A second look review at...
Evil Dead (2013)
By Ian Austin
POSSIBLE SPOILERS BELOW
That’s the best way to start a review of Evil Dead: 2013. It is, without question, one of the most dazzlingly and breathtakingly violent things that you will see in your entire life. Unless you work at a Croydon hospital.
Evil Dead: 2013 is a rip-roaring rampage of ridiculously outrageous violence encased in a rather touching story about stepping up and being there for your increasingly crazy mother and your self-entitled ‘drugs are awesome, vows are awesomer, and drugs taken while breaking a vow? SO AWESOME’ sister.
It also does something strange for an Evil Dead story, in that it wants us to root for the main character. Let’s be honest, the original trilogy is a classic indeed; but Ash is a weirdly unlikeable character. Bruce Campbell brings an arrogant charm to the character, yet rarely do we emphasise with his plight because there’s no real context. He, like Jack Burton in Big Trouble From Little China, is a character from a teen comedy thrown into a different genre. In this case, a horror film.
The fun of the original is seeing this absolute jackass get broken down until he leaps into full-blown insanity and decides that he should kill everyone that looks at him funny. Luckily for Ash, 90% of the beings he comes across are either Deadites (kinda zombies, and kinda ballet dancing, foul mouthed miscreants) or characters even more unlikeable.)
For the remake, they’ve decided to go a different route. Namely use Mia trying to quit cold turkey as a reason for them to stay in the cabin because, hey, she’s sweating balls and thus is seeing stuff that isn’t there. At the same time, David leaving his family means he’s going to have to learn to put others first. Neither arc (quitting drugs/quitting selfishness) is breaking the cinematic bank, they just give a goal beyond Ash’s ‘oh DEAR GOD I GOTTA GET A CHAINSAW’ rage.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the original three. I’m just pointing out this veers closer to the original Evil Dead in playing the horror straight, and at points plays it even straighter. It also, shock, doesn’t drag. At all. Once the set-up is out of the way, the violence comes thick and fast. While the direction isn’t quite as kinetic as Raimi’s, it has a haunting ‘pseudo-Kubrick’ vibe to it. Lots of long shots, evoking the feel of The Shining in slowly letting us know that things have gone to Heck. Perfect for capturing the gore in matter of fact detail. And boy, there’s plenty of gore. We get to see a smile put on someone’s face; a character gets shot with nails, stabbed near the eye and hands with a syringe, stabbed twice (upper and lower chest), his head and arms bashed in with a crowbar, and then set on fire. He only sells the fire, naturally. And everyone else gets put through the ringer too, the highlight being an exceptional practical effect where a woman seamlessly cuts most of her arm off with no visible cuts. The blood is flowing in this film, to be sure.
But going back to my original point, the film grounds itself in Mia. Jane Levy delivers a brilliant performance in the film, going from a scared child to someone who can say ‘feast on this, motherfucker’ with a steely tone that is downright chilling in how awesome it is. She knocks every beat out of the park, and by the end has earned her ‘kick ass’ sequence as much as any character in any horror film you can possibly think of.
This film is fast, pacey, and has an emotionally solid rock. It’s incredibly violent, well-shot, and packs an exceptional last fifteen minutes. While it isn’t as inventive as Evil Dead, or funny as Evil Dead II, it’s a rare film that flat out works: building and building until I was downright cheering the gruesomely brilliant final stretch. I knew what was going to happen, having seen this at the cinema already, and I still cheered.
Evil Dead: 2013 gets my highest award. 5/5. It does everything that a horror film should do, and delivers a franchise best performance by Jane Levy. If you like violence, great female characters, and ultra-violence, this film is for you.
Follow Ian Austin on Twitter: @I_A_Austin
You can also check out Bill Gordon's 4 star review of the film HERE