Those that find horror remakes anathema may well accuse Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell of having ventured off to a cabin in the woods and – using their own personal copy of the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis – having conjured forth a nefarious Remake demon. However, the incantation was fudged. “Klaatu barada necktie!” they cried (for the sake of an in-joke), misreading the inked-in-blood, bound-in-human-flesh tome. The consequences are on the big screen to witness, for what arose is an utterly inferior creature.
Expectations were set at Fanboy Level 5 (the highest point in our make believe scale) for Fede Alvarez’s repossession of an undisputed horror classic. Yet does it show a strain of ambivalence toward the title’s hallowed status that Raimi has not only consented to this new vision in terror, but lent his celebrated name as seal of approval and clout as producer? With the Spider-Man trilogy having grossed billions, he doesn’t exactly need the dough.
Evil Dead is nothing more than the original pumped up on steroids. Alvarez isn’t interested, either, in forging his own path through the woods and references Raimi’s film far too many times – with added splashes of J-horror, The Exorcist and Mario Bava’s masterpiece, Black Sunday, thrown in.
Oscar winner Diablo Cody has been involved in uncredited polishing and rewriting of the screenplay. The dialogue has flashes of arch humour but perhaps her contribution is most apparent in the conceptual freshness of Final Girl taking on Final Undead Girl for a spot of girl-on-girl action. Alvarez, at this point, goes full-throttle Grand Guignol and takes a leaf out of metal band Slayer’s bumper book of tour gimmicks. The thrash metal overlords deluge their stage with crimson-coloured water during the thunderous ‘Raining Blood’ number. From a ‘lacerated sky’, Evil Dead mounts one helluva climax.
There was also a minor fib told about the absence of an Ash-like character. Ashley, after all, can be masculine or feminine. A name change is all that’s needed because Jane Levy’s portrayal of junkie trouble girl Mia, who swaps metaphorical demons for corporeal ones, gives us our ‘spirited’ heroic figure. Her one-liner, “Feast on this, mother****r,” is up there with some of Campbell’s own celebrated zingers.
Appreciators of gruesome special effects will find the smörgåsbord of severed limbs and deluxe mutilation to their taste. A character being vomited on and Mia carrying out a spot of body modification with a knife, in particular, are two ‘highlights’.
For all the OTT gothic visuals and newly invented backstories involving witchcraft and family woes, Alvarez is clearly no Sam Raimi. The gleefully demented D.I.Y charm and crude splatter of the 1982 video nasty poster child is replaced by desecrations of the flesh that, while fitting entirely with The Evil Dead’s modus operandi, do not strike the same winning results.
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