The Evil Dead franchise has been considered to be holy ground in the horror genre by many fans. Although the later films have been known more for their humor, the original has become one of the most popular cult classics of all time for its love of terror and low-budget practical effects. It may be extremely cheesy to today’s audiences and their standards, but The Evil Dead is the perfect example of passionate horror filmmaking. It helped spawn the career of director Sam Raimi, who became a well-respected figure amongst the horror fan community and went on to direct some of today’s biggest blockbusters, including Spider-Man and Oz: the Great and Powerful. So, when a remake of the film was announced with a newcomer as the director, it upset many fans. Usually, modern horror remakes have been known to be deplorable cash grabs, rather than respectable new takes on the source material. The Evil Dead franchise seemed too easy to ruin with a remake, just by choosing all the wrong people to be involved. Luckily enough, the project was able to gain three very important people as producers: Robert G. Tapert, the original’s producer, Bruce Campbell, the star of the original franchise and a cult hero, and Sam Raimi himself. Their involvement became very apparent once the first trailer for the Evil Dead remake was released. Fans were finally excited for the film, but any remaining skepticism could not be eased down until its release. So, I am excited to say that may all your skepticism be gone! While the Evil Dead isn’t “the most terrifying film you will ever experience,” according to its poster, it’s a very entertaining gore fest that you won’t soon forget.
Evil Dead mostly follows the storyline of the original, but with its own modern touches, of course. Instead of the character of Ash as the lead, we now have Mia (Jane Levy), a young girl who joins her friends and her older brother, David (Shiloh Hernandez), on a trip to an old cabin in the woods. There, David and her friends plan to help Mia in overcoming her cocaine addiction. The process doesn’t start off so well, and it only gets worse from there, as the five of them come across the infamous Book of the Dead. So obviousl, just like any other horror movie, one of the characters can’t put it down, and actually ends up summoning demons into the cabin. It’s the typical horror formula, but it’s also a remake of The Evil Dead, the main inspiration for that formula. You’re going to see plenty of clichés throughout this film too, but it’s not out of unoriginality. Evil Dead fully embraces what made the original and other low-budget horror flicks classics, but it does it with a much more updated and realistic look. This doesn’t always work throughout the movie, like how predictability isn’t ever played for laughs and the characters aren’t very memorable, but it does give a good idea of what the original would look like today. Also, don’t go into this expecting a horrific nightmare that will haunt you for weeks. This movie is all about the effects and how far it’s willing to go, much like the original. It’s definitely more fun than scary, but horror junkies will appreciate the effort that’s put into every shot and beat.
A loving director is clearly at work here, and that man is named Fede Alvarez. Before Evil Dead, Alvarez only has been credited for a couple of short films, so he did a great job of taking advantage of his first theatrical project. Alvarez puts a lot of detail into setting up his sequences, and never holds back in the payoff. This is a gruesome and bloody film, and Alvarez is 100% proud of it. For some, his direction may come off as tedious, but I actually found it quite refreshing for being able to create some real tension and choosing most of the effects to be practical rather than CGI. Now, in terms of the screenplay that Alvarez wrote with Rodo Sayagues, it’s much safer in comparison to his directing. Although making the story about addiction was really fitting and gave the movie humanity, it’s a pretty mediocre horror script. The supporting characters, including the brother, are never really developed, but all the gruesome deaths make up for it (also, this is NOT a spoiler, I don’t even specify who dies). I really did like the character of Mia, though, and I have to hand it to Jane Levy for not making her just another bland horror protagonist. She’s broken, she’s sympathetic, and most importantly, she’s very, very scared, and you totally believe her.
As I’ve said, there are some missed opportunities in Evil Dead, like stronger character work and genuine terror, so it just falls short of setting the standard for future horror movies. Other than that, Evil Dead is a pretty satisfying film and a lot better than what it should have been. We’ve got some great up-and-coming talent in Fede Alvarez and Jane Levy, and I’m excited to see what they are up to next, including this supposed Evil Dead sequel that is in the works. Evil Dead fans should be pretty content with this remake, as it pays a lot of respect to the original trilogy, while still being its own thing. General audiences also should check it out, since we really haven’t gotten a horror film worth seeing at the movie theater in a long time, and The Cabin in the Woods does not count.