Okay, let’s put our cards on the table first.
To us, there’s nothing that smells more like a cash-grab than a glossy remake of a classic Horror film. Just about every big franchise from the seventies and eighties has received a reboot. From the Nightmare on Elm Street to Rob Zombie’s Halloween and 2009’s Friday the 13th, there has been no shortage of classic horror movies that have been remade with a slightly condescending view of modern audiences.
So imagine our delight when we discovered that the new Evil Dead was actually pretty good.
Mia (Jane Levy) is an addict on the cusp of recovery. Her brother and best friends have brought her to a cabin in the woods where she plans to go cold turkey far away from civilisation. While struggling with symptoms of withdrawal, she inadvertently becomes possessed by an evil spirit released by the opening of a creepy book found in the cellar. This, of course, leads to a series of gruesome events in which the spirit begins to pick off her friends one by one.
The tropes of the Evil Dead were pretty thoroughly deconstructed in last year’s Cabin in the Woods, even down the character archetypes but director Fede Alvarez and his co-writers Diablo Cody and Rodo Sayagues have found a way to inject a little credibility into their characters. By using Mia’s addiction as a plot device, they have managed to:
a) Give the characters a reason to stay in a crappy cabin despite discovering a basement full of burnt out cat husks. Any right thinking human would abandon their holiday if that happened. Idiot kids in bad horror movies don’t behave that way;
b) Give the characters a legitimate reason not to believe Mia when she tells them she was sexually assaulted by a demonic tree. In bad horrors, her friends would just say “eh, you’ll be fine in the morning” before continuing to get drunk; and
c) Add another dimension to the story. The addiction informs the relationship between Mia and her estranged brother, allowing for an actual character arc to develop in a horror movie. It also presents a central metaphor for the film: equating the unreliability of addicts to someone who has been possessed might be a little on the nose, but it’s interesting at the very least.
Many fans of the original film have been pretty vocal in expressing their distaste at the idea of a re-make. And so they should – they’re almost always pointless. But from a nuts-and-bolts horror perspective, this Evil Dead works perfectly well. It delivers set pieces that aren’t necessary novel but they’re still effective. Even casual horror viewers should hopefully appreciate the fact that not every scare is created by having something scary pop into background of a frame, punctuated by a jolt in the score. As a young horror director, Alvarez also shows a lot of restraint by not throwing absolutely everything at the screen.
Sure, it’s a little jarring to see such an un-ironic take on these horror tropes less than a year after Cabin in the Woods. But for some reason, this sincere and reverent reworking of The Evil Dead kind of works.
But please… no more remakes now, okay?
Evil Dead is now available at blinkbox