Out of the dozens of horror remakes to come out in the last decade or so, Evil Dead seemed to get the most people upset. Maybe the outcry was worse for Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I don’t remember now. But people were NOT happy at the idea of someone remaking The Evil Dead. What’s strange though, is that unlike most horror remakes, they seemed to be doing a lot right with this one. Sam Raimi was on board as producer, as was Bruce Campbell. Ash as a character was nowhere to be found so you didn’t have to worry about someone trying to ape that performance (which would be the worst). Plus fucking Michael Bay’s company Platinum Dunes was not involved in any capacity. People still weren’t having it though. Though in all fairness, a lot of those people were saying how this version would never be able to make the same balance of horror/comedy, forgetting that The Evil Dead was actually a pretty dark horror movie.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the original trilogy but this wasn’t on my list of “Don’t You Dare Remake This” movies. That list is pretty much just Back to the Future. Oh Jesus don’t remake Back to the Future. Even going in optimistic though, I was very impressed with Evil Dead and may even go as far as to say it’s amongst the best of the recent horror remakes.
While Evil Dead follows the same basic plot beats as the original, with a group of friends making their way up to an isolated cabin for the weekend, it makes some clever diversions from the usual set-up. This time they aren’t there to party, but to help lead girl Mia (Jane Levy) kick a drug habit. This helps provide the characters with solid motivation to not leave the cabin (they don’t believe her that shit’s fucked, they just think she’s detoxing), but it also spares us from the standard “dude this weekend is gonna be so fucking awesome!” dialogue that opens so many of these movies. Good stuff.
Let’s talk the SAW franchise for a second. Say what you will about that franchise’s quality of acting, writing, story, and well, many other things, there was one thing it excelled at – setting up shit that you do not want to watch unfold. The traps were usually explained before they began and when you hear what’s involved, you start cringing because you do not want to watch that play out. Evil Dead does a terrific job employing this same idea. Before things start to get bad, the movie sets-up a variety of tools/weapons that you know are going to play a role later on. When you see a lingering close-up on an electric carver, you know that thing is going to come back and you start to dread it’s return. This way by the time everything goes south, you are already on edge, waiting for these established pieces to come falling back into place.
And man does shit ever go south. I’m sure you’ve already heard about the gore in this one and wow, everything you heard is accurate. It’s by no means the goriest movie I’ve ever seen, but I’m still a little shocked at what they were able to get away with in an R rated movie. If you’ve seen the red band trailer, that is just the tip of the iceberg (though the scene that ends that trailer is probably the grossest moment in the film in my opinion). Once the blood starts to spill, it never stops and the movie seems intent on constantly upping whatever gore you witnessed in the previous scene. Any time you think, “can’t see it getting much worse than that”, the movie instantly calls your bluff and whips more insanity at you. Best of all, damn near all the gore effects are practical! I almost forgot how much I missed that until watching this. If any movie proved that CGI is not necessary in horror, here it is.
Evil Dead (I type Evil Dad first every single time I write that title) though is not Rob Zombie style “look at how fucked and ugly violence is! Have fun trying to enjoy this!” blood and gore. Yes it’s insanely bloody, but it’s never dark and ugly about it. There’s still a sense of fun behind all of it. It never becomes outright comedic like Evil Dead 2 and, especially, Army of Darkness, but at some points it becomes so ludicrous that you can’t help but laugh. One character gets put through the ringer so bad that it’s just hilarious.
The characters themselves are pretty one-dimensional but they were in the original too so I’m not going to give them too much grief about that. Jane Levy is fantastic as Mia and the dude who played Eric was pretty good as well. The lead guy is pretty bland and the other girls don’t get a whole lot to do (one I almost forgot was in the movie at one point) but there’s no distractingly bad acting here which in horror can often be considered a victory in itself.
If I did have to fault this movie for something, it would probably be the story itself. I don’t care that the story is slight, that is to be expected. What I mean is that it sets-up a variety of rules and pieces of mythology that are either flat out ignored, or sometimes broken completely. For example, they make a big deal about how hard these things are to kill, detailing a small number of ways that it can be accomplished, but they then go on to dispatch some of them pretty easily. Maybe I missed something there, but it certainly seemed like the movie ignores a lot of it’s own rules.
As far as its status as a remake, I thought Evil Dead struck that perfect balance between homage and originality. There are references to The Evil Dead but they are often subtle, and the more blatant references are turned around enough to make them new. And again, thank god they didn’t try and get someone else to replicate the Ash role, a fact that now some people seem pissed about but I can’t see how any rational human being could have wanted that.
It may not be the “most terrifying film you will ever experience” as the poster promises, but Evil Dead is a fun, gore soaked piece of business that stands as one of the better horror remakes in recent memory. Go support this one!