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Evil Dead
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Evil Dead (2013)

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Plot Summary:
"Mia, a young woman struggling with sobriety, heads to a remote cabin with her brother and a group of friends, where the discovery of a Book of the Dead leads to danger and horror."

Review by
Ryan McDonald
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Review Date: 28 January 2014 My Rating: out of 5


Five young people head to a remote woodland cabin to support Jane Levy in her attempt to kick a drug habit in one of the more unusual and severe rapid detoxification methods. Before long, one of the gang (nerdy Lou Taylor Pucci) finds the Necronomicon (made of human skin, no less!) in the cellar and is intrigued, whilst Levy is struggling with withdrawals and decides to do a runner into the woods. Here she is attacked and violated by something out there, but when she comes back to tell everyone, they chalk it up to crazy drug lady behaviour. But she is in fact demonically possessed, thanks to Pucci’s incantation reciting, and before long, it will affect the others one by one.

Well, this is a better “Evil Dead” wannabe than “Cabin Fever”, I’ll give it that. “Cabin Fever” wanted so badly to be “Evil Dead” (one of the most enjoyable horror films of all-time), but instead was monotonous and repellent. However, this 2013 official remake from director/co-writer Fede Alvarez is definitely inferior to the original, not to mention the delightfully silly first sequel. Neither as graphic as the original nor as tame as most mainstream horror films of the last decade or so, it won’t do much for seasoned gorehounds, though I found it quite reasonably blood-soaked, if a tad too J-horror for my liking in regards to the demons).

Like the remake of “Friday the 13th”, this is in some ways a more polished and better acted film, but was that something that was really necessary? I actually preferred the remake of “Friday” to the terrible original, but in this case, this isn’t anywhere near as effective as the original. If this weren’t called “Evil Dead”, I’d like it a helluva lot more than I do. It’s not bad, it’s just not...groovy. It’s vastly superior to “Army of Darkness”, however.

The film is quite beautifully shot by Aaron Morton, and as was the case with the “TCM” remake, you can debate whether that helps or hurts the film, but it certainly is nice to look at. I love the forest area, it’s even creepier-looking and seemingly more impenetrable than in the original. The fog looks super-thick, the trees and swamp seemingly never-ending. Lovely, atmospheric stuff early on.

One of the biggest differences to the original film is in the character played by Jane Levy. For once, we’ve got a druggie who throws her drugs away in the opening scene. Thank God, I thought. It’s a really interesting idea by Alvarez and co-writer Rodo Sayagues to have a recovering junkie potentially forced against her will to stay and detox. It’s like we get a little precursor to demon possession before it inevitably happens for real. It’s clever and interesting in a film that otherwise pretty much follows the bare bones of the original plot with the junkie character being the one to warn others about the impending doom, only to be disbelieved. If you’re looking for the infamous ‘tree rape’ scene, you won’t be terribly satisfied here. Oh, it’s present, but the film cuts away very, very quickly. But I’m not going to criticise the film for that, it’d get banned if it tried to recreate that scene in full. We live in different times, people.

The actors are mostly pretty charisma-free and uninteresting, but aside from Bruce Campbell, the actors in the original were pretty awful. Lou Taylor Pucci is about the only one here who can really act. However, the sight of him nearly breaking his hip on a toilet made me laugh, and laugh hard.

Picky fans will hate it, but I can’t say I was exactly disappointed. I’d just rather watch the original any day of the week. If you do watch the film, stay to the very end of the credits. You already know why and yes, it’s definitely ‘groovy’.

Reviewer: Faye Coulman @horrorasylum
Review Date: 26 March 2013 My Rating: out of 5

Much like meddling with a certain sinister, leather-bound book, remaking untouchably classic works of horror is a notoriously risky business that’s seen more than its share of expensive, creatively lifeless misfires. But as a venture both conceived and produced by the Evil Dead’s original creators, it’s out of an artful balance of authenticity and fresh cinematic vision that director Fede Alvarez unleashes his exceptionally gory, gloomily atmospheric retelling.

Backed by painstakingly thorough knowledge of the 1981 original, directorial first-timer Alvarez supplies nostalgic nods in all the right places, while studiously avoiding any attempt to recreate the movie’s unchangeably historic highlights. Having respectfully substituted chainsaw-wielding ’80s hero Ash for an altogether more complex protagonist, this ultramodern revision sees heroin addict Mia (Jane Levy) and friends head out to a remote cabin in an endeavour to lay her ruinous habit to rest. But what begins as a sobering retreat takes a terrifying supernatural turn that, through mind-bending parallels between the hysterical throes of drug withdrawal and demonic possession, warps the boundaries of reality beyond recognition.

Exchanging carefree vacationing college kids for claustrophobic undercurrents of dread and decay, Alvarez’s gloomily-shot spin on cabin-in-the-woods horror sows the seeds of impending doom long before this veritable orgy of gore and torture porn gets underway. And once the floodgates are finally slashed, bludgeoned and hatchet-smashed wide open, the thick and fast assault of bloodshed that follows is nothing short of relentless. With the original movie’s sweeping, demon’s eye view camerawork souped-up to whiplash-inducing new extremes, the sheer momentum of each scene is an ultra-violent feat in itself, with classic, Raimi-esque cinematography adding nightmarishly surreal menace to the mix.

But despite being orchestrated around all the possessed appendages, revving chainsaws and creaking trapdoors you’d expect of such a remake, the supercharged panache with which Alvarez deploys these classic trappings is unmistakably his own. Saturated in a foul, ever-flowing torrent of bodily fluids and pulpy gobbets of flesh, wickedly sadistic use of splintered syringes, broken glass and domestic appliances is guaranteed to make even the most hardened horror fan wince.

While Alvarez’s back story of addiction and dysfunctional family ties is, in places, a tad too heavy for such a visual, wildly entertaining gore fest, his unique premise nevertheless adds darkly absorbing substance to the original’s altogether sketchier storyline. And while the 1981 edition’s riotously demented ‘video nasty’ charm will forever belong to an iconic era of filmmaking, it’s equally a joy to see the Evil Dead’s ultraviolent spirit brought to life through this extravagantly gory 21st century lens.

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