SPOILER: If you’re not a horror movie fan, thats exactly what this is. There is blood, and death, and demons, and it’s nasty. Is your stomach wrenching at the thought of what horrid violence might be in this movie? No? Excellent! Read along, then.
Directed and written by Fede Alverez, this supposed “reboot” of Evil Dead takes the Necronomacon (referred to as The Book of the Dead by the faint of heart) to new places. And by new places, I mean to a horror audience in 2013. Evil Dead takes all the classic scares, creeps and oozes and heavily renovates them to be accessible to a modern Post-Saw horror crowd.
The plot is about five twenty-odd year old friends who go to a cabin in the middle of the deep woods to help a friend trying to cope with quitting what can be presumed to be heroin. One stupid decision being made after the other, the evil book is found in the basement, and someone (Lou Taylor Pucci) stupidly reads from it, despite that it looks like the most dangerously evil thing in the world that literally has notes written on every page “DO NOT READ.” At least in the originals, it was summoned by accident by listening to a Reel to Reel, holy hell.
Following the acts of immense stupidity, the demon is released with the classic sweeping “Demon-Cam” ready to possess its prey, and, of course, the demon chooses to prey on the younger sister, Mia (Jane Levy), the only one trying to recover from drug withdrawal. So when she starts acting out violently, burning herself and saying she got raped by a tree (Come on, fans. You knew it’d be in there), you would have to expect the incredibly moronic friends and her older brother to blame her withdrawal. This lasts for about twenty minutes of the film, and the build up to them realizing that there is something really wrong with her is… annoying.
Every character is so naively stupid to the point that it’s aggravating to watch them. If you were trying to help your friend and you, as their doctor-in-training friend, Olivia (Jessica Lucas) explicitly said, “tranquilized her enough to knock out an elephant” and all it does it make her get up and start shooting at everyone, you have a serious problem. The most particularly dumb character is Mia’s older brother, David (Shiloh Fernandez), who continuously makes the worst possible decisions when shit starts hitting the fan, the last of which nearly caused the destruction of the world. I’m all for throwing logic out the window in movies like this. The Evil Dead franchise is historic for it, but the movie’s characters are aggravatingly dumb and naive in a remake that tries to make the film as “grounded” as fantasy horror can get.
As mentioned, the movie tries to work for two different audiences: the modern horror crowd that maybe has never seen the original films, and the people that know and love them already going into the theater. The problem with the movie, however, is that it doesn’t do either very well. The movie does throw back to the originals exponentially: from the absurdity of cutting off possessed hands to chainsaws and locking the demon in the cellar. It gets nearly all the set pieces and scares from the first two. There was even a few intentional gags such as when the stupid brother tried to mend wounds with duct tape. This is an example, however, as to why it doesn’t work. While it’s funny that the brother did this, we laugh as an audience because we are thinking, “He’s an idiot, because that’s not going to help stop the bleeding, what is he doing?” Where, in the case of Bruce Campbell as Ash in Evil Dead 2, he used duct tape to tie a chainsaw to where he had to cut off his hand! And we laugh at that for how cartoonishly absurd it is. The original Evil Dead films knew how campy and cartoonishly gory they were, they played along with it, and that’s what makes them great and unique apart from other horror films. They worked with what little budget they had. (The 1981 original was made with 357,000 dollars.)
This movie tries to work for a modern audience on a $14 million budget (which is still low for today’s standards), and while it can be commended for still using mostly practical effects, it tries too hard to be accessible to people that are used to watching heavily gory films like Saw, The Ring, and The Grudge. As a result, it feels more like one of the bad Exorcist sequels, especially with lines coming from the demon like “Your sister isn’t here, she’s being raped in hell!” Watching this remake, I was uncertain half of the things I laughed at were meant to be funny the first place. That’s a bad sign.
While this remake has so many details in every passing minute that remind you of The Evil Dead 1 and 2, they’re used in passing, almost exclusively as aesthetic. It takes all the Demon’s typical tricks and strategies from the original movies and throws them at dumb college kids instead of the fantastically hammy Bruce Campbell as Ash.
The last 20 minutes are at least an interesting twist that I won’t bother spoiling because it would take all the value of seeing it away. Hopefully, with Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell closely producing it, they’ll plan for the sequels to tie in someway, as there are talks to make this remake into a trilogy that could tie into a new version of Army of Darkness.
Ultimately, Evil Dead is a disenchanted remake of one of the most classic horror films ever, but if it will entice a younger audience to see the originals, then maybe the sequels will turn out interesting.
Evil Dead opens in wide release on Friday, April 5th.
Rated R for strong bloody violence and gore, some sexual content and language