Evil Dead (2013)
The problem with being a fan of horror films is that – more so than any other genre – the law of diminishing returns sets in fast. We watch horror films to be scared by them, but the more we watch, the more we become used to the tricks of the trade, and the harder it becomes to scare us. That’s why the primary audience for horror films are teenagers; they haven’t seen enough horror films yet to become jaded.
So when a horror film comes along that is genuinely scary, it really is something special, something to be held up and admired. So much so, that you excitedly tell all your other horror loving friends that they need to see it. The remake of Evil Dead, shocked as I am to say it, is such a film.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a wholly original film by any stretch of the imagination. Plenty of this is familiar territory. A bunch of young adults in an isolated cabin? Jump scares? Discordant music? We’ve seen all this before, right? In fact, it’s a remake, we’ve literally seen all this before. However, director Fede Alavarez masterfully plays upon the fact that this is a remake for some of the scares.
The old Hitchcock nugget about what defines tension goes something like this; two people sit at a table, a bomb goes off. That’s boring. But two people sit at a table, the camera pans down to show a bomb, then goes back to them sitting at a table. The audience knows what’s going to happen, and it’s the waiting for that to happen that builds the tension.
Alvarez uses this trick repeatedly, explicitly showing what will happen to a character in a page in the necronomicon and then making us slowly, gradually, agonisingly wait for the reveal to occur. But he’s at his most clever when he uses the audience’s prior knowledge of the earlier films to pull off the same trick. When one character gets an infected hand, fans of the original films know exactly what’s going to happen, but he makes us wait for what seems an unbearably tense eternity for the inevitable to occur.
He also doesn’t flinch away from his reveals. This is a gory and explicit film. Gore doesn’t usually bother me since I normally find it flat and lifeless, but Evil Dead had me peeking from between my hands on more than one occasion. It also helps that most of the effects in this film are practical. You’d be amazed how much that helps sell the horror. Or maybe you wouldn’t. I know many horror fans despise CGI blood, so they’ll be pleased to hear there’s plenty of dyed corn flour in this flick and nary a computer in sight.
Whilst I think it being a remake is a crucial aspect of the success of the film, what a lot of fans want to know is, is it better than the original?
Well, cards on the table. Evil Dead 2 is in my top ten favourite films of all time, and the first Evil Dead is an imaginative, innovative, and insane film. The remake however, doesn’t come close to the twisted genius of the original. That’s partly because this film makes no attempt to be funny, whereas the original Evil Dead is one of the few movies to successfully tread the line between scary and hilarious. If you go into this wanting it to be Evil Dead all over again then you’ll be disappointed.
Some have said this film would have been better received if it dropped the Evil Dead name altogether, but as I hope I’ve made clear, much of the pleasure is in remixing those familiar Evil Dead elements in new ways. Think of it like a cover version. Take a song like Somewhere Over the Rainbow, and do it in a punk style. The cover isn’t trying to improve on the original; they’re trying to do the original in a different way.
And that’s what we have with the 2013 Evil Dead. It’s Evil Dead but played straight. I didn’t think I would ever want such a thing, but the film genuinely surprised me with how enjoyable a straightforward horror version of Evil Dead can be. And really, what was Evil Dead 2 but a cover version of Evil Dead, with the comedy dials turned up and the horror toned down?
It’s not perfect by any means, though. The biggest problem is the script, which is clunky and contains some of the worst chunks of expository dialogue you’re likely to encounter. The acting is workmanlike at best, with no real standouts and certainly nobody to rival Bruce Campbell’s magnificently charismatic Ash. Nobody is annoying, but they’re all fairly flat and we don’t get a stand-out star. It also has very problematic sexual politics, even for the relaxed standards of horror films. And the less said about the ending, the better.
So, not perfect, nor as good as the original, but a worthy addition to the series, and an increasingly rare example of a genuinely scary horror film.
The above content was written by and is owned by Richard Adam Halls. It originally appeared on the Simply Syndicated website at http://www.simplysyndicated.com/evil-dead-wminor-spoilers/#.UcrHs_k3uSo all posters and image are copyright their respective owners