By Jessica Delfanti | April 5, 2013
Director: Fede Alvarez
Writer: Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues
Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore, Lou Taylor Pucci
Last year, The Cabin in the Woods masterfully lampooned and commented on the traditional horror cliche originally contributed to by Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead. Now, Fede Alvarez’s reboot reminds us that the formula is a classic for a reason: it’s awesome.
In the 2013 Evil Dead, Olivia (Jessica Lucas), Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), and David (Shiloh Fernandez) and his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) are intent on aiding David’s sister Mia (Jane Levy) through detox in the isolation of a cabin full of childhood memories. When they discover a spooky book in the basement, they open the door to demonic intrusion, and all hell breaks loose–literally.
While Alvarez’s Evil Dead is a reboot rather than remake and thus contains dozens of differences from the original film, it creates a teasing and fun balance of nods and winks at the audience. Kill orders are shuffled so that nothing can be predicted; weapons and props from the original are visible but not reliably used in the same way. With this awareness of its predecessor, the film channels a level of meta-humor, while also approaching its subject matter with chilling sincerity: we see the same crusted faces of the demonically possessed, the same flashy gore, but here it is scary, rendered in awesomely realistic detail, more likely to incur shudders than laughter.
Granted, the film does have a few areas where Alvarez’s taste fails. Some parts of the ending are annoying and logically confusing, although they are made up for with theatrics and exuberant gore. In addition, the film dismisses the original Evil Dead’s gender neutral approach to its victims, trading it in for a more cliche but irksome obsession with murder and violation of women. This wouldn’t stand out as problematic if not for the fact that the two male characters are permitted multiple acts of heroism while their female counterparts very quickly become, as Pucci’s character says, “the Devil’s bitch.”
All in all, the 2013 Evil Dead may not inspire much academic study, but it is a fun, goofy, gorey package full of shocking and thrilling treats. Perhaps those expecting a remake will be disappointed by discrepancies between this and its predecessor, but those approaching the film as the simple thing it is–a movie about kids getting killed in the woods–will find it to be a true delight.