For a feature debut by Uruguayan director Fede Alvarez, Evil Dead serves all intents and purposes, and offers plenty of thrills and chills – just don’t expect a reimagined cinematic horror masterpiece of original scares and innovative filmmaking. It does manage to capture the spirit of the original Sam Raimi/Bruce Campbell fightfest, even though it lacks the underlying humour that makes the original such a beloved blood drenched demonic gem to the horror genre. The script is as fresh and tight as any effort by the devilishly wicked and unparalleled word smith that is Diablo Cody, an Academy Award winner for Juno, and it certainly succeeds in delivering buckets of gore-galore, but gorier isn’t necessarily scarier.
As in the original film, a group of five friends are pitted against a demonic presence unleashed from the blood soaked flesh bound pages of the infamous creeptastic Book of the Dead. The plot revolves around the group supporting their token fuck-up junkie friend, allowing her to ritualistically, symbolically and literally “drop” the habit. Unbeknownst to them, their cabin in the woods was used years prior to sacrificiously rid the demon from another poor unfortunate soul. The blood stained, chained up cellar door leading to a seriously disturbing display of hanging cat corpses sets up the chilling atmosphere. A freakfest of madness and mayhem ensues as the film detours from conventional and quite clichéd horror and heads straight to goretown, with no turning back.
Face slicing, scalding third degree shower burns, amputated limbs and even nail gun penetrations are what follows. Normally you’d enjoy watching idiot twenty-somethings get what they deserve and as gruesomely as possible, but the actors do a decent job of portraying these unlucky bastards in a way that makes you actually care whether they live or die. Well, some of them, at least.
Leading the cast is Jane Levy (from Showtime’s remake of Shameless) our wide-eyed heroin-withdrawing protagonist/antagonist (depending on whatever moment she’s possessed or not) who’s the centre focus of the sanguine intervention held by her endlessly caring friends, and they sure do put up with a lot of her shit at first, including hallucination fits and running off aimlessly into the woods, foaming at the mouth like Cujo the rabid dog.
Shiloh Fernandez (Red Riding Hood) plays a convincing deadbeat recently changed of heart and now concerned older brother, yet seriously pales in comparison to leading man Bruce Campbell from the original (and to his credit, let’s be honest, who wouldn’t?), Lou Taylor Pucci plays the resident dumbass who unleashes the evil nastiness by reading from the satanic scripture (curiosity killed the cat…literally), newcomer Elizabeth Blackmore and Cloverfield‘s Jessica Lucas finish up the cast of demon fodder, er, characters.
The film succeeds in paying visual homage to the original by invoking certain fan-gasmic elements such as the eerie first person view of the demonic presence travelling through the woods, and a raping tree vine that fans of the original will most likely cheer for while some regular movie goin’ folk might find just a little too disturbing for their prudent tastes. The gore is at times overkill to the extreme, culminating in a horrifying, literal blood bath raining down over our heroine. Overall, it is a fun film to watch and if you just sit back and relax it might just please your inner demons.
And by sit back and relax I mean clench tightly onto your barf bag, for this flick is certainly not for the squeamish or faint of heart…
Evil Dead is out now in America, and is released on 19th April in Britain