Monday, 29 April 2013

Evil Dead

Confession time. I really do not see the huge 'Cult Classic' appeal of The Evil Dead (1981). Everybody looks for something different in a horror film and for me, I need to be scared. I've been watching horror films since I was far too young to be and as a result I've become desensitised to much of what is supposed to make them effective. The Evil Dead, to me, is a horrible mess of horror and comedy (a combination that I very rarely enjoy) with so-so effects and horrible acting. While I'm aware that all this stuff is supposedly the 'charm' of the film, it has never won me over and I doubt it ever really will. So when marketing began for a remake that promised to be 'The scariest film you will ever experience', my attention was caught.

Evil Dead
Fede Alvarez // 2013 // 18 // 91 mins

Mia (Jane Levy) ventures out to a remote family cabin with her estranged brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) and three friends in the hopes of kicking a drug addiction that has almost killed her. Mere hours after arriving the group find a basement containing murdered animals, a burnt pillar and a book bound in human flesh which, when read aloud by the resident Latin-fluent teacher Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), unleashes an evil force that will possess, torment and dismember the group until none of them remain.

The cast all handle their respective roles well, though outside of Levy none of them are required to do much except look concerned, endure various degrees of pain and then die. As such character development becomes the films weakest point, with no one except Mia, and to a far lesser extent David, being awarded much personality, resulting in disappointingly one-note figures that are hard to relate to. The narrative itself is standard fodder, a series of disturbing events that continue to escalate in grossness until the final fifteen minutes where the all-out gore is reined in and the epic-ness turned up. A half-hearted prologue attempts to deliver a form of 'backstory', but is simply unnecessary and only serves to provide a few early jumps before the much more successful slow-build opening to Mia's story. Saddled with carrying much of the film and being the dertiminate factor in whether each of the stories acts work, Levy (or as I have affectionately come to know her, Fake Emma Stone) is suprisingly adept and delivers an engaging performance. She handles the roles of victim, psychotic monster and badass with gusto, proving an acceptable 'serious' replacement for Bruce Cambell's 'comedic' Ash.

Where the film truly excels though, and where it rightfully should, is in it's ridiculously high production values. A remake of The Evil Dead was always going to have to inevitably place the greatest level of attention upon creating something that could at the very least match the gross-out effects with which the original triumphed. Evil Dead presents some of the most disgusting, inventive and sheer horrific imagery of recent horror. It's no Human Centipede 2, but it's also not a far cry from that level of gag inducing visuals. Sticking to its roots the film relies heavily on the use of practical effects, a decision which makes the dismemberment all the more tangible and effective. The film covers almost every aspect of body horror possible as eyes, tongues, jaws, hands and feet are each subjected to a specified form of mutilation. The sound design is also flawless, ensuring every squelch, slice and crack is amplified for maximum effect while the camerawork ensures that the film is visually engaging at all times, providing canted and low angle shots in abundance. This may just be the most beautifully shot film to feature somebody getting vomitted over with blood.

Evil Dead, ignoring its status as a remake, is a remarkably successful film. It doesn't use the original as a crutch, rather it strives to provide an experience that is considerably different, but on par with that of its predecessor. Making the comedy sparse and the budget considerably higher Evil Dead focuses in on the horror of the story, utilising every aspect of production design to create something visceral, entertaining and utterly repulsive, but in a good way. Often horror is criticised for showing too much, whether it is an overuse of CGI (Mama) or a reliance on gore for the sake of gore (Saw 3 through 7), however in Evil Dead relative newcomer Fede Alvarez as displayed just how effective 'gore for the sake of gore' can be when used properly. This might on the surface appear to be a film focused solely on making the majority of it's audience feel queasy, but it is also a brilliant genre piece that champions practical effects in a world that has become reliant on pixels, while also making the majority of it's audience feel queasy.

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