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Evil Dead

Film Three Stars
Remaking cult or classic films hasn't worked very well so far, especially when those remakes are in the genre of the horror film. I believe there's a specific reason for that but I'll come to that in a moment. So it was with much hope for the future of the horror film remake that I sat down to watch Evil Dead.

This cult horror remake seemed to be onto an early run of good fortune, after all the people behind it were behind the original and Sam Raimi was at the fore. It was directed by Fede Alvarez whose short film Ataque de pánico! you might remember, he also co-wrote the film along with Rodo Sayagues who co-wrote the short. Oh, and there's the uncredited keyboard of Diablo Cody in there too.

Sadly none of the original cast were coming back and Raimi wasn't going any nearer to the film than as producer, but everything else sounded very positive and if Raimi was behind it then surely…surely…

Plot.pngEvilDead.jpgOh it's pretty simple really, five friends head out to a deserted cabin in the woods to help one of their group kick a rather nasty habit. It would appear that they've been hooked on some rather nasty drugs and just survived an overdose having already ignored one intervention. The friend's plan is to keep them there and get the drugs right out of their system no matter how much they plead otherwise. When they arrive at the cabin they discover some strange evidence of odd goings on in the basement and one of them finds a rather odd book which when read brings something very dangerous to the cabin, something that is conveniently after the same number of souls that there are people in the cabin.

Before I start talking about the film let me just hop back to the comment I made about why I believe that the horror remakes haven't been working so far. I think it's pretty simple and it's all about the fact that time has moved on from when the originals that Hollywood are remaking were first released, when they were made a lot of things were different.

The horror films that have been targeted for bigger remakes were made in a time where film-makers were pushing the boundaries of classification and of the audience, they had available to them the early days of home cinema which had opened up the home audience directly to the film-maker via the video cassette player.

This was the time of the "video nasty" and the attitude towards many of the films from the organisations who were certifying them was simply to ban them or give them certificates that identified them as pushing the boundaries of decency and would hardly be seen. With the VCR audiences had more access to see these films in their home because they didn't have to rely on the cinemas and the distribution system who weren't showing these films. They clamoured for the banned, for the films that couldn't be seen elsewhere. Those that loved horror had a new access to these films and those making them saw this as an opportunity to make even more horrific films and still get them to an audience. Horror cult classics were made on the back of this new access.

Now we have a totally different model, the home cinema market is everywhere, the classification of films has relaxed and horror is no longer demonised as much as sex or nudity is. Smaller cinemas exist that will show the higher risk classifications, and the idea of acceptable has expanded so that there is no longer a "video nasty" category and hasn't been for some time. Then there's the fact that the largest cinema audience is a younger one and that the business of distribution is much more globalised and profit based and we have the modern, mass market, PG13 horror film.

The two do not match. Recreating a visceral and harrowing horror film from the days of "video nasties" into a modern teen-friendly, slick and stylised mass market film guaranteed to make money is just not possible.

So how could a remake of Evil Dead work?

Well despite all that stacked against it this had the man behind it that was behind the original The Evil Dead, the maker of one of the cult horror films that went onto inspire horror films galore, Sam Raimi. Surely he would be able to keep the original alive and produce a remake that did credit to the original.

TheFilm.pngThe opening of The Evil Dead makes something very clear and it's something that's going to excite fans of the original, it isn't forgetting one of the key ingredients that made the original film so strong. It opens with that now famous scene of the woman in amongst the trees and very quickly you realise that this isn't the current timeline, we're looking to the past. So not only are they saying that this film is going to remember the original and what made it so controversial, but it's also saying that they aren't going to be sticking steadfastly to the way the original plot played out.

There is something else that the opening makes clear as well and that's the style of the film. There aren't any budget restrictions here that could result in the film looking rough and ready as the original did. Then it resulted in the film-makers looking for innovative ways of producing special effects and of making scenes more engaging for the audience. Here with the new Evil Dead the film looks much slicker, everything is much more professional, filmed and edited with equipment that is much higher end than anything the original production had their hands on.

Another aspect that stands out from the opening sequences of the film is the sound design. The sound caught my attention from the beginning although later in the film it does begin to get a little lost. More and more the film relies on the standard score moments where the sudden burst of sound alongside a sudden dramatic change in picture is what causes the audience to jump.

Saying that though the film doesn't have a great deal of clichéd moments in the story, everything does play out with enough distance from the original as well as many other horror films, and considering how influential The Evil Dead was there are a fair few of them.

Going back to that opening scene with the woman in the woods, while it did create that instant recognisable connection with the original and carried plenty of style, strong sound design and so on, there was something that was instantly disappointing from the original. It was a very early indication that the film had lost its bite.

The while root attack scene just didn't have anywhere near the same impact the original did, and while you can put a lot of that down to the fact that we've already been shocked with it before, most of it is clear to the eye, this version is much more sanitised and less violent. It is still effective, but it's not at the same level of intention as the original, and that's something to remember for the rest of the film.

There is a strong story behind the film and it is set-up well in the opening sequences showing the past events and from the couple of looks at the book itself, however it isn't really visited that much in the film until the closing sequences. It's here where the most plot turns of the story appear, although much like the rest of the film these are more about how to delay and string out the sequences more than an actual progression of the story.

I say that because there's an aspect of the film in the characters and the writing I found continually annoying, the way the characters behaved under pressure. When there came a moment that time was of the essence where one of the characters just had to do one thing, they seemed to take ages to do it. Dragging themselves slowly across the floor, walking instead of running, the camera dragging out the moments it took for them to reach over a few feet. It became a little bit of a parody of itself and definitely began to grate.

So while there is a story there we don't really see it developed that much, and when it comes to the characters there's little done other than at the opening. It's hard to care for any of them in the film for they are all given their flaws and nothing really to connect or side with, in fact you're rather looking forward to seeing each of them despatched which is really where the strength of the film lies.

In fact this is where most of the film lies because despite a story being there it does feel that it's just kill sequence after kill sequence with each one trying to outdo the previous, trying to see how far the level of gore can be pushed.

For horror fans this is a good thing though because these scenes are scary and despite the dragging characters they do work well. The effects are superb and surprisingly it never becomes too daft, even when the arm dropping off raises both a rumble of disgust and of laughter from the audience.

The film is respectful to the original with quite a few references outside of the core story from the famous car to the hand chopping, an idea that is revisited a couple of times. There are also some new twists given to these common moments, moments that I shan't spoil for you.

These new moments do bring some fun to this film but that's where the commonality ends and where the fun ends too, and that's one aspect that I felt made the original work so well. The dark humour that ran through the entire film, not to mention the strong central character who had much more appeal to them than any of the flat characters here. Neither of these exist with the new version and those are big negatives leaving it just as another horror film, no matter how good it is.

That dark humour is entirely gone and the biggest reference comes after the film has finished, a reference that I felt does more harm than good.

I shan't tell you what it is just now and instead leave it to you to experience for yourself but considering it is everything about the original that this film is not I do wonder why it was included. It's the first moment of dark humour and the first appearance of this connection to the original and all after the film is over. It's like the film-makers are trying to appease the fans who didn't get anything that they wanted from the film with this extremely short scene that is totally disconnected from it.

As much as I loved seeing this moment it reminded me of everything the film wasn't and made me wonder if the sequel might cater to it, something I'm sure that the film-makers didn't want me to think.

Overall.pngEvil Dead is a good horror film that has some great effects and delivers some great horrific death scenes, building in strength right to the end. However I did feel it lacked any character you could really identify with, and they were pretty flat characters at that, and a story that was outlined and then left in favour of scenes of growing horror and gore.

As a horror film it worked well, the effects were strong, the sound design was powerful to begin with, and it had some pretty horrific moments. Yet there was little else of the original The Evil Dead there other than the visual references and the opening story, the only real connection was the post credits scene which had little to do with the actual film.

The core story was laid out in the beginning and suggested something interesting but the rest of the film only touched on that story when it needed to progress the horror sequences. It's a shame because the story does seem appealing, but you can see that it's been set-up for a potential prequel and sequel if required, but for this film it doesn't serve much point.

A good horror film but not the Evil Dead, and the few seconds after the credits just ram that point home.

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