Evil Dead

It’s easy to see why Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell gave their blessing to newcomer Fede Alvarez.

Released in cinemas 18th April 2013.

Although it doesn’t touch Sam Raimi’s franchise for anarchic humour, the reboot of Evil Dead is a tremendously satisfying gorefest, and one of the more solid horrors during a dry spell in the genre.

It’s easy to see why Raimi and Bruce Campbell gave their blessing to newcomer Fede Alvarez, who wowed filmmakers and viewers with his accomplished short Panic Attack! Alvarez brings a confident, pulsing energy to Evil Dead, a relentless onslaught of blood-soaked madness so wickedly over the top it’s exhilarating - and unbearably gruesome.

There are no beer-fuelled shenanigans when today’s group of friends retreat to a cabin in the woods, the setting of a blistering prologue scene. Twentysomething drug addict Mia (Suburgatory star Jane Levy) has agreed to hole up in her family’s old cabin to go cold turkey, with the help of her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez), his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore), and their childhood friends Olivia (Jessica Lucas) and Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci). When Mia escapes into the woods, and Eric foolishly reads from the grim Book of the Dead found in the cellar, all hell is let loose.

Mia bears the brunt of possession, having been infected via Alvarez’s horrific but thankfully non-sexual take on Raimi’s notorious ‘tree rape’ scene, eventually ‘infecting’ her friends. It sets the scene for some incredible, unforgettable moments, chillingly predetermined by the contents of the book. Alvarez goes old-school with the effects for sickening and inventive scenes of self-mutilation. Practical make-up effects, gallons of blood and superb use of sound and score make for a visceral experience. The writer and director pushes the gore to the limit, all safely under the fantasy horror net so things don’t get too twisted, and it makes for a wild ride.

Although ostensibly a dour, intense film, the horror itself is so fantastically staged and well-paced, it gives a popcorn-munching, fist-pumping, adrenaline-surging effect that induces uncomfortable laughter and eventually cheers for Levy’s new scream queen. The actress was put through the wringer for what is essentially a dual role as a heroin addict and a Deadite, giving intense, physically imposing performances for both. The rest of the cast aren’t given as much of a chance to shine (outside of their astonishing Deadite turns, courtesy of the make-up department), but are solid.

Alvarez directs with conviction and a great instinct for the ghastly. A hugely rewarding horror in its own right, it nods affectionately to Raimi’s The Evil Dead and manages to terrify and shock despite living in a post-Cabin in the Woods world by doing all the horror clichés, but doing them brilliantly.

Rating: 8/10