Evil Dead (2013)
I had originally watched Evil Dead as part of the usual 31 Days of Horror marathon I do every October. I didn't make 31 films that particular year and, despite watching it, never got a review written. Over the years I intended to. The major problem is that I forgot almost all the movie within a month or so after seeing it. I figured much of it would come back to me once I saw it again, but I realized while watching it that I didn't remember a single thing about it; not so much as a scene. Strange, because there are movies that I haven't seen in 30 to 40 years where something, for better or worse, has stuck with me.
Evil Dead came out toward the end of a long line of remakes, most of them made in the late 2000s and pretty much all of them pale imitations of the originals. The difference was that, even though this has some plot similarities, it was not a remake of The Evil Dead, but instead a completely different story taking place in the same universe. No one replaces Ash and, to be honest, there is very little of the strange humor that bubbled under the original and totally took over Evil Dead II. Director Fede Alvarez, this being his feature debut, took the story dead serious. There are still copious amounts of blood, but it's not accompanied by a wink, a nod, or even by much of the camera work the original series was known for.
Mia (Jane Levy) has been brought to her family's isolated cabin to help her kick her heroin addiction. Accompanying her is her friend Olivia (Jessica Lucas), a registered nurse, and Olivia's boyfriend Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci). Mia's estranged brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) also arrives, to everyone's surprise, with his new girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore). The tension between David and everyone else is tangible, but he intends to stick around and make sure Mia adheres to her pledge this time. Unfortunately, prior to their arrival, the cabin was used in a ritual to destroy a demon that possessed a young girl (Phoenix Connolly). The practitioners have left behind the Naturam Demono, a book of spells that leads to the raising of the evil spirits.
Eric opens the book and reads despite the warnings scribbled all over it, leading to Mia becoming possessed. The group locks her in the cellar while trying to wait out a storm and get her to a hospital, but not before Olivia's soul is also captured. It turns out that five souls are needed in order to raise a creature called the Abomination (Randal Wilson) from its slumber. David hopes to prevent that and, somehow, restore Mia's life to her.
The seriousness with which Alvarez takes the movie is its biggest detriment. Although The Evil Dead itself was meant to be a serious horror film, Sam Raimi had a certain style that shown through and Bruce Campbell turned out to have great comic timing. The movie wasn't exactly complicated when it came to plot, nor that original, but the way Raimi framed it was. Alvarez is also a good visual director, and some of what he does is an homage to Raimi, but his vision for what this movie should be is completely different. While Raimi, Campbell and Rob Tapert all gave their official stamp of approval, Alvarez's grim, violent style worked better in his original property, Don't Breathe, than it does here.
I do credit him for largely sticking with practical effects but, even though he tries to redo the infamous forest scene from the first movie in his own way, most of what happens just happens. There's no real engagement, particularly because none of the characters are engaging. It's an Evil Dead film, so I'm not really interested in tensions between family and friends, especially when no one is developed enough for it to even be worth it. It was the same way in The Evil Dead, but Raimi never wasted time trying to pretend that emotional investment was there. It doesn't help that an entire character, Natalie, is pretty much ignored throughout most of the movie until her big scene.
While not a horrible film, Evil Dead is tedious, and it's a good thing the sequel never got made or that this story was never followed up. Ash vs. Evil Dead was much more entertaining and in the spirit of the original. There had originally been plans for one of the sequels to have Ash and Mia team up as well, which thankfully never happened. Although at the time official this movie has pretty much been erased from the Evil Dead timeline, and rightfully so. It's the dreary exercise in paint-by-numbers horror that the original avoided.
Evil Dead (2013)
Time: 91 minutes
Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Jessica Lucas, Lou Taylor Pucci, Elizabeth Blackmore
Director: Fede Alvarez