Friday, May 03, 2013

Evil Dead Review

One question we should perhaps try to clear up at the outset is as to whether Evil Dead should be considered a sequel, a remake or a reboot. Well frankly it's slightly confusing as, although it is being talked about as a simple reboot of the series, it manages to follow the first The Evil Dead (1981) fairly closely and yet is being talked about as a series that will (at least according to director Fede Alvarez and producer Bruce Campbell) eventually cross over with the original Evil Dead series (sometime after Evil Dead 4 - which will be called Army of Darkness 2). So it's a surprisingly difficult question to answer accurately - let just say that it's clearly not an out-and-out sequel but that it does appear that it is set in the same universe as the main series.

Evil Dead follows a group of five friends who choose to stay at a remote cabin in the middle of the woods in order to help one of their number, Mia (played by Jane Levy), overcome her drug addiction. She is aided in her quest to go cold turkey by her friend and qualified nurse Olivia (Jessica Lucas), Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), as well as her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) and his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore). Of course, before long, we know that drug addiction is going to be the very least of their concerns...

When exploring the basement turns up a bunch of dead cats, the smell of burnt flesh, a shotgun and plastic wrapped package that is further sealed by a knot of wires, our group of friends - rather than bugging out and heading off to find a cosy motel somewhere - decide that it's not a problem and the place is just going to need a bit of sprucing. Clearly, none of them have ever watched a horror movie.

Which is also the only explanation that can be found when Eric decides to take some wire cutters to the package and finds, inside, a hefty book that is (rather originally) bound in human skin - the Natorum Demonto. It's a nasty evil book filled with crude sketches, strange incantations and is liberally daubed (possibly in blood and, helpfully, in English!) with warnings not to read any further and definitely not to attempt to recite any of the phrases contained therein. But, of course, Eric is so excited to find a human skin bound book that he goes and ignores all the warnings and actively goes seeking out dubious Latin phrases (which, unfortunately don't really sound scary any more, ever since JK Rowling cornered the market on the use of Latin in fiction). From this point on, all manner of bloody mayhem ensues...

And bloody the mayhem is. One thing Evil Dead does not skimp on is the gore. Flesh is seared, pierced, sliced and burnt and an array of objects - from glass shards to machetes, from pieces of a porcelain toilet to electric meat knives, from shotguns to nail guns - are utilised to inflict gruesome injuries on all and sundry. But the trouble is that, as the violence tries harder and harder to top itself for brutality, it becomes so over-the-top that it actually becomes comical - indeed, there is one moment (and you'll know it when you see it) that reminded me so much of the Black Knight scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail that I ended up laughing out loud at a moment I'm sure the film makers didn't intend to be amusing when they shot it.

And that's another problem. It's all so po-faced (especially compared to some of the previous movies in the Evil Dead franchise) with everyone taking themselves so very seriously and, at times, that's at odds with the sheer overwhelming lunacy of the violence.

And so, while the question of exactly what Evil Dead is turned out to be a difficult one to answer, an altogether easier question to answer is whether or not this reboot/remake/sequel manages to live up to its tagline as "the most terrifying film you'll ever experience". And the simple answer is "no". For reasons that I'll explain.

Back in 1981, when The Evil Dead exploded onto our cinema screens it was a breath of fresh (albeit blood-flecked) air; its level of gore and violence was something that had never been seen before, it earned a citation as a 'video nasty' and was even banned on video in a number of countries. The story of a group of five students who, inadvertently, summon up a demon that then begins brutally dispatching them really cemented itself as one of the most influential horror movies of the 1980s, and helped to establish a number of the tropes of horror movies.

But, skip forward thirty two years to the present day and many of the things that were so original about The Evil Dead are now clichéd and predictable. But it's not just that. This reboot/remake/sequel just didn't have any magic to it - the characters are dull and stupid and it's impossible to really care about them; the gore, while substantial, never really felt particularly imaginative. And perhaps most telling of all, while there are literally buckets of blood, there are very few substantial scares.

Can I recommend a cinema viewing? No, please don't encourage them.

Can I recommend it for a watch on DVD/Bluray/Netflix? Well, if you fancy watching a horror movie where the gore is more outstanding than the cast and you are prepared for an awful air of predictability then feel free to give it a go.

My rating: 5 out of 10.

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