Evil Dead promised one thing and one thing only: “the most terrifying film you will ever experience.” And in my opinion, it certainly delivered on its promise. This 2013 remake may not be the campy Evil Dead you have grown to know and love, but perhaps that’s a good thing. Rather than seeing this Evil Dead as a poor reboot that doesn’t live up to its franchise, think of it as the horror masterpiece Sam Raimi originally envisioned in his mind but couldn’t make due to budgeting constraints. Directed by Fede Alvarez and produced by Mr Raimi, Robert G Tapert, and the groovy Bruce Campbell, the 2013 Evil Dead may not bring anything innovative to the horror genre and it may not be a very good movie with its terrible screenwriting, but it does bring one of the goriest and most terrifying scares to modern horror cinema.
The movie begins with a girl (Phoenix Connolly) being captured by rednecks and burned in the basement of an unknown cabin in the woods because she’s possessed by a demon. After a long period of time, it cuts to Mia (Jane Levy) and a group of her friends who are conducting an intervention, at that same cabin, helping Mia get over her addiction to opiates. In the process, they stumble upon a book in the basement called the Naturom Demonto, and after reading from it, they unleash a demon that possesses Mia and wants to kill everyone else.
The “save Mia’s soul, even if we have to kill her” plot isn’t all that original or cleverly put together. However, that aspect of the movie is negligible because of how fantastic the gore scenes are in “embellishing” the cabin. To keep this review on the tame side, let me just say every crowbar swing, staple gun fire, and shotgun blast painted the walls with several pints of red. The murders were much more graphic than simple decapitations, as every character looked as if they had been mauled by a bear.
On top of the pretty gore scenes, the 2013 Evil Dead also had some nice suspenseful atmospheres with excellent camera work. I enjoyed the horror scenes because they didn’t go for the cheap pop-ups all the time. The cinematography made use of the shadows and the lighting in the cabin, keeping most of the horror images in plain sight but, at the same time, hidden. One scene, for example, almost made me slap my face in fright because of how quickly I brought up my hand: You hear scratching noises coming from the bathroom. You enter the bathroom. You see “something” hiding in the shadows creating the noise. Then, after 20 seconds of mid-air suspense, it turns around, reveals itself cutting open its face, and pounces on you. I won’t be sleeping for weeks.
The one drawback in this film, however, is how badly the actors were written into the story. Although I realize most people who go to horror films are in for the thrill and not so much the complex characters, the screenwriting in Evil Dead was just so atrocious that it unfortunately bled into the overall experience of the movie. The first ten minutes of this film quickly immersed us in a creepy forest and cabin atmosphere; however, we weren’t given any formal introduction as to who the characters were and what they were doing in said forest and cabin. To be honest, I didn’t know any character’s name—except Mia’s, I suppose—throughout the entire movie. If it weren’t for IMDB, I would have referred to all the characters in this review as Meat Sack #1, Meat Sack #2, Meat Sack #3, and last but not least, the memorable Meat Sack #4.
To add on to the blandness of these characters, most of them didn’t even fit into any horror stereotypes that could have at least helped me differentiate their personalities in the movie. It might seem as though I’m nitpicking this movie for its poor character development, but it really does affect the overall experience of the movie, as not being able to identify with the characters prevents us from empathizing with them and building up suspense in their shoes. I remember cringing at one moment where one of the “meat sacks” had to cut off her arm to prevent an unexplained demon infection from spreading, but then I remembered how much I don’t really care because she only had a few lines in the movie anyway. There were three screenwriters working on the script for this. Three! I don’t know how the combined effort of three people amounted to something so unpolished and unrefined.
I appreciated the 2013 Evil Dead more than I originally thought I would have because of how much it stood on its own while still keeping some of the original elements. Filmmakers could have used better character development to accentuate the horror and make this truly into a masterpiece, but over all, I was really satisfied with what frightened me.