In 1981 a group of crazy Michigan kids got together and made cinematic history by writing, directing, and producing a small horror film titled Evil Dead. A modern take on the Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland celluloid version of “Come on kids, let’s put on a show in the old barn!” In this case it was the rural location of Tennessee and not an old barn, and the end result differed greatly from Rooney and Garland’s shows. Now Evil Dead 2013 has hit the stores in Blu-Ray and having obtained a copy which means it is time for a review.
The remake had the blessing of original creator Sam Raimi; the original lead actor Bruce Campbell; and the original producer Robert G. Tapert. The remake’s director was even picked by Raimi, who decided that directing novice Fede Alvarez should helm and help re-write the 1980s classic.
The film follows the main storyline, albeit a bit sketchily, as it follows five friends who arrive at a deserted cabin in the middle of the woods who find a book which, when read aloud, summons something very nasty out of the forest muck.
But the reason for the friends to be there deviates from the original as one of the group is attempting, again, to get clean from a drug habit. There are more than enough nods and winks to plot devices from the original to keep fans moderately happy, but it lacks the good natured schlock of the first Evil Dead.
While the first film did indeed freak-out audiences and get caught up, very briefly in the “video nasty” thing later, it had a brilliant mix of gore and humour that had audiences clamouring for more. The “old” Evil Dead franchise has a devout and almost rabid fanbase. And all, without question, loved the Bruce Campbell character of Ash.
But the one thing missing in Evil Dead 2013, is the manic Ash, who made the first film really work. We have no comic moments or pauses for light relief. This Evil Dead is deadly serious and it loses something because of it. Obviously the crew for this re-imaging of the original film had a bit more going in the experience department and the budget was a lot bigger than Raimi’s fledgling effort.
While Ash may be missing in the new version, actress Jane Levy fills in as the character who has everything but the kitchen sink thrown at her. She should have gotten the Bruce Campbell “Glutton for Punishment Award” for the pummelling she endured.
The FX in the film are very good. If you don’t find yourself cringing at any of the stabbings, limb removals (Yes, removals, plural. It seems that almost everyone in the small gang have something chopped off) and gruesome deaths, you should probably go check in for some therapy.
The actors all acquitted themselves with a certain level of aplomb and their dead serious approach makes the film work very well. Although it was a little difficult to really care about any of the characters. Ash, in the original, had a sort of goofy charm that made you root for the guy. That was missing here.
Featuring a cast of little-known actors – Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, and Elizabeth Blackmore as the five protagonists, the film takes itself too seriously to be as much fun as the original. It also tries that little bit too hard to scare and ultimately fails in the fear stakes.
But for all the failure to deliver any descent scary moments, the film looks brilliant, especially on Blu-Ray. The colours, even the muted earth-toned ones, impress and offer a luxurious texture. The woods and the cabin seem to almost draw you into the action.
There are acceptable amounts of gore, although the blood delivered in the film must fall in the region of hundreds of gallons, there were no “over-the-top” moments that had one reaching for the sick bag. Except, possibly, the basement scene with the tongue…
It is an amazing first effort by Alverez in terms of his care to attention and story flow. There was no point in the film where the pacing was off or slow.
The Blu-Ray itself boasts several DVD “featurettes” that include a “making of” and other interviews and features that have the added bonus of an interview with Campbell, Tapert and Alverez about the reboot itself. The film benefits from being on this format and the inclusion of the extras, which also has an audio commentary make it worth adding to you Blu Ray collection.
While the overall “feel” of this version of Evil Dead isn’t the same as the original, you cannot escape the fact that despite the lack of character connection, there are enough things from the original to make this a “must see.” When the Oldsmobile from the original 1981 version is seen at the first of the film, the viewer may nod and say, okay, they are acknowledging the first film right from the beginning. I may just like this.
We miss the Ash character, but he wouldn’t have fit in this more modern version of the tale. The Blu-Ray edition of the Evil Dead 2013 is available from most DVD outlets.
By Michael Smith