Film Review: Evil Dead

Evil Dead

Fede Alvarez’s grisly remake of Evil Dead is decent horror movie. It retains the style of the original, although there is enough that sets it apart.

David and three friends accompany his sister Mia to a secluded cabin, in order to help her kick her drug habit. When the group discovers some unsavoury items in the basement, they unwittingly unleash supernatural forces…

With Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell as producers, this version of Evil Dead has the seal of approval. Fede Alvarez does make some changes to distinguish his version from the 1981 film. However, these do not deviate too far from the source material.

The premise of the group travelling to the cabin to help Mia get clean is a decent change. It gives the characters a reason to be in such a remote location, and solidifies their reluctance to leave. Other changes to the narrative are sound. Pacing in the film is good. The film builds to a strong finale.

Evil Dead offers a very visceral style of horror. The film concentrates on this, rather than any attempt to make the audience laugh. The film is not particularly jumpy; instead it favours gore over apprehension. Evil Dead scares viewers through its display of the grotesque and the horrifying.

Special effects in Evil Dead are excellent. There is a refreshing lack of CGI used in the film. Given the over-reliance on this form of special effects in recent gore-heavy movies, this is a welcome reversal. As a result, the film’s most grisly moments do look more authentic.

Performances are good overall. Shiloh Fernandez is decent as male lead David. The filmmakers are wise not to offer an incarnation of Ash. Jane Levy is convincing as the increasingly desperate Mia.

Evil Dead is one of the better horror remakes. A must-see for gore fans.

Evil Dead is out on DVD and Blu-Ray on 12th August 2013.

Film Review: The East

Thriller The East is an entertaining affair. There is not much going on beneath the surface, but this does not detract from the enjoyment in Zal Batmanglij’s film.

Jane, an undercover agent for an elite private intelligence firm, is sent on her next mission. She is to infiltrate an anarchist group known as The East. Sarah must find out the group’s next target whilst getting its leader to trust her…

Written by director Zal Batmanglij and star Brit Marling, The East feels incredibly current, given recent news stories. The film taps into the fascination with covert groups such as Anonymous, particular given the cyber angle.

The East is a competently executed thriller that should retain the viewer’s attention. It works well as entertainment, but those expecting something more nuanced may be disappointed. Messages in the film are laid out clearly; there is little to ponder beyond the values that the filmmakers push. This is not a huge problem, as the film works on the entertainment level.

There is some ambiguity with the main characters, which adds a sense of mystery to proceedings. Protagonist Jane’s mindset is understandable. The film does not over-emphasise her background, which is certainly an asset. The snippets revealed as the film progresses fill in enough of the picture, without the need to explicitly spell things out.

The East offers an interesting enough narrative. Some of the events do seem rather questionable, however. For example, Jane seems to infiltrate a top-secret, sophisticate cell with relative ease. Moreover, the decisions she takes in the film’s climax appear to tally less with her earlier behaviour.

Brit Marling delivers a believable performance as Jane. She has good support from Alexander Skarsgärd and Shiloh Fernandez. Most of the characters are given enough depth to make them appear three-dimensional.

With its contemporary themes, The East should satisfy audiences looking for a decent thriller.

Film Review: Red Riding Hood

Sustaining a simple fairy tale over feature-length duration is no mean feat, but for the most part Red Riding Hood pulls it off. By no means one of the great fairy tale adaptations, nonetheless the film should satisfy the audience it is intended for.

Valerie is a beautiful young woman caught between two men. Her childhood friend Peter is a woodcutter who can offer little in terms of wealth. Valerie’s parents wish her to marry Henry, whose family has good standing in the village. Before Valerie can make a decision her sister is killed by a wolf that plagues the village. The villagers seek revenge, but the culprit may be closer than they think…

Screenwriter David Johnson has done a good job of transforming Red Riding Hood from a fairy tale into a mystery. The film functions as a whodunit, with the identity of the wolf remaining a secret until the final act. A number of characters are put in the frame; Valerie’s mistrust of those close to her is mirrored by the audience.

Suspense is duly built up as Red Riding Hood progresses, but the film is let down by the final act. The climax of the film is a bit of a mess, with too many aspects needing to be concluded at once. Moreover, the explanation given at this point appears at odds with the events that have taken place up to this point. While there was never going to be a rational explanation, the reasoning offered is highly spurious.

Whilst altering the fairy tale to something more appropriate for an older audience is understandable, it is a pity that Catherine Hardwicke’s film is infused with another strong mythology. The wolf is actually a werewolf; someone in the village is behind the murders. While a human culprit is necessary for the mystery aspect of Red Riding Hood, there is not such a need to root the story so deeply in the werewolf mythology. The film would have been stronger without this detour into hallowed ground and silver. With Hardwicke directing, the influence of Twilight is clear.

Amanda Seyfried makes an adequate heroine as Valerie. Shiloh Fernandez makes an appropriate love interest as Peter; although the actor is not called on to do much else other than brood. Gary Oldman brings some brevity to proceedings as Father Solomon, but this is not one of his finer roles.

Red Riding Hood is visually sumptuous, with its striking contrast of red and white. Some of the slow motion sequences are overdone, but overall the film is polished. Red Riding Hood can be posited somewhere between Sleepy Hollow and The Crucible thematically, although it does not match either of these films in terms of quality.