Thursday, 15 August 2013

Evil Dead DVD Review


My Evil Dead DVD review originally ran on Cinema Chords

Horror remakes are common but not often wanted. Many see them as a lack of originality or that the original is sacred and that anything that isn’t it is sacrilegious. The truth is remakes can be good, the time of creation could prevent the special effects from being truly affecting and the extra budget probably helps a little bit too. John Carpenter’s The Thing is a remake, so is The Fly by Cronenberg and more have been good like recently with Franck Khalfoun‘s remake of Maniac. All these remakes surpass the original – people forget the first two are remakes. That’s what Evil Dead was aiming for when the studio decided to remake it. With Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell as producers, there was a lot of faith in it and the trailer helped the buzz but it never materialised into something great.

We’re back at an oddly familiar cabin but this time there’s no Ash (Bruce Campbell) here to have the worst night of his life. It instead falls on a group of young-to-mid 20 year-olds who gather together to support their drug addicted friend Mia (Jane Levy) exorcise her drug demon. They’re there make her go cold turkey in the cabin of her and her brother’s – David (Shiloh Fernandez) – childhood. There’s also David’s girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore), Olivia the nurse (Jessica Lucas) and the wise-ass Eric (Lou Taylor Pecci) who holds a grudge against David for abandoning them long ago. There’s tension between them all and it only gets worse when you add the Necronomicon (not actually called it in the film for legal reasons) and a release of an evil spirit that is determined to sacrifice the cabin occupants.

It starts with an interesting little prologue for the rest of the film but it’s terribly done once they’re inside. The acting is so atrocious that the simplicity of the dialogue is even too much for an actor of choice with every horrific babble of the word baby. That alone leaves a bitter taste for the rest of the film. Then it gets going and you’re introduced to all of the characters. Introducing characters is usually an enjoyable bit as you get to know the people within the story and, when done well, can be incredibly rewarding and especially memorable. The introduction to the characters in Scream around the water fountain is a fantastic way to know what they’re about in one simple conversation. No such joy is had here as the characters are completely detestable; they’re dull, boring, horrible, not fully formed people. They speak in clunky lulls of affection and infection with almost a clinical precision of exposition in between.

Slasher flicks rely heavily on writing bad people as characters so that you will them to die in the most gruesome way possible. Evil Dead wants to be that. Characters here are as dull as dishwater ready to be massacred in the most brutal way possible. A gore piece is all this ends up being because there’s no connection with the characters that aren’t Mia which is very slight anyway. It seems like one of the characters is borderline invincible too, taking the grunt of the abuse as if Fede and co. didn’t watch last year’s The Cabin in the Woods. It may satiate the need for gore but it’ll satiate nothing else because there’s no connection nor affection for any of the people surrounding Mia and that’s abusing the horror genre. The best characters in horror films have been ones that make the audience care about their wellbeing. Seeing a character you like come inches away from death is tense, it’s gripping and thrilling and exhilarating, involving you with the near death experiences they’re experiencing; when you don’t care about the character, it’s dull and an inevitability because they’ve been writing to die, they’re means to an end but not an end in their own right. That leaves no tension or suspense when you know from the character introductions who will make it and you can predict the order that they will go in.

Playing Evil Dead straight sounds like a great idea on paper because it’s horrifying and lends itself to becoming a terrific piece of cinema. It seems that the team leant on too many tropes to bring a level of authenticity to the massacre. Inevitability isn’t tense, it’s tiring. Much of the scares are not earned because there’s not much atmosphere created but only violent surroundings to project a volatile situation. There barely are any scares within it because there’s no build-up, there’s no tension on a tether being tugged until it finally snaps causing a brilliantly crafted scare. There’s trope after trope, effect after effect, blood after blood but that’s all there really is to it. There’s great technical work from the director Fede Alvarez who looks promising but his writing needs more work. It seems that the complete  avoidance of humour in this remake is less an appendectomy and more a lobotomy, leaving a limp, limbless characterless piece so bashed and bloodied that there’s only wincing and no enjoyment.

★★½

Extras
Depending on the edition you buy there are a lot of featurettes all running under 10 minutes long. The DVD, Blu-ray and Steelbook extras have these featurettes and they are: Making Life Difficult: The Intense and Physically Exhausting Creation of the Film, Being Mia: The Physical and Psychological Transofmration into “Evil Mia”, Directing The Dead: Director Fede Alvarez re-imagines a cult horror classic, Unleashing the Evil Force: Exploring the Origins and Design of the New “Book of the Dead”, Evil Dead the Rboot: Cast Rehearsals, Bruce Campbell, Deadites and More. There’s also commentary from the cast members Jane Levy, Lou Taylor Pucci and Jessica Lucas as well as writer-director Fede Alvarez and writer Rodo Sayagues. There’s also a special edition available only from Sainsbury’s which has thsoe extras and the addition of an interview with Fede Alvarez, an interview with Jane Levy, a Q&A at The Ritzy Cinema and the brilliant trailer which started it all.

★★½