Evil Dead (2013) Review: Bloody Serious Remake

“Fear What You Will Become”

Synopsis: Five friends head to a remote cabin, where the discovery of a Book of the Dead leads them to unwittingly summon up demons living in the nearby woods.

Evil Dead (2013) Review Poster
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Calamity Brains:

I didn’t have high hopes before my viewing of Evil Dead. While it’s true that the internet is generally gaga for it, I’ve had severely mixed results trusting to movies that get a lot of buzz. Remakes also tend to be pretty hit or miss (mostly miss). On top of that, I have a deep fondness for the original trilogy, which meant that any movie hoping to jump into the series was going to have a lot to live up to.

So, with all that in mind: I thought Evil Dead was okay.

I definitely didn’t hate it, and I suspected I might. But I also didn’t love it. I fall somewhere in between, with feelings on both sides of the aisle. I’d be willing to watch it again, but I probably wouldn’t buy it.

The Hate:

  • One of the strongest parts of The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II is the ambiance. And though Evil Dead (2013) was aiming for a strong, serious addition to the franchise, it often fell short of the originals. There’s less build-up in Evil Dead (2013); instead of characters switching between their demon-selves and normal-selves on a regular basis, most people in the new film go demon and never turn back. That’s an acceptable choice, but it means that the movie loses a lot of the tension. There isn’t as much of a dilemma for the other characters – we get “someone turned evil and needs to be put down” instead of “someone turned evil but could turn good again and oh my God how can I kill my girlfriend.”
  • As much as I enjoyed the practical effects used for the gore, the demon effects were… less good. The gray makeup and yellowy eyes didn’t work for me, and although the actors generally did a good job indicating their possession through body language, I still found the makeup more distracting than creepy.
  • The characters were all fairly one-dimensional. Nobody had much of a backstory or personality. It was hard to root for any of them, given the minimal context. It was doubly hard because the movie switched gears halfway through, first focusing on Mia (Jane Levy) and then focusing on her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) as the main character. It’s very hard to know who we should be rooting for under those circumstances.

The Love:

  • I deeply appreciated Evil Dead (2013)’s twist on the classic “a group of teens go to a remote cabin to party” trope. Having a group of teens go to a cabin explicitly not to party was interesting; having the additional reason to stay (to help detox a friend) was compelling. It also allows the entire movie to be seen as a metaphor for addiction, which is definitely different.
  • The gore effects were awesome. I’m not a squeamish person, and even I was flinching at some of the effects. They are in your face, and brutal. I loved the use of practical effects, and found all of the gore/body horror/mutilation to be very realistic.
  • The callbacks to the original trilogy were very enjoyable. I would have liked even more, but that would have been difficult considering the serious tone of this movie.

There has been a rash of remakes and reboots in the 2000/2010s, and most of them have failed to meet one basic requirement: having something new to say, or a new way to say it. Even the movies that have tried to be a little grittier than the original have mostly failed to present a strong reason for retelling the story. Evil Dead (2013)… mostly succeeds. It doesn’t provide a flat-out reboot; instead, this story can be seen more as an addition to an already well-regarded franchise. It also aims to create a more serious entry into the series, and generally it does.

The original Evil Dead trilogy at times fails to be creepy due to its sly jokes and campiness – this Evil Dead is all grit and gore. There was no way the filmmakers could have compared favorably to our beloved Bruce Campbell and his motley cast of supporting characters – but thankfully, they didn’t try. That leaves us with a mostly inoffensive addition to one of our favorite franchises – a bloodier, darker addition, but a reasonable one nonetheless. Movies directed by Fede Alvarez have thus far failed to impress me in terms of their character development, but at least in this case, there’s enough going on to distract from that.

Those who got into horror more recently (or those who prefer the newer, gorier slashers) will find a lot to like in Evil Dead (2013). Those who are a fan of the original series may have a harder time getting into it, but it’s still worth the watch – if only to see what another director makes of our Kandarian demon friends. (And if you’re not sure you’ll like it, there’s always our drinking game!)

Calamity Brains’ Rating: C+
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Calamity Brains

The Codex Mortis Horror Hosts (Ludwig von Stroodle and Calamity Brains) are married and live in West Virginia. Pretty much everyone who sees their cabin agrees that it would be an ideal setting for a horror movie. Their pets include a black widow spider, a smart dog, and a stupid dog. When they aren’t watching horror movies, they can be found at whiskey festivals, Renaissance fairs, and board game nights.

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