I have a confession to make… and this may require that I turn in my “film geek” badge. I don’t like Sam Raimi’s original Evil Dead trilogy.
I’m just not a fan of cartoonish slapstick in my horror films, which is pretty much the defining feature, along with Bruce Campbell’s just-go-with-it performance, that made the old series a cult hit. I have also never seen the original Evil Dead, simply Evil Dead II – essentially a more expensive remake of its predecessor – and Army of Darkness, so I’m approaching this new movie (produced by Raimi and Campbell, for the record) without any of the ardent passion, and scepticism, of franchise fans.
As an outsider, all I was looking for in Evil Dead 2013 was a well-made, emotionally-effective horror movie. And in that regard this reboot-sorta-sequel delivers. It is not however what it is being marketed as – “The most terrifying film you will ever experience.” It is, however, definitely one of the most brutal, forcing its cast to repeatedly commit graphic acts of self-mutilation in what feels like torture porn of the demonic possession variety. I almost fainted during one scene and a film hasn’t had that effect on me since 127 Hours.
It must be said though that Evil Dead 2013 is not without many flaws. First and foremost of these is that the film suffers from over-revelation in its red band trailer. If you have seen that preview, then you’ll have had some of the movie’s most shocking moments spoiled for you. Secondly, the new film is at a disadvantage for releasing after last year’s clever genre critique The Cabin the Woods. Most of the stupid character decisions that audiences were encouraged to question in Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon’s sly satire pop up here. Find a barb-wire-bound book covered in human skin in a basement strung with dead cats? Naturally the first thing you do is read out loud the incantation next to a blood-sprawled warning not to do so…
For the record, Evil Dead focuses on a group of twentysomething friends who head to a derelict cabin deep in the forest. They aren’t there for a weekend of boozy debauchery, however. In keeping with Evil Dead 2013’s sombre tone (do not expect any wacky humour in this Evil Dead!), our heroes are there to support troubled Mia (Jane Levy) in her latest attempt to overcome heroin addiction. Withdrawal is tough enough as it is without your childhood buddies (Jessica Lucas , Lou Taylor Pucci) and estranged brother (Shiloh Fernandez) refusing to believe that there is an evil supernatural presence in the woods with you.
Sadly there is next to no character development in Evil Dead, and combined with the stupidity of character actions and decisions, you’re never really invested in the cast’s fate. Fernandez has a bit more to work with, and Pucci is automatically likeable, but the standout of the film is definitely Levy. She is quite superb, and turns in one of the best performances seen in a horror film of recent years.
Another pleasant surprise is that Evil Dead is one of those rare films that actually improves as it progresses – throwing in some unexpected twists. Characters who step up to vanquish evil are not necessarily who you expect them to be.
Anyway, I enjoyed Evil Dead. Or perhaps that should be appreciated, given that it’s more nightmarishly disturbing than anything else? I suspect though that the film’s deadly serious nature may feel too bland and mainstream-pandering for long-time Evil Dead fans, sucking out the very essence of the franchise. Personally, though, I thought the new movie still makes for solid, distinctive horror.
Last Updated: August 14, 2013