wed 23/05/2018

Evil Dead | reviews, news & interviews

Evil Dead

Evil Dead

Full-blooded remake of Sam Raimi's horror classic hits the mark

Rain of terror: Mia (Jane Levy) fights for her life

Down in the cellar where the monsters were in Sam Raimi’s 1982 debut The Evil Dead, you glimpsed a poster for Wes Craven’s 1977 film The Hills Have Eyes, ripped symbolically in half. The bar for gruelling low-budget horror, Raimi was saying, had just been raised.

In employing another debutante, Uruguayan Fede Alvarez, to remake The Evil Dead, Raimi, these days the unlikely Hollywood insider behind the Spiderman trilogy and Oz the Great and Powerful, invites him to raise the stakes again.

The original’s fireproof premise is kept: five friends spend the weekend in an isolated cabin in the woods (pictured below), unleash demons by reading from a human-skin-bound Book of the Dead, are possessed and tear each other apart, with little left of them by dawn. Bruce Campbell became a cult star playing Ash in the original and its sequels, but where Alvarez beats Raimi’s admittedly amateur script is in his characters. Female lead and first victim-monster Mia (Jane Levy) is in the cabin with her brother and friends because she’s a junkie going cold turkey. The brutal deaths, dismemberment and burial of the living which follow are the ruinous price she pays to get really clean.

Sympathetic characters dovetail into a sense of dread as their fates are sealed. Every time the camera closes in on someone’s back, what you see when they turn gets worse. The sound heard round a corner of soft flesh being sliced and a burble of gushing blood, strange and not unpleasant, perfectly sets up the sight of a woman carving off her own face (pictured below). Sound design, blending sonic violence with Roque Baños’s semi-orchestral score, would make Toby Jones’s ace of the art in Berberian Sound Studio purr.

Expectations were low for this because the golden age of North American indie horror has been comprehensively remade as 21st century nadirs of the genre, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dawn of the Dead, Halloween and the rest all looking too clean and healthy, as if the grubby originals were digitally disinfected. Alvarez instead uses a consumptive, pallid palette (gore apart). And though the special effects and actors the 22-year-old Raimi couldn’t afford is one reason he wanted this remake, Alvarez avoids CGI, meaning when the electric meat-slicer, nail-gun, crow-bar and chainsaw come out, and limbs are torn, sliced and broken, you feel the impact with old-fashioned force.

Expected, memorable Raimi moments are retained – the climactic revving of a chainsaw, the grinning girl-demon peering out of a chained trap-door, the camera as demon’s point of view, tracking at crazed speed through the woods (a brilliant, no-budget scare). Alvarez also doesn’t shy away from the infamous scene where the female lead is raped by a tree, instead making it slyer and better. Oddly for a 90-minute film with so many visual jolts, his pacing lets us off the hook. In the middle when the fear is at its height, there’s too much calming down-time, then when the carnage becomes continuous, dread and fear drop away. This ballsy remake-sequel still reignites the franchise.

Watch the trailer for Evil Dead

When the electric meat-slicer, nail-gun, crow-bar and chainsaw come out, you feel the impact with old-fashioned force


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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