There is no use anymore complaining about horror remakes. By now, you must accept any halfway decent horror film from the ‘70s or ‘80s has already been remade or is in the pipeline. There was Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, The Crazies, Last House on the Left, and even more but listing them all will not make anybody feel better. Now, a studio turns its attention to Evil Dead, a commercial flop in 1981, but a certified cult classic now.
Five early 20-somethings trek to an isolated cabin in the woods. There is a reason for it but that would fall under plot. Evil Dead and plot do not work very well together. Plot is just something to slog through to get to the reason they are trying to reanimate the franchise, blood, detached limbs, found objects used to impale your body, and even more blood.
The violence and gore far exceed the original but there is a key element missing. The original Evil Dead movies are known for being campy. The characters do not take themselves too seriously; it is as if they are all in on the same joke. Not in 2013. Nobody smirks, chuckles, looks askance, or offers up a bad pun. It is all confusion, stupidity, and screaming.
Just what is the Evil Dead? There is an ominous book that looks like it is bound in skin and has blood splatters on most pages. When mystical words are spoken aloud, the exact same camera shots are employed as in the original of ‘something’ hurtling through the woods. There is a whooshing sound through the trees as the camera, acting as the eyes of ‘something’, charges its way towards the cabin. We have no idea where it came from or what it looks like, but it uses an eye-opening method to literally enter the drug-addled and annoying Mia (Jane Levy).
Mia is at the cabin to, once again, wean herself off of hard narcotics. Her friends, her brother, and his girlfriend go with her for moral and, if required, physical support. Mia’s brother, David (Shiloh Fernandez), wins the award for worst actor amongst the other four well-qualified candidates. Fernandez is technically in Bruce Campbell’s role from 1981, which was always going to be a tough sell, but no matter, he is not believable for one second.
Another hard to swallow fact is there are four writers with screenplay credits. One of them is Sam Raimi, the original writer/director, because he created the story. Another one is Diablo Cody, the wit behind Juno and Young Adult. First, what is Cody’s name doing billed behind people named Fede Alvarez and Rodo Sayaguez who have no other feature film credits on their resumes? Second, and more importantly, where in the script is Cody’s influence? There are no snarky observations or pithy retorts. A writer known almost solely for her biting style and unique voice has zero impact on Evil Dead’s drudgery.
Maybe I just miss Bruce Campbell. I suppose when they eventually get around to remaking Jaws I will miss Roy Scheider. Having the real Ash show up with a wink, a grin, and hopefully an off color quip would at least have reminded the audience of more entertaining movies from the past. But no, Campbell was smart enough to stay behind the scenes as a co-producer in this obligatory, and remarkably tired, remake.
Directed by: Fede Alvarez
Written by: Fede Alvarez, Diablo Cody, Sam Raimi, Rodo Sayaguez
Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore