Ardent Bruce Campbell fans may argue that Evil Dead without Ash is like a face that’s lost its chin. Although, the key problem with this particular remake is whether the 'cabin in the woods' format can ever be taken seriously post-Joss Whedon’s 2011 loving but exposing homage.
With copious amounts of vomiting, self-mutilation and gelatinous blood, this remake knows what its new core audience is after and
offers it by the gory gallon
Five twenty-somethings travel to an isolated cabin in the woods in order to help drug addict Mia (Jane Levy, Suburgatory) go cold turkey. Unfortunately they discover their DIY rehab has a basement full of dead cats and a book wrapped in barbed wire. Despite its myriad warnings written in jarringly modern vernacular, the Book of the Dead is opened by school teacher Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), who likes to read aloud.
The passage summons a demon that chases Mia through the woods. By the time Mia’s brother David (Shiloh Fernandez, Red Riding Hood) and Co. realise it isn’t a figment of her drug addled mind, the demon has possessed her with the intention of reaping their souls before the night is out.
This is a remake of Sam Raimi’s 1981 cult classic The Evil Dead and not Evil Dead 2 (1987), which had less non-consensual tree sex and the sense not to take itself too seriously. There are nods to both films - the deadite in the basement, the possessed hand – but writer-director Fede Alvarez has grimly cut out most of the fun. With Campbell and Raimi on board as producers, they have at least succeeded in preserving the integrity of the originals.
Without the macabre humour of Raimi’s second instalment, the remake’s plot doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. The new setup is baffling and there is no amount of The Cabin in the Woods-style irony in sight. From the moment it’s revealed that David has brought his girlfriend to meet his friends for the first time at his sister’s drug intervention, it’s clear that logic isn’t going to play a large part in this film.
Fans would be less inclined to bemoan the loss of Raimi’s lead character Ash if they’d had his equivalent to get behind. Ill-advisedly Alvarez has filled his film with paper thin characters whose only distinction is that they’re all equally unlikeable. None of their bonds ring true, least of all David and his girlfriend Natalie’s (Elizabeth Blackmore), whose entire relationship is centred on occasionally calling each other ‘baby’. Still, this lack of familiarity allows them to bash each other’s brains in with little internal conflict.
With a sparse script, the unremarkable cast do what they can. Levy stands out largely thanks to being able to produce a whisper so disconcerting it will genuinely make your insides shudder. The rest thankfully have little to say that isn’t filler until the next dismemberment. This is not necessarily a bad thing. The gore quota is where this film excels itself.
With copious amounts of vomiting, self-mutilation and gelatinous blood, this remake knows what its new core audience is after and offers it by the gory gallon. That the one-time family cottage is packed to the rafters with all manner of weapons gives you some idea of the potential for relentless violence this film gratuitously exploits. Particularly in Alvarez’s no-holds-barred blood-drenched finale.
Ultimately, however, this is another remake of Raimi’s back catalogue that wasn’t strictly necessary. The tagline promises big but ‘the most terrifying film you’ll ever see’ is woefully short on scares. Mainly this film attempts – and succeeds – to be horrifying. This may not satisfy those looking for anything more than a schlocky horror, but accept it for what it is and you’ll at least be entertained. 5/10
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