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Review: Evil Dead (2013)

Evil Dead (2013)

Directed by: Fede Alvarez

Premise: A remake of the 1983 film. A group of people gather in an isolated cabin and come under attack from evil spirits.

What Works: For the last decade the content of the horror genre has consisted largely of remakes of films of the 1970s and 80s, ranging from retreads of classics like Halloween to more obscure titles like My Bloody Valentine. The original Evil Dead is a cult film that sits between mainstream fame and fringe obscurity. The filmmakers of the remake recognize that unique appeal and play to the sensibilities of both hardcore horror audiences and mainstream viewers and the resulting motion picture is one of the most successful films in the remake trend. On a technical level this movie is very well made and fans of the original Evil Dead will be pleased that the new picture does not soften the violence. This is a very intense and gory movie and it has some of the most impressive makeup and prosthetic effects seen in a horror film in some time. The look of the movie is very organic; the set design has an appropriate texture of grit and filth and the scenes of violence capture the mutilation of flesh. As unpleasant as that sounds, this is the appeal of both the original Evil Dead and the remake. The movie is intended to be an endurance test of stomach churning gore and as that it succeeds. The filmmakers of the new Evil Dead also deserve credit for expanding the premise and creating a credible scenario. The original film consisted of young people on a weekend getaway but in the remake a group of adults gather in a cabin to help one of them quit her heroine addiction. The set up gives dramatic weight and complexity to the characters that adds to the supernatural peril that they face later. The picture also adds some complexity to the demonic elements of the story so that the narrative has a dramatic shape that pays off in the ending. 

What Doesn’t:  The 2013 edition of The Evil Dead suffers from some of the same problems as other recent horror remakes and in that respect it most closely recalls the 2009 version of Last House on the Left. Like Wes Craven’s 1972 film, the original Evil Dead was an independent production that was not made for mainstream tastes. Everything about the way it was produced was intended to shake up the viewer by pushing the accepted boundaries of violence and providing a cinematic experience that was unique to the horror movie marketplace at that time. Like the remake of Last House on the Left, the 2013 version of The Evil Dead is technically superior to the original film in nearly every way but it is also creatively tethered to its predecessor. Rather than challenging the audience or the medium, the remake of The Evil Dead is intended to recreate, mass produce, and commoditize the original picture. In other words, The Evil Dead 1983 is a piece of art but Evil Dead 2013 is an industrial product. Aside from its artistic shortcomings, the new Evil Dead is lacking in other respects. The movie isn’t very scary. It is grotesque and has visceral shocks but the filmmakers do not sustain an atmosphere of dread. The remake also lacks the fun of the original film. One of the reasons why The Evil Dead of 1983 drew such a strong cult following was the way it mixed gory scares with a sense of humor; watching the original picture was like visiting a very effective haunted house. The new movie isn’t nearly as fun to watch.

Bottom Line: A remake of The Evil Dead was bound to be flawed in its very conception. But as a standalone picture the new Evil Dead does manage to be entertaining, much more so than a lot of recent horror pictures whether they are remakes or original productions. Horror fans and those new to the Evil Dead series will want to see it but viewers would do just as well seeking out the original 1983 film and its superior 1987 sequel.

Episode: #435 (April 14, 2013)