Director: Fede Alvarez Writer: Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci Running Time: 91 Minutes Year: 2013
Oh, The Evil Dead. Mistress of my youth. Deciding to watch a remake of a much beloved film is a tough choice, as do you really want to spend an entire running time marking out the differences between the two? No, not especially. Taking a trip down to that cabin in the woods filled me with equal amounts dread and excitement. Dread because the older I get, the more films affect me. Excitement because this reboot has arrived with praise.
One of the first low-budget horrors to bust out and find a cult fanbase, The Evil Dead quite rightly attracted a following. Regurgitating a set up we’ve since seen countless times, a bunch of friends out in the woods who one by one are picked off by a nasty is accomplished with equal measures terror and ingenuity.
This reboot by director Fede Alvarez takes us back to that same cabin, albeit later on in the timeline. The decrepit shack is home to a book which will likely end up in the hands of the most irresponsible member of the group. It does, by the way, which is the first of many annoyances the film subjects its audience to. Watching it after reading plenty of discussion, it’s easy to see why it was praised. It’s shot beautifully. Every single take is considered and crafted to maximise your terror.
What is apparent on reflection is the sheer giddiness at which fans have taken to the fact that there is a reboot, has overshadowed the actual film itself. Judging it on its own merits reduces it to another schlocky horror with buckets of blood. Its differences to the original are signifiers, guiding us to realise that this is not a remake, it’s a reboot. Those subtle changes in story are insufficient to warrant a higher rating. The device luring the group together, a drug intervention, is clever. After all, who’d want to spend any time at all in such a dump? Our two leads, brother and sister duo Mia and David share a past spent in the cabin while holidaying with their family. Fair enough. This fact is used to somehow snag an emotional link to the past and present but really makes you wonder why they didn’t take better care of the place if it meant so much. You know, and not let it turn into a sanctuary for friggin’ evil.
Since the French New Wave of horror began over ten years back with Switchblade Romance, horror has changed. It’s wandered into self-effacing irony via Scream, it’s adopted the sadistic in Saw and Hostel, and recently has shunned the gore for chills in Paranormal Activity and Insidious. Evil Dead takes a few steps back, lingering in the depths of vile, bloody ritual. It succeeds in conjuring up depravity and shooting fear into your heart at every turn. Those turns shift so fast you’re barely given time to know, nevermind give a shit about, characters before they’re subjected to the evils unleashed in the forest. Which, could have been avoided had one character remained true to his logical thinking and not cut open a book bound in BARBED WIRE. If anything, Evil Dead proves that horror stereotypes are still ripe for the picking if a plot needs to go forward. In the original outing, Ash ticked off the evil by hitting play on an old recorder down in the basement, letting the words of the Necronomicon loose accidentally. In this latest attempt, it’s just a bit silly and really, isn’t horror past all of those cliches that frustrate?
“Evil Dead takes a few steps back, lingering in the depths of vile, bloody ritual. It succeeds in conjuring up depravity and shooting fear into your heart at every turn.”
One aspect it improves upon is the boundaries it doesn’t push but utterly decimates. As I stated, the older I get, the less I am entertained by violence. I simply don’t want to allow the worst examples of atrocity into my mind. During my teenage years I watched every horror I could get my hands on; old triple copied VHS versions of Zombie Flesh Eaters, I Spit On Your Grave, Cannibal Holocaust, and so on. Now, not so much. Far be it from me to let my personal opinion of gore affect my thoughts on a film.
Watching a woman cut her own face off with glass, watching a woman get raped by a tree (which, was in the original to be fair), watching a woman saw off her own arm with a chainsaw and watching a woman nailgun herself in the face are a few examples of the horrors these teenagers face. It’s effective in that I had to stifle my gag reflex throughout. There’s no doubt the genre is moving toward a more realistic approach to “unrealistic” situations. This is where Evil Dead excels – it doesn’t hold back, it slams you over and over with the bloodied stump of Cabin In The Woods, as a warning that there’s still plenty to fear in the woods.
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