Extra gorey, still groovy – ★★★★
Recalling the fabled story behind the production and censorship of the original The Evil Dead is almost as fulfilling as watching the 1981 film. The film is probably the quintessential “video nasty”, banned in Ireland and placed on an infamous list of 72 titles by the UK Director of Public Prosecutions (who even bypassed the traditional censoring body, the British Board of Film Censors). The film cost $90,000 and made director Sam Raimi, producer Robert Tapert and star Bruce Campbell into cult heroes and (eventually) commercial success stories. The fact the film holds such legendary status is funny considering the simple enough premise behind it – a group of unsuspecting friends go to stay in their cabin in the woods, little do they know there’s a few problems with the spot.
As with any cherished classic (and both Spoooolers are verified deadites and owners of the limited edition “book of the dead” edition dvd), you’ve got to expect a bit of a hullabaloo when you announce a remake. However what seemed to set 2013’s Evil Dead apart was the co-operation and blessing from Raimi, Tapert and Campbell, who all ultimately ended up with producer credits on the new film. Rather than some Hollywood b-movie rent-a-director, Raimi surprised everyone by opting for the 35-year-old Uruguayan director Fede Alvarez (watch his debut short here on Spooool.ie) who co-wrote the script with his friend Rodo Sayagues. It’s a ballsy move and it pays off. It should be noted that Juno scribe Diablo Cody was brought on-board to “Americanise” the script but so little of her work actually made the final cut that she remains uncredited.Alvarez is adamant that the film isn’t so much a remake or sequel, as a “re-birth” of the original, taking place in the same cabin but in the present day. So similar mythology but different characters with the emphasis on horror over comedy. We’ve still got four kids who go to the cabin but this time it is with the purpose of allowing one of them who has been using heroin, to detox. This need for isolation works brilliantly as it provides a logical reason for our heroes to stay on site when stuff starts going wrong. I like this as all too often you’re watching a horror film punching yourself as you wonder why they don’t just turn on a light or go and drive to the nearest police station.
Jane Levy’s detoxing Mia is the closest the film has to Bruce Campbell’s Ash character with a large portion of the reported 25,000 litres of fake blood and 300 litres of vomit that were used during production thrown her way. The film is ridiculously gory and will have you either covering your eyes or howling with laughter, depending on your disposition. It’s worth reinforcing the fact the that the filmmakers opted against using any CGI with an emphasis on “in-camera” effects. Knowing this gives the film’s bloodier shots all the more impact and will have you hailing the makeup and prosthetics team brought on-board by Ghost House Pictures.
The film zips along really nicely, quickly establishing the demonic possession in a speedy pre-credits sequence, establishing our new characters and their reasoning behind visiting the cabin and then slowly allowing the bad stuff unleashed by the Book of the Dead to take hold of each of the four heroes in different ways. There are lots of solid references to the original while also allowing for some great nods to the sequels Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness. There are banged-up cars, basements, books, trees with over-zealous roots and chainsaws. Just remember this is a good-time movie, but certainly not a feel-good movie so best stay home if you’re prone to feeling queasy at the sight of blood…
The film was never going to achieve the same level of humour that the original found, but what it lacks in emotion it more than makes up for in scares and depictions of the macabre. The characters are exactly what’s needed for a film like this and credit must be given to the cast for lasting the gruelling 70-day shoot where presumably it was just accepted that you’d cut off your own arm or allow yourself to be thrown around the cabin at the beck and call of this unknown Uruguayan director.
Ask yourself what a new Evil Dead film could and should be like and chances are you’ll come pretty damn close to what Raimi and Alvarez have served up here. It’s much better than it has any right to be and while you shouldn’t expect the heart of the original, you can still look for most other parts of the human body being attacked and mutilated for our pleasure. Groovy!
USA / Directed By: Fede Alvarez / Written By: Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues / Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Elizabeth Blackmore, Jessica Lucas / 91min / Horror / Release: 19 April 2013 (Ireland, UK), 5 April 2013 (USA, Canada)