Movie review: Evil Dead (2013)

Ah the eighties; a time when there was something genuinely horrific about the horror films released in that particularly warped decade. One of the best examples of its kind at the time was 1981's The Evil Dead, written and directed by fresh-faced whipper snapper Sam Raimi, starring his pal Bruce Campbell, in what was to be his most iconic role to date.

It was a time in history where film-makers were not only making films for adults, but adults had an appetite for more mature themes at the cinema. Thirty years ago, in 1983, a total of 159 films were granted an 18 certificate.

Today however, it's all about young bums on seats. In 2012, only 65 films were rated 18 in the UK. Many studios believe that if a film isn't given a 12A or less rating, it won't make any money. It's a sad state of affairs when a film given a 15 certificate is considered a risky proposition. An 18 certificate then, is about as rare as a large lottery win.

This remake is unique in that it not only sticks closely to the original's plot, but it bravely follows in its blood-splattered footsteps, wearing its 18 certificate with both pride and honour. But does it take the right risks?

Some friends really look out for one another but some, like Mia's (Jane Levy), really go the extra mile by taking her out into the middle of nowhere. Mia is a drug addict, and her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez), his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) and her friends Olivia (Jessica Lucas) and Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) whisk her off to remote cabin in the woods, in an attempt for her to go cold turkey.

With the cabin being very basic, there's not much by way of entertainment. So it's only natural that Eric becomes curious when he discovers a gnarly book. Inside, there are clear warnings for the reader, not to read out specific sentences. Curiosity gets the better of Eric though, and he reads out loud from the book. In doing so, he unleashes a devastating evil, with only one intention on its evil mind: to kill every single one of them. It looks like there may very well be trouble ahead for the five friends.

Raimi was far from hands off with this project, as not only did he (and Campbell) produce this remake, but Raimi handpicked director Fede Alvarez himself. This in itself was a brave move, particularly when you consider that this feature marks the feature-length directorial debut for Alvarez.

In one way, Raimi made a good choice. Visually, Alvarez excels in making a film with one intention, which is in giving its audience a fright. There are some visually striking set pieces that can make the most hardened of horror fans wince.

So it may look the part, but it doesn't quite feel the part. Uruguayan Alvarez is credited with writing the screenplay, but as English isn't his first language, it was then passed over to Diablo Cody (Juno) to give the dialogue some polish. She must have been pretty busy at the time, as the dialogue is as flat as a flattened thing. It wasn't only the horrific content of the original that made it a hit, but its deliciously offbeat humour. By comparison, there's a chance that she may not have even seen the original as this version is disappointingly a humour-free offering.

The performances too, from its relatively unknown cast, are also somewhat run of the mill. It doesn't help that they play their parts incredibly straight.

And then there's its general lack of originality. It is, to all intent and purposes, a less funny replica; and like any kind of replica, it may do its best to resemble the original, but ultimately it's a cheap imitation that doesn't hold up in the quality stakes. When you consider something like last year's horror masterpiece The Cabin in the Woods, with its positively post-modern twist on the horror genre, this lame effort doesn't compare.

It is undoubtedly gloriously grizzly in places – and for that it should be highly commended – but it really doesn't hold a chainsaw to the original.

3 booms

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