While devotees of Sam Raimi’s 1982 classic might question the need for a remake (in much the way I do with Brian de Palma’s Carrie) there is plenty to admire in Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead (2013), an homage that reworks more than it copies, all the while maintaining the spirit of the original.
After a lurid prologue, the film begins as expected, with a group of young friends arriving at a secluded woodland cabin. It’s a reunion of sorts but also, in a new twist, a period of rehab for one of the characters who’s long been struggling with addiction. The exposition in this section is clunky, the characterisation negligible—but none of this really matters. Once the evil tome in the cellar is unearthed and its fatal incantation read aloud, the viewer is in for a superlative ride.
The film’s third act is one of bodily transformation and transgression where we witness most of the characters, possessed one-by-one, perform acts of almost sacrilegious violence upon others’ and more shockingly, their own bodies.
The young recovering addict attempts to purge her body of evil by taking a shower in boiling water. Another slices part of her own face off with a mirror shard. At the end of this act, there’s not much left of anybody; most of the players are dead or beyond redemption. The film seems to be approaching a logical end, yet there are surprises in store.
The fourth act sees an unexpected change of protagonist and the escalation of the horror to an elemental level. Blood rains from the sky. Lightning strikes. Flames fill the cabin. Chainsaws and doppelgängers are given free rein. Given what’s come before, none of this seems ridiculous or hyperbolic; the extremity of the third act demands the ante be upped in the fourth.
While there are films that pursue the gruesome mindlessly and gratuitously, there are those like this one that pile it on with an operatic intensity that’s exhilarating. The star of this show is horror, pure and simple.