This gore-splashed horror remake is a far cry from Sam Raimi's no-fi original.
Remember the scene in Trainspotting when hapless hipster skag-head Mark Renton decides to go cold turkey and sees a dead-baby with a telescopic neck crawling across the ceiling? Well, Fede Alvarez's remake of Sam Raimi's 1981 horror masterpiece attempts to trump this formative grand guignol treatment of the physical and mental turmoil that ensues when trying to say no to drugs.
The original film packed-off an Oldsmobile-load of clean-cut college kids to the boonies and had them gloriously transformed into a syrupy, grainy mulch via the intervention of some accidentally-awoken Candarian demons. This one plays out that same arc, but for the sake of clutching to some kind of spurious social relevance, one of the kids is now a junkie. Her friends (and brother) have dragged her along to this woodland hidey-hole with the aim of helping her kick her habit. She doesn't see dead babies on the ceiling, but she does end up getting sexually molested by a tree.
Our sad, but perhaps inevitable report is that this remake is a pale shadow of the original. Where you really felt that Raimi was taking great pains to show and do things that had never been see on cinema screens before, Alvarez seems content to just ratchet up the gore quotient without ever attempting to give us something new. An omnipresent air raid siren on the soundtrack is intended to whip up the intensity, but only serves to let us know that something bad is about to happen.
And it's not just the amount of gore, it's the style of the gore that's the problem. Raimi's close-quarters suppurating flesh wounds and enforced DIY amputations had a scuzzy, artisan beauty to them. There's nothing here to match the fingerprint-covered modelling clay meltdown at the climax of the original film, where the decomposition of a zombie was taken as a chance to flex the filmmakers stop-motion limbs, to push their celluloid to its very limit. This is bloodletting done nicely and politely, offering nothing more than the digital effects facilities will allow.
Had this film not been a remake and had thus chosen to shoulder the responsibility of carrying on a beloved horror bloodline, it might have stood more of a chance of working on its own terms. But as it is, we're given a film which – like most modern horror remakes – offer a slickly sanitised version of the tangible squalor of yore. With respect to the original, Alvarez has kept the CG quotient to a minimum, but there's still very little here – effects wise – that really taps the gag reflex.
In this version, even the Book Of The Dead comes with handy, Bic-biro'd subtitles to help younger generations understand the full ramifications of what foul punishments are in store for these hapless kids. Alvarez has positively zero feel for mystery, and so his film plays like a standard waltz into the supernatural meatgrinder than a lean exercise in high tension dynamics (cf the original). It's exactly the kind of movie that Drew Godard's The Cabin In The Woods did a fine job of ripping the piss out of.
A horror remake that comes approved by the director.
Bring a raincoat – the gore runs in rivers.
Anonymous, forgettable and doesn't hold a candle to the brilliant original.