Evil Dead (2013), a remake of Sam Rami’s 1981 classic, has a premise all too familiar to those of us who subject themselves to horror on the regular. A group of twenty-somethings, a cabin in the woods, an ancient book full of darkness and demons… It’s all a little banal, and outside of some truly spectacular guts and gore, I can’t say there were many surprises along the way. Yet by the end of Evil Dead’s ninety-minute runtime, these formulaic elements come together to remind you why stories like this became classics in the first place. This is perhaps the best example of a brilliant thing, and if you’ve got the stomach for it, I could hardly think of a better movie for Halloween.
The narrative kicks off as we’re introduced to five friends, who’ve made the questionable decision to stay at a remote cabin whilst one of their group, Mia, attempts to kick her drug addiction. Soon enough a lingering stench gets them exploring, and they discover a gruesome scene in the basement below. Mia’s erratic behaviour gives our cast just enough of an excuse to shrug off some of the bizarre happenings in the early going, but this doesn’t last for long. Things escalate fast – you won’t have to wait around for the parade of violence to begin.
Effects throughout are brutal. Gushing wounds, blistering skin, flaps of sticky flesh peeling away. Everything feels so visceral that I can only assume much of the gore consists of excellent practical effects. There are demonic possessions abound, and the actors are unrecognisable as they twist and writhe in hellish rage. Director Fede Álvarez makes use of shadows, of flickering candlelight, to transform the cabin into an impossible maze. It’s intense, and there’s hardly a moment to catch your breath when things get going. Echoes of scenes from the 1981The Evil Dead come thick and fast towards the latter half of the narrative, reflected to suit a post Hostel world. Whilst Fede Álvarez’s Evil Dead (2013) is clearly a very different movie to Sam Rami’s – with tongue less in cheek and more chewed up and spat out onto the floor – there’s clearly a love of what came before.
What’s so remarkable about all this nastiness, though, is that it pushes you towards a life affirming, fist-pumping “hell yeah!” of a climax. That’s the ingredient so many nasty horror movies are missing. You subject yourself to hours of violence and terror and then… Nothing. You go home, have a nightmare or two, and test your metal on the next cavalcade of blood and guts. The best in the genre leave you a survivor. A little exhausted. A little disturbed. But alive. And whatever wizardry is behind that feeling is very much present in Evil Dead.
Evil Dead is a classic story executed to perfection; there’s nothing particularly fresh or unique to be found, but these tropes and storytelling traditions have persisted for good reason. A film that’s certainly not for the faint of heart, but with an exhilarating climax that just about makes it an ordeal worth suffering through.