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Well, this was a long, long, long time coming. And I could never really see the point. I’m not opposed to remakes on principle, all story-telling is reinvention after all. But it was hard to imagine how the original could be remade, it was so quirky and bizarre. Remaking cult films is almost always a bad move.
Evil Dead 2013 certainly decided to set the bar high, declaring itself “the most terrifying movie you will ever see” and boasting Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell as “executive producers.” The term “executive producer” is always a warning bell, more often than not a blatant attempt at lending a production credibility by slapping on a talisman of past glory. Of course, Evil Dead was made by Raimi in the time before he became a moralising prick (see Drag Me to Hell) and before both men had soiled themselves by association with Hansel and Gretel.
And unsurprisingly, Evil Dead is resoundingly “meh.”
In this version, the happy campers are holed up at the oh-so-familiar cabin in the woods as they are detoxing Mia (Jane Levy) who is addicted to an unidentified recreational drug of choice. In attendance are Mia’s somewhat estranged brother David (Shiloh Fernandez), his girlfriend Natalie and their childhood friends Olivia and Eric. In an opening scene we see a girl being burnt alive by an unidentified group of spiritualists and her dad, amidst a gaggle of decorative murdered cats. The girl begs for her life and feigns innocence but soon the demon possessing her is revealed. When our campers arrive at the cabin it is quickly revealed that the basement was the location for this exorcism.
Eric the Idiot wastes no time in cracking open the Necronomicon and reading out a summoning. Gold stars for ass-hattery, genius. Mia then gets possessed by the demon by being raped by a tree – yes they have remade that scene. From here things progress predictably as the cast get bumped off and/or possessed in imaginatively gruesome ways.
Gone is the disturbing humour and distinctive dreamy nightmare quality of the original. Evil Dead 1981 was unsettling because it lacked a linear story-line, instead the characters were simply experiencing a nightmare and fighting for survival. In its place is the conventional “over-coming adversity” storyline as brother and sister fight to rebuild their relationship and David attempts to atone for abandoning his sister.
Mia’s drug addiction is used somewhat imaginatively as the cause for the group ignoring her symptoms of possession and refusing to leave the cabin as all hell breaks lose. This could have been used to far greater effect, to bring-back the nightmare, bizarre quality of the original – but of course, it isn’t.
All that exists of the original is the basic mythos and a few homage scenes, such as the tree and the demon leering from the cellar hatch. The humour is gone and Ash is replaced first by David, a cardboard action hero with all the personality of a pencil and later by Mia – the dull and predictable last girl standing (with attitude).
Perhaps worst of all, the timing in this movie is absolutely horrific. Instead of the pervading sense of horror and nerve-jangling, creeping despair, characters are dispatched at breakneck speed as we are hurtled from one gore set-piece to the next. There is no suspense in this movie and that is unforgivable: it makes this retelling feel peculiarly sanitised. This version lacks the experimental, nightmare vision of the original and its relentless. It has lost the fearlessness of the original and chooses instead to throw in every conceivable cliché. Really. Every single one. It plays things predictably safe and ends up very dull indeed.