The group includes the aforementioned addict Mia (Jane Levy), her friends Olivia (Jessica Lucas) and Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), her brother David (Zac Efron stand-in Shiloh Fernandez), who we're told hasn't been there for her in years, and his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore). But before too long the group find the Necronomicon in the cellar and begin reading from it, awakening an evil spirit which begins to inhabit and dismember them one by one. Outside of Mia, whose defining attribute in early scenes seems to be "hysterical," to describe the other characters with any adjectives other than "bland" would be a disservice to the script, which doesn't imbue any of its characters with traits that are even recognizably human. It's not the cast's fault. They're clearly all game and willing to be put through the ringer here, but there just isn't anything to work with. (To be fair, the original featured a mostly forgettable round-up of characters as well, with Ash arising as the unexpected hero.)
When the characters pull back a carpet revealing a giant red streak of dried blood on the floor leading into a cellar door, all they can manage is, "Is that blood?" before heading down. Other than Eric, who looks like he wandered in out of a 1970s film, we're not even given the standard signifiers as to who the other characters are supposed to be (the jock, the slut, etc.). Long after some major shit goes down, the characters are still hanging around the cabin trying to rationalize events like someone spewing a fountain of blood is a normal thing that could happen. While we don't have to identify with the characters, it helps if you can at least understand where they're coming from.
During the Q&A at SXSW someone asked Alvarez why he felt it was okay to break the 180 degree line in the film, to which he responded that it hadn't really occurred to him, and you can see this kind of sloppiness throughout the film. He didn't set out to break the rules, he just didn't really understand them in the first place. On a smaller debut he could've worked out some of these kinks out before transitioning onto a larger effort, but here his inexperience is glaring. Horror is tension and release, anticipation and delivery, and despite throwing 100,000 gallons of blood on the screen, Alvarez doesn't seem to grasp these most basic fundamentals. Instead his film plays as a series of scenes where intense "stuff happens" and at times it's disgusting but never scary or fun.
Coming from the cheap redo shingle Platinum Dunes, a misfire like this would be easier to swallow, but coming with the seal of approval from Raimi and Co., it definitely stings. Like George Lucas with the 'Star Wars' prequels before them, it seems that the creators misjudged what made their creation resonate with people in the first place. The 2013 "Evil Dead" instead arrives without any of the spark that made the original so memorable and satisfying. Compare even the tagline of that film ("The Ultimate Experience In Grueling Terror") to the remake's far less interesting "The Most Terrifying Film You Will Ever Experience." The new tagline is clearly a nod to the original, and on the surface it would appear they're both basically saying the same thing but all the personality has been robbed of the former in an attempt to appeal (and dumb down) to today's audiences.
That's essentially the experience of the remake in a nutshell. If the original was Raimi's inventive soufflé of horror and slapstick, in the remake Alvarez seems content to simply show us the ingredients: a chainsaw, the book of the dead, 'The Classic,' without knowing how to put them together into anything scary, involving or inventive. For fans of the original [D]. For everyone else [C-].
This is a reprint of our review from SXSW.