not a terrible movie, not by any means. However unlike the original, this comes at a time when so many films have attempted to be like The Evil Dead, and now this is just Evil Dead trying to be The Evil Dead, losing any innovation that the original carries. If you’re going to do a remake you need to offer something a little more unique to warrant your decision and although this is fun, it’s just not anything we haven’t seen before. However on the subject of 80s remakes, this is a hell of a lot better than Red Dawn.