A relentless, ghastly, and jubilant phantasmagoria of nightmares, the 'Evil Dead' remake is a boisterous, outing that lives up to the cartoonish spirit of the Sam Raimi cult classic but does away with much of the humor. The absurdity of the original is not altogether lost, however, as this new reimagining amplifies the gory violence to such an elaborately silly scale that the shock of seeing the gruesome details is more likely to garner laughs than scares. Granted, a twisted and perverse sense of humor would be the required precondition for enjoying this brutally bloody version as an animated carnival ride, but in this day and age, when remakes are a never-ending trend and quickly dismissed for being such, it's a genuine treat to have at least one memorable standout worthy of the original.
Interestingly, the filmmakers seem to shy away from calling this a straightforward remake in promotional interviews. They prefer to think of it as an unusual blend of continuation and reboot to the original trilogy, which to my mind recalls a vaguely similar tactic employed for 'Evil Dead II.' The story, which was written by Uruguayan filmmakers Fede Alvarez, making both his big-screen and American directorial debut, and Rodo Sayagues with some uncredited polishing by Diablo Cody in the dialogue, takes places thirty years after the events of the original. Early on we see the tan-colored, broken-down 1973 Oldsmobile still sitting by some trees rusting away, which of course also functions as a comical homage. This group of friends spending a weekend in the cabin are not carbon copies, but a whole new batch of kids making some very grave mistakes.
Adding to the enjoyment, Alvarez's macabre vision can also be seen as a separate storyline from the adventures of Ash Williams that just happens to share some strange parallels. Admittedly, this line of thinking comes from Alvarez himself, but I like it since we can simply blame the funny coincidences to the Sumerian "Book of the Dead," which is found in the basement along with a double-barreled shotgun, waiting patiently for the next nincompoop stupid enough to read from it. Once the ancient text, bound in human flesh and written in human blood, is discovered, the horror is repeated in a ritualistic manner that justifies the similarities. Apparently, the evil demonic spirits conjured by the book are not the sort to devise a wholly different plotline, but are quite creative in their bloody methods of bodily torture. Plans are rumored to eventually merge Alavarez's storyline with Raimi's original, which would see Bruce Campbell reprise the role that made him a beloved cult icon.
Seeing as how the franchise is one that continuously and consciously breaks its own rules, which is part of the humor and enjoyment, Alvarez keeps to the tradition by also going against genre standards while also adhering to them. The group of friends arrive at the secluded cabin in the woods not for a fun weekend of booze and naughty behavior but to help Mia (Jane Levy) finally kick her drug addiction cold turkey. Her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) and his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) turn up late to assist Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) and Olivia (Jessica Lucas), who is a registered nurse, during Mia's recovery. Personally, I love that the plot is essentially an ingeniously clever and imaginative allegory to the horror of drug withdrawals with a well-earned and satisfying conclusion about confronting your own worst enemy.
Along with several horrifyingly shocking scenes of blood-splattered pandemonium and a strong story that flirts between original and imitative, Alvarez's 'Evil Dead' ups the ante with one spine-chilling moment after another. Creepy, unidentified sounds haunt the cabin, and the voices of the possessed switch between normal and demonic like a light switch while the noise of flesh tearing apart makes you shiver at the thought of actually seeing it. The director, who quickly grew in notoriety with his short YouTube film "Ataque de Pánico!" in 2009, proves himself a terrifically creative and talented filmmaker, generating some very well-deserved scares while paying tribute to a cherished horror franchise that also serves as reboot/continuation/re-imagining of Sam Raimi's cult classic.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment brings Fede Alvarez's 'Evil Dead (2013)' to Blu-ray with an UltraViolet Digital Copy. The Region Free, BD50 disc is housed inside a blue, eco-elite keepcase with glossy slipcover. Unfortunately, it only contains the R-rated theatrical version of the movie, not the much-hoped-for unrated cut that was handed an NC-17 rating. After a couple skippable trailers, viewers are taken to a main menu screen with full-motion clips and music playing in the background.
'Evil Dead' debuts unto Blu-ray with a fantastic, blood-splattered 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that shows some stylized cinematography as well as a couple, mostly minor artifacts. The freshly-minted, digital-to-digital transfer is highly-detailed with excellent clarity of the aged furniture in the cabin and clean, resolute lines in the surrounding foliage. The tiniest scratch and gaping wound is distinct, while facial complexions are generally revealing with great lifelike texture during close-ups. However, the video's best aspects are interrupted by instances of banding that thankfully don't ruin the movie's enjoyment and very brief moment of aliasing when the kids first open the cellar door. Frankly, they're easy to overlook but there nonetheless and worth mentioning.
On the more positive side, the 2.39:1 image displays a well-balanced contrast with clean, bright whites throughout although the overall palette of the photography falls on the lower end of the grayscale. Colors appear subdued and restrained, adding to the story's gloomy atmosphere, but primaries remain accurate and cleanly rendered, especially the deep, rich reds of blood. Black levels are a bit disappointing though, showing many murky, cloudy shadows everywhere that take away from the finer details. All in all, it's a great high-def presentation for a terrifyingly fun flick.
The sadistic and depraved horror remake also finds its way to Blu-ray with a highly-entertaining, reference-quality DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack that will even your neighbors screaming bloody murder. The design is chockfull of all sorts of warped sounds that will have your stomach churning. From nails piercing skin and blood splattering across the floor to the detailed sound of flesh being ripped apart by a piece of glass, the mid-range is extensive and precise with splendid acoustical details. The low-end is robust and high-responsive, adding depth and a powerful oomph to the many jump scares. Imaging is broad and engaging with excellent, well-balanced channel separation and outstanding vocals which are never drowned out by the rest of the gruesome mayhem.
The bedlam continues with an enthralling and continuously active soundscape that saturates the room with a nightmarish atmosphere. Rain comes pouring down all around in large droplets; flies buzz with frenzied excitement above and behind; sinister laughs are heard in the distance from the cellar or in another room; the haunting creaks of wood echo throughout; and the scraping sound of a crowbar dragged across the floor moves from the back to the front with stunning ease. Directionality and panning are flawless and discrete, generating a nerve-wracking environment of dreadfulness. The lossless mix is impressive and terrifyingly immersive, one that raises goose bumps and will have you jumping off your seat. Crank it loud and strap yourself to the chair because this is a fun ride.
A relentless, ghastly, and jubilant phantasmagoria of nightmares, the 'Evil Dead' remake is a boisterous, outing that lives up to the cartoonish spirit of the Sam Raimi cult classic. From Uruguayan filmmaker Fede Alvarez, making his big-screen American debut, the film comes with a clever plot that feels fresh and new, but doesn't shy away from being seen as a reimagining/reboot/continuation of the beloved original while also drenching the whole affair with buckets of gory, blood-spattered gruesomeness. The Blu-ray arrives with an excellent video transfer and a reference-quality audio presentation. Supplements are disappointingly brief, but a couple enjoyable exclusives make the overall package a great purchase. This is recommended for fans everywhere.