Jane Levy as Mia. Click on the 'Play' button above to watch the trailer for Evil Dead.
May 13, 2013
(Republished July 22, 2013)
We’ve crossed the Rubicon, people. I thought the wickedly funny satire The Cabin in the Woods had closed the book on this tired horror genre by tearing its tropes limb from limb. But, instead of letting it rest in peace, director Fede Alvarez had to pry it open and include his witless, refried adaptation of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead as a footnote. And if we learnt anything from The Evil Dead, summoning what was believed to be long deceased from a book never leads to any good. This new Evil Dead is about as essential as an Adam Levine solo album, which is to say, not at all.
You know the plot. This time around, however, there is one unique twist: an unlucky quintet of attractive twenty-somethings convenes at an isolated cabin to help Mia (Jane Levy) kick her heroin habit. Pals Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) and Olivia (Jessica Lucas) have convinced Mia’s estranged brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) to help out. He arrives late, girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) in tow. Mia can’t afford a failed intervention, her last OD nearly claiming her life. With such grave stakes, there’s not even any time for nookie (perhaps the only instance where screenwriters Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues defy convention).
Shiloh Fernandez as David, Jessica Lucas as Olivia, and Lou Taylor Pucci as Eric.
After a few hours off the horse, Mia starts to flip, complaining about a stench emanating from the basement. The boys check it out, discover dozens of dead cats strung up from the roof, and a flesh-covered book, bound in barbed wire and inked with blood. Of course, they shrug at the cats and return upstairs with the tome. A couple of recited incantations later, an unseen evil arrives, possessing the women one by one and causing them to brutalise their bodies in the most horrific of ways, before inspiring them to dismember their boyfriends. Women be chopping!
For what it’s worth, Alvarez has the blessing of the three-headed hydra that founded the series: Raimi, star Bruce Campbell, and producer Robert G. Tapert. They shepherded the production, so they must have had some faith in the team assembled for this reboot, if not an actual (dismembered) hand in the making of it. Yet, proclaiming itself “The Most Terrifying Film [We’ll] Ever Experience” in the promotional materials is the bravest thing 2013’s Evil Dead ever does.
As an affecting parable about drug addiction, it kind of works, anchored by Levy’s manic performance, as well as Fernandez’s grounded supporting turn. This ain’t 28 Days, though. It’s a scary movie without the scares. Or the laughs. Where is that knowing sense of humour we attribute to Raimi’s trilogy? The Cabin in the Woods might be a better spiritual reincarnation, in that regard.
Besides the blood, the only thing this Evil Dead carries over from its predecessors is misogyny, the one point of contention I have with the original. The infamous ‘tree rape’ reappears, and the women are once again targeted first, seemingly to excuse the levelheaded men from beating in their skulls. When the titular ‘Evil’ eventually emerges in personified form, demon looks like a lady. The final act tries to turn things around - and a post-credits button attempts to get us excited about a sequel, maybe - but it's too little too late.
Alvarez indeed ramps up the gore from its namesake’s already considerable benchmark. People are almost constantly pulling out shards of something or other from their skin, tearing off their own flesh, or slicing themselves – intentionally or unintentionally – with machetes, meat carvers, and even Stanley knives. At one point, it literally rains blood. Apparently much of the special effects have been created without the assistance of CGI, and that’s admirable. I will always appreciate a horror flick that introduces novel and inventive ways to dispatch of its cast. But the frights are almost totally absent. So what are we even doing here?
Evil Dead will be available on Quickflix from July 25, 2013.