Evil Dead (2013)
“Fear What You Will Become.”
Director: Fede Alvarez
Cast: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Jessica Lucas
Synopsis: Five friends head to a remote cabin, where the discovery of a Book of the Dead leads them to unwittingly summon up demons living in the nearby woods. The evil presence possesses them until only one is left to fight for survival.
The 2013 incarnation of Evil Dead really bears only a passing resemblance to Sam Raimi’s seminal 1981 original, and really isn’t deserving of comparison to that movie. Although it is fair to say that the stuff going on here, was already being done to death back in the early 1980s, and the only thing that this movie adds to the genre is about 500 gallons of fake blood. Uruguayan director Fede Alvarez and co-writer Rodo Sayagues seem to think that repeatedly referencing and ‘paying homage’ to the original movie while introducing a completely new set of characters and incidents somehow qualifies them to claim this as a remake when, at best it’s a re-imagining, and worst a pale imitation leeching off the success and continuing popularity of the original.
After the customary unconnected prologue, Evil Dead opens with a group of pretty young things (and a guy called Eric) meeting up outside a wood cabin deep in the forests somewhere. David (Shiloh Fernandez) and Mia (Jane Levy) are brother and sister with a troubled background. Their mother was less than perfect apparently, prompting David to get out from under her thumb as soon as he could, leaving little sister Mia to shoulder the burden of their mother’s abusive behaviour. David didn’t even make it to their mother’s funeral, and as a result of years of parental abuse, Mia is now a drug addict. This is the reason they’re meeting in the woods: Mia’s going cold turkey — and not for the first time, apparently, and David and their friends are there to help her through it. Needless to say, it’s not long before Mia has plenty going on to take her mind off her next hit.
The others taking part in this unconventional rehab treatment are Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore), David’s girlfriend, Olivia (Jessica Lucas), who also happens to be a nurse who is therefore equipped to help Mia with her withdrawals while also possessing the awareness to know that her attempt at going cold turkey in the middle of nowhere would have no chance of succeeding even if they weren’t about to be besieged by angry demons, and Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), David’s childhood friend who seems even more pissed off about him taking off than Mia does. Eric’s the one who finds the Book of the Dead in the cellar of the cabin after Mia complains about a rotten stench that nobody else can smell. Exactly why the withdrawals should enable Mia to smell actual smells the others can’t is never explained, but the smell is definitely there because When David and Eric investigate they find the corpses of numerous cats in advanced stages of decay swinging from the cellar roof. Why are they there and where did they come from? Your guess is as good as mine — the demon equivalent of decorative mobiles for all I know; Alvarez and Sayagues certainly don’t bother taking the time to explain their presence.
The book is wrapped in thick wire and black plastic, as if someone really thinks it’s a bad idea that someone — anyone — should open and read from it. But Eric finds himself some tools and starts leafing through it. The book is covered with warnings not to read it, but hey, we’re alone in the middle of the woods, miles from civilisation — what could conceivably go wrong? He even shades over a blacked out section of the book to identify the concealed words, reading each successively decoded word out loud. Let’s face it — this guy deserves to die for being so stupid. He’s the type of idiot who would touch machinery with a ‘DANGER — 5000 VOLTS’ warning sign on it just to see what will happen. Of course, as soon as he utters the last word things start going pear-shaped, signified by that famous POV shot from the original movie as the camera rushes through the forest towards the cabin.
Mia’s really regretting her earlier symbolic act of pouring her stash down the well by now, and when her brother and friends refuse to her drive her back to civilisation she steals the car keys and does one. Trouble is, Mia’s in the midst of withdrawals, which is never a good time to climb behind the wheel of a car, and it’s not long before she’s parked it in a lake and stumbled through the undergrowth just long enough to be sexually abused by a black worm-like vine before her friends find her.
After David’s attempt to transport his sister to a hospital is foiled by a flooded river, it’s not long before it becomes apparent that Mia has become possessed by something less than friendly. After showering in scalding water, she attacks the others, warning them that they’re all going to die that night, before they manage to throw her into the cellar. But then the demons go to work on the terrified friends, possessing them one by one and forcing them to commit violent atrocities on themselves and each other.
The horrors that befall each member of this rapidly dwindling group are graphically filmed with a noticeable lack of subtlety or suggestion. Every act of violence is dwelt on with a kind of gleeful rapture by the camera, whether it’s the slicing off of a cheek, the self-dismemberment of an arm or a chainsaw in the face. While the tortures might be gruesomely imaginative, the manner in which they’re captured on-screen is not and by choosing to wallow in the graphic horror instead of rationing it, Alvarez turns the movie into an uninvolving carnival of horrors instead of the terrifying experience it ought to be. We spend more time anticipating the next act with a dull kind of resignation than experiencing the moment being shown to us. While most of this is down to Alvarez’s pedestrian direction, his and Sayagues’ inability to make us care about what happens to any of these kids is also to blame.
Eventually, Evil Dead deteriorates into a series of ‘unexpected’ last-minute rescues that become almost comically predictable so that instead of feeling a thrill of relief that our imperilled hero or heroine has escaped death we simply groan inside and murmur ‘for God’s sake’ under our breath.