FILM REVIEW 

/ evil dead
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originally featured on
www.maketheswitch.com.au

How, in this post-Cabin In The Woods world, can horror possibly be scary? Just as Wes Craven's Scream ruined slashers and teen horror in the late 1990s, so too did 2011's Cabin for Lovecraftian rituals, monstrous apparitions, and... well... cabins in the woods. Scratch another foul for the new Evil Dead, then, which can lamentably add "total genre deconstruction" to the "remake of revered original" already scored against it. But poor timing is the least of the update's problems - which does a competent job of venerating the classic source material, but does pretty much nothing else.

 

David's sister, Mia, is in trouble. Hooked on junk since the death of their mentally unstable mother, she's made a resolution: be clean, or die trying. To this end, brother and sister (along with friends Eric, Oliva, and Natalie, deliciously anagramed) convene at their old family cabin, unaware of the monstrous evil that lurks in the woods. Before you can say "klaatu barada nikto", it's boomsticks against brain-munching demons in a battle to avoid being dead by dawn.

 

This is Evil Dead more or less as it's always existed, cherry-picked from the 1981 original, Evil Dead 2, and - yes! - even Army of Darkness. Tree-rape, malevolent hands, open graves, and the Delta all make an appearance, and while there's an extensive laundry list of why this remake is inferior to the originals, its interest is strictly for hardcore Deadites. What it suffers from most is the same generic homogeny that plagues almost every contemporary horror film, remake or otherwise: empty characterisation, irrationally stupid characters, and a glossy veneer devoid of personality. While the kid directors of the 70s and 80s made up for zero funds with a wealth of imagination, there's no such surplus among the new generation that we haven't seen before - many times, and better.

 

Gone are the Deadites, the Candarian nasties as sharp of tongue as they are with claws; so too the lurid history of the Necronomicon, the book of the dead, "relic of the dark times, bound in human skin when the seas ran red with blood." In place of Raimi's Latin-chanting, Lovecraft-infused mythology is... not much. The book is found, words are read, and demons arrive; who, where, why, and how are not the film's concern. Admittedly, Raimi was only partly interested himself, but to his credit, he made such questions if not logical, then certainly interesting.

 

To debutant director Fede Alvarez's credit, his cinematography is fantastic - no Dead movie ever had such cash to flaunt before the camera - and his insistence on practical effects is admirable, if far too phoney to be anything more than deliciously gory window dressing. And gory it is - in the bloodshed department, at least, Raimi's original is more than matched.

 

But for all its buckets of blood - for all its lengthy homage - there's no charm in this Evil Dead, no gallows humour, no dizzying cinematic presentation, no effortless sense of groovy cool. Worst of all, it's just not scary - there's nothing we haven't seen here before, funnier, more disgusting, and more frightening. Invention is always at its best with nothing to lose and nothin to prove - both qualities, sadly, ill afforded to a remake, leaving Evil Dead 2013 to hail to the king, baby.

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