Long before there was torture porn there was splatter-core. The splatter-horror subgenre really became a powerful entity when Sam Raimi released his 1981 classic The Evil Dead, itself a remake of sorts of a student film Within the Woods. He then re-re-made it with the meta-sequel Evil Dead II in 1987, then lampooned the entire series with 1992’s Army of Darkness. Comics, games, and a proposed mash-up with Bruce Campbell’s Ash against Freddy Kruger and Jason Vorhees later and unknown Uruguayan director Fede Alvarez was given the keys to the franchise with 2013’s Evil Dead.
What sets Alvarez’ movie apart from remakes is that it’s not a remake at all, it’s a continuation. It’s the same cabin from the original film, marked by an appearance by Raimi’s beloved 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 dubbed “The Classic” outside (the car has featured in all of Raimi’s films, including a western). Evil Dead jettisons the teens get drunk in the woods scenario of the original, and the more slapstick elements, for a harder-edged film. Instead, four friends: David, Eric, Natalie, and Olivia gather at a cabin to help their friend, and David’s sister, Mia go cold turkey. When they stumble across the book of the dead naturally one of them reads it and horrible gore ensues. The infamous tree rape sequence comes back, as well as people burning themselves, tongues being cut with box knives, and assault with a nail gun but what cuts deepest in the film is the emotional core.
The most punishing sequence sees a possessed Mia (mirroring her drunk personality) chastising her brother for not loving her enough. Once the fifth soul gets taken things really go balls-to-the-wall. Mia herself the last survivor has to face off against a storm of blood from the sky and a hell abomination coming for her. Unlike Ash, Mia opts for a more hard-edged approach to deadite killing, a move that involves her pulling her own arm off to escape crushing by car, and chainsawing a hell-monster in half. Alvarez stated that the Naturom Demonto can force situations to happen and so events from the original are repeated but changed, the tree, losing an arm, possession, it also explains why when Mia is possessed the voice of Cheryl Williams from the original film rings out screaming you will die, like the others before, one by one we will take you making it clear this is a cycle of violence.
The film’s edge is helped by Jane Levy as Mia, despite rising to prominence through sitcom Suburgatory there’s none of the wise-cracking, smart-ass quips that Levy made her name in, instead, Mia is a broken individual, ruled by a desire to get high, who has to fight for her right to live. A cameo from Bruce Campbell as Ash Williams confirms the continuation and a promise of a team-up between Ash and Mia has been mooted but as yet has not come to anything. Even so, Alavarez’ take on the mythology that Raimi created is a more hardcore remix of the ideas of the original, mixing intense gore and a deep emotional story of someone’s internal struggle coming forth physically in blood splattering fashion. In the words of Ash himself… Groovy.