So what’s the deal with this new ‘remake’ of Evil Dead?
Here is a film whose original(s) have such a cult following that fans were pretty much guaranteed to balk at the idea of this ‘remake’ whatever the circumstances. But having watched it recently, think it manages to successfully stand on its own two undead feet.
Here are a few things to remember:
Firstly, this is remake of Sam Raimi’s first film The Evil Dead and not the follow up, Evil Dead 2 (essentially a more humorous remake of the first film with a bigger budget) – which explains why this movie is played relatively straight. You see, when most people think of ‘Evil Dead’ they usually have in their mind the campy humour and splatter of Evil Dead 2 (and also to an extent, the third movie in the series, Army Of Darkness) which features a wise-cracking Ash (a career defining role for Bruce Campell) who totes a shotgun and a chainsaw and utters quotable catchphrases as he gruesomely dispatches demons.
This new film sidesteps the awkward step of trying to fill an icon’s shoes by not having an Ash character at all – in fact, in even actively plays on fan expectations by occasionally shifting around the idea of who the ‘main’ character actually is.
In fact, you see a lot of these kinds of self-aware nods to the fans of the original throughout the film, whilst it still being able to stand up as its own distinct entity. The similar themes and motifs are all there: the shotgun, chainsaw, the cabin, the trapdoor leading to the cellar, the Book of the Dead, the infamous ‘tree scene’ – but all in slightly different contexts – a delicate balancing act of both familiar but new that is continually tread throughout.
There are even homages to classic Sam Raimi shots such as the demon camera zooming through the woods, the stylised quick cuts of chains being affixed to the trapdoor, the ‘tooling up’ sequence etc… but these end up standing out a little too much from the rest of the film as the tone presented in this one is very different. The film wants to be different – born from the DNA of the original but attempting a significantly different take on it.
And by this we don't necessarily mean simply following the current trend of ‘let’s make it a gritty and realistic reboot’ that the likes of recent remakes of Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween have all been subjected to. Evil Dead wastes no time in getting right into the meat of the thrills, as it doesn't have to play origin story to an established franchise or retread any ground from the previous movies – it stands out as its own story. It had the same basic pre-existing setting, but chooses a different direction and tone to follow.
Whilst ‘the most terrifying film you will ever experience’ tagline is nowhere near true, the film does manage to be effectively creepy at times due to its two strongest points.
Firstly: the practical effects. For a mainstream theatrical release this is a very gory film and the fact that almost all of the special effects and gore is done practically adds to the film’s high level of gruesomeness that will satisfy even the most jaded of horror fans. Abuse of power tools, multiple instances of dismemberment and a blood soaked finale that has to be seen to be believed, means no gore-hound should leave disappointed.
Secondly, the film looks fantastic - from the production design, cinematography and the lighting - this is quite possibly the best-looking horror film I have ever seen. Again, totally different from the charmingly amateurish (and yet crazy inventive and often surreal) presentation of the original The Evil Dead and of its sequel.
Being a big fan of the Evil Dead 2 in particular, I wasn't quite sure about how I felt as the credits rolled, but the more I think about it the more I like this new entry. Sure, it’s not perfect – there are sorely underdeveloped characters and a fair few instances of clunky dialogue - but this version has plenty going for it. Lead actress Jane Levy really gets into the role and hopefully will be getting a wider recognition from this.
Having already made back its budget at the box office, there is likely to be more of Evil Dead to come and I think that whilst this new version is by no means an instant classic, I highly recommend it for horror fans. It does its own thing, isn’t shy about going full throttle with its blood and violence and honours the originals without feeling the need to be shackled by them. This is definitely a step in the right direction in this current trend of horror reboots/remakes that just will not die - however many times you think they are put to rest.
Now where did I put that chainsaw?...
22nd April 2013