Evil Dead (2013) - DVD Review

'as hackneyed and episodic as contemporary horror films get'

It’s been over twenty years since the release of the last Evil Dead film, and over thirty since Sam Raimi first opened the Necronomicon and unleashed his deadites onto cinema screens in low-budget, carnage-soaked fashion. I’m a casual fan of the original trilogy, being as they are a flawed but entertaining and well-made trifecta of blackly comedic horror, reaching their peak in Evil Dead 2 which delivered a sumptuous balance of gore and guffaws. It’s a shame then that 2013’s reboot of the franchise, the first not to be directed by Raimi (although he does retain a producer credit alongside series mainstay Bruce Campbell), never comes close to achieving the same levels of satisfaction.

In assuming the director’s chair, Fede Alvarez does show some signs of knowing what he’s doing. Much has been made of Evil Dead using as little CGI as possible - only minor touch-ups in post-production - and the benefits of this can be seen here and there in the visuals Alvarez employs. The make-up effects used to create the rebooted deadites are suitably impressive, and Alvarez crafts some pleasing cinematography at several points. Whilst hardly breaking new ground, Evil Dead visually delivers everything you’d want from a modern horror film.

Sadly, the same certainly cannot be said for the film’s structure and plot. Whilst familiar beats revisited from the original Evil Dead can be expected, even eagerly anticipated in some cases, as a whole Evil Dead is as hackneyed and episodic as contemporary horror films get. After the release of The Cabin In The Woods only last year, it is entirely inexcusable for any director to create a film with a plot as rigid and clich├ęd in its approach to the genre as this.

Perhaps more disappointing is the departure of Alvarez’s film from the wryly comedic approach of Raimi’s original franchise entries. There’s very little humour here, far less even than in the 1981 Evil Dead, the straightest of the original trilogy. What’s more, newly introduced elements such as the secluded woodland getaway being an intervention to help Mia (Jane Levy) recover from heroin addiction, simply pile on unnecessary gloom, regularly making Evil Dead a flat and uninviting affair. A considerable amount of the horror elements feel lifted from the excruciating playbooks of the Saw and Hostel films, which jar too much with the blood-drenched over-the-top style borrowed from Raimi elsewhere.

Alvarez seems to realise he’s pitched this all wrong by the time the final act begins, getting more right in the closing fifteen minutes than he has in the preceding seventy-five. But the sudden shift in both tone and focal point is done so quickly you’ll be too busy regaining your bearings to truly enjoy what’s on offer. In the end it’s ultimately too little too late; Evil Dead joins the ever-swelling ranks of sub-par modern horror offerings masquerading under the banner of a much-loved franchise of the past.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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