There’s a moment early in Evil Dead where the ‘Smart Guy/Hipster’ gets his hands on the fabled Necronomicon, the purest book of evil there ever was. There’s no cheesy face to greet him under a layer of thick garbage bag plastic and barbed wire; instead, the binding is just heavily stitched skin. As he peruses through the foreign demonic language, an earlier reader has littered each page with English cliff notes. Phrases include “He’ll suck your soul dry” and “leave this book alone” alongside rather fantastic illustrations of satanic creatures.
Earlier it has been established this particular gent is a short-tempered type of man who does contradictory things such as demand that Mia, the film’s accidental protagonist, gets clean off heroin yet won’t get off the couch to assist with the process. It’s at this moment that he finds the page that reads “don’t say it/don’t write it/don’t hear it” with a scribbled mess beneath it. Naturally he decides he must do all three of these things and he uncovers the mystery words, greeting his fellow friends with an imminent threat of demonic possession and a very likely reality of a brutal death.
This is Evil Dead - 2013. And as much as producer Sam Raimi (the directorial chains were passed on by him personally to a first-timer, Fede Alvarez) and partners wanted to gift us with a brutal reimagining of his game-changing 1981 film with a blood soaked ribbon, it is sadly another example of the stagnation of the horror genre since.
In their defence they have done an excellent job with makeup. The trailer was released a couple of months ago and strongly hinted at the kind of exemplary violent, scary-as-fuck horror we’ve all been waiting for since the original. The premise here is five attractive young adults come to an old cabin owned by a late family member to chill, smoke weed and help Mia rid her dope addiction by forcing her to go cold turkey. Naturally, no one minds that the cabin is filthy and they’re able to overlook a basement ceiling is home to dead cats hanging from the rafters.
Most cinemagoers will have previewed 2012’s sleeper hit The Cabin in the Woods at least once. In this, Joss Whedon spelt out very clearly for even the blindest of us how horror works (read: his favourites) and then took it to a whole new level. Evil Dead (2013) follows this blueprint to a tee but holds back from venturing to any new places, instead preferring to show us more of the same but with bucket-loads more blood. If that’s all you’re after then you will undoubtedly enjoy this film a lot, that’s a guarantee. But if you come to watch this film with the understanding that it is terrifying then be warned, there isn’t a scare to be found.
Raimi’s 1981 film still succeeds 30 years later due to the charm of Bruce Campbell. He’s something of a b-grade hero since but back then he was just a charming, affable young man with a razor jawline you couldn’t help but like. The effects have dated heavily with 2013 glasses but that doesn’t matter. This new reimagining skips over any kind of campy behaviour in favour of heavy carnage but they’ve all forgotten one important thing: it isn’t 1981 anymore. If you want to stand out from the crowd, do something new. If you just want to make friends of fans of the original, at least rewrite the characters, sans stupidity.
It’s certainly violent, no question, but that’s about all it has going in favour.
Nicholas Brodie - follow Nick on Twitter here: @fodusempire