Five young friends journey to a remote Cabin In The Woods… Before affectionately tearing Fede Alvarez’s Hollywood remake of Evil Dead apart, let’s address the fears of the micro-budget original’s fanboys:
Is it good? Yes.
Is it nasty? For a commercial Hollywood horror film, definitely.
Is it as good as the original? Of course not.
Is it worth the wait? Well, that’s a trick question.
If you’re desperate for Bruce Campbell’s wise-cracking Ash battling hordes of Deadites in a follow-up to the last entry in the Evil Dead saga, Army Of Darkness, this probably isn’t the film for you. If the wait was for Evil to revisit the same cabin in the same woods, thirty years after Ash and friends left behind a rusted out ’73 Oldsmobile and various in-joke boxes for the fanboys to tick, with a new group of friends with their own baggage, encountering fear, filth and fury on the big screen, with a bombastic digital soundtrack to boot, this film succeeds better than one could have possibly expected.
After a flashback to a macabre familial dispute, which may or may not have any relevance to events after the credits, a beautifully discomforting overhead tracking shot leads us to the aforementioned wooden summer house deep within forest country and also informs the viewer that the producers can afford overhead tracking shots this time around.
Mia (Jane Levy) has arrived here, with support from friends Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) and Olivia (Jessica Lewis) as well as her estranged brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) who’s decided this is the best time to introduce his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore), in order to free herself from her heroin addiction once and for all.
Even without any subsequent discoveries in the cellar this is already a recipe for quite a distressing weekend away but Eric’s curiosity about the contents of the rooms under the floorboards leads to a book, wrapped in plastic and barbed wire, which you’d think make it clear the book was wrapped up for a reason. Ignoring the footnotes in blood by previous readers warning the discoverer to STOP RIGHT NOW AND LEAVE THIS BOOK WELL ALONE, Eric finds within the book’s decayed pages an ancient occult incantation which when recited summons a malevolent spirit intent on possessing all of their souls in the most horrendous, graphic and repulsive of ways, encouraging its recipients to make full use of all the household appliances they may come into contact around the house. Unless they find a way to banish the dark spirit, they’ll all be dead by dawn.
Directed with one eye on the expectations from The Evil Dead’s vocal fanbase, the other on creating a tale that has its own identity, Alvarez has returned to the less (intentionally) humourous mood of the original with writing partner Rodo Sayagues and delivered the gory goods, with limbs being hacked off, fluids emanating from natural and self-inflicted orifices and a revisit to one of the 1981 original’s most notorious scenes, all slickly delivered. Once the evil is unleashed, the narrative is fast-paced and relentless, as is the action, whereas Raimi’s film had perfect moments of subtle, silent dread and long pauses building to an all-engulfing terror.
The sound design succeeds as much as it fails; within the various layers of the mix are some very clever touches, especially ones recalling familiar memories but overall these touches are lost within the overall noise. Diablo Cody was brought in to translate and enhance the Uruguayan writer and director’s dialogue, though her trademark quirkiness and social statements are not particularly noticeable, the conversation being mostly mechanical or revisits to similar revelations and declarations relating to the Evil Dead mythos. Of course, the formula upon which they have to work with has been imitated, inverted and lampooned so many times in the last three decades that making something completely original could never happen. Instead Evil Dead succeeds in delivering a kick-ass heroine in Jane Levy’s Mia and more blood, horror and unpleasantness than mainstream audiences are used to getting from the multiplex in an initially unwanted but subsequently very welcome new horror franchise.
When all’s said and done: “Groovy!”