When Mia (Jane Levy) starts behaving strangely, the last thing that crosses her friends’ minds is that she might have a demon from hell attached to her soul “like a leech”. But then, they didn’t see what happened to her in the woods. Nor have they been privy to the events of a not strictly necessary but tasty pre-title card amuse-bouche starring a family with issues that it’ll take powers more profound than Jeremy Kyle to resolve.
The best horror movies apply the following ingredients in varying amounts: great characters, imaginative deaths, gradual build ups of suspense/dread, (a) scary or memorable villain(s), and some laughs to dispel the tension. Fede Alvarez’s take on Evil Dead draws heavily from the imaginative deaths wellspring, arguably outdoes the possessed “deadites” from the 1980s Evil Dead movies (certainly in terms of looking evil as opposed to funny), and has a decent stab at building atmosphere. Where it can’t compete is great characters and laughs – the five youths are not wholly cardboard, but Mia aside, you’d be hard-pushed to pick this lot out of a line-up the next day, and there’s no equivalent for Bruce Campbell’s enjoyably OTT Ash.
The basic set up is one of the film’s better innovations. A perennial problem in this genre is isolating your victims, which can lead to plot-supporting stupidity, wherein your hapless ensemble hang around an obvious deathtrap long after anyone possessed of even the most Darwin-baiting lack of survival instinct would have scarpered. Here, the first person to see demons happens to be a junkie going cold turkey; the rest of the gang not unreasonably assume she is in the grip of screaming withdrawal hallucinations. Ok, so it takes Lou Taylor Pucci’s character a bit longer than one might hope to fess up to having – whoops! – read out bits of what looks a lot like the Dummies Guide to Summoning Demons, but hey – nobody’s perfect.
In a nutshell: A pretty groovy remake that wears its influence lightly, Evil Dead 2013 functions as a decent, gory horror treat for those who’ve never watched an Evil Dead movie – while at the same time exhibiting discreet respect for the 1980s incarnations, with plenty of low-key nods to the original for fans.
By Catherine Bray