It wasn’t long ago when I was just another voice in the crowd decrying the announcement of yet another remake, let alone the remake of Sam Raimi’s classic THE EVIL DEAD. Throw in news of Diablo Cody coming in to do rewrites on the script and I was having nightmares of a script full of hackneyed teen speak- in short, things were not stacking up in favor of Fede Alvarez’s EVIL DEAD. Then the first red band trailer came out and every single one of my reservations melted away in an instant and I was instantly pumped for the film. Now fast forwarding further now that I’ve had a chance to see the film I am beyond happy to say that I love this movie. I sat in my chair squirming in horror at some incredible practical gore effects in what is easily the hardest R rated movies to come out of Hollywood maybe ever. From beginning to end even while I squirmed in my seat EVIL DEAD had me grinning from ear to ear.
Now I will make my confession- I cannot say that I was madly in love with Raimi’s original film. Before you furious close the window I will clarify that I do really like it, but it hasn’t aged well for me specifically. There’s a lot I really dig about it and it grows on me a little more every time I watch it. That being said I cannot speak to how well the remake will hold up through the test if time, but I wanted to watch it again the second it was over. It is faithful to the original while offering something all its own to take it to the next level.
EVIL DEAD takes the tired five people at a secluded cabin and doesn’t really turn it on its head so much as it accepts what it is and exaggerates everything you already expect. This time instead of five friends on a happy-go-lucky getaway it turns things a little darker by giving them a purpose to be there- their friend Mia (Jane Levy) is quitting drugs cold turkey and don’t want her to be able to leave when things get tough. So naturally her friends and brother, David (Shiloh Fernandez), expect that she will go through hardcore withdrawal and will say or do anything to get them to leave. When they discover a mysterious book in the basement, curiosity leads one of the friends to read a few fateful words that unleash evil that possesses Mia and her behavior the friends write off as side effects from drug withdrawal- until it becomes obvious something darker has taken hold and it may be too late to reverse their fate.
It was hard to gauge the audience reaction to a lot of the things going on in this film. There was plenty of scattered laughter throughout and not always at obvious moments of comedic relief- and trust me, with the amount of f***ed up stuff in this, you NEED the comedic relief. Alvarez embraces everything silly about the set up as does the original, but takes everything to a mostly hilariously enjoyable fashion. The bad decisions, the over-the-top gore and plethora of Raimi-esque camerawork are magnified and displayed perfectly. However, everything that’s dark and disturbing about this are frighteningly so. Some lines might make you giggle, but the logistics of what’s happening or what Mia’s possessed mind is saying are far more terrifying than the initial reaction might be. Essentially this is an immensely enjoyable mixture of cheesy B-horror and darkly serious horror.
The cheese of it all comes from the comedic moments and the throwback moments to the original that includes the demon voices of those possessed and the nasty things they say. The darkness within comes from examining some of the lines deeper and realizing that while the spirit of the film is fun, deep down there’s something incredibly dark about it. However, the script in general is the film’s biggest problem from my perspective. There are a handful of fantastic scripted moments, a handful of really good to okay moments and a little less than a handful of ‘meh’ moments. Added together the script isn’t terrible and for this type of horror film it all works without trying to nitpick too much about the script.
The actors stand just as tall as everyone from the original, with the exception that no one can quite capture the magic of Bruce Campbell as Ash. The smartest thing Alvarez has done is that he steers far away from trying to set up one character as the iconic Ash and instead you can see the spirit of that character throughout in almost every character and their comedic moments. Fernandez and Levy are the MVPs, but this incarnation of EVIL DEAD is the very definition of a team effort.
Now, man oh man the gore. I’m willing to hedge my bets that the budget of this film was exhausted entirely on buckets, upon buckets, upon buckets of blood. The red liquid splashes all over the screen after the mostly slow setup. Once Mia gets possessed in a scene fans of the original will squeal over, the blood rarely stops flowing- in fact the final 10 minutes have more blood flying that in maybe every wide released horror film from last year. That’s the other thing I love about the remake over the original in the fact that Alvarez took what seemed to be an insurmountable task, through off his gloves and just went for it and came out with a film that actually deserves to be said in the same breath as Raimi’s film.
I feel like I could go on and on about this one so I’ll try to round up everything else worth noting here. The score while unspectacular has some nice throwback notes to it. I mentioned the camerawork that almost perfectly captures the type of stuff Raimi leaned heavily on in the original and it works in spades here as well. The practical gore effects are nothing short of spectacular, though I’m not sold that CG didn’t play a hand in some parts. The finale kept me on my toes because there are several parts of the trailer that I suspect were included to throw us off and a lot of what happened in the final moments I was not expecting to go down the way they did.
At this point I feel like I’m gushing about EVIL DEAD like an overeager teen boy that just had sex for the first time. Part of me wants to dial back my excitement a little while the other just wants to tell every last soul how much I loved this movie. My excitement comes from just how much I want this movie to do well at the box office so I can see more balls-to-the-wall horror movies released in a wide capacity and also because I believe that Fede Alvarez did what I’m sure almost no one thought he could by remaking a film that in all seriousness didn’t need to be remade nor really should have been remade. So now to return to my previous sex metaphor, Alvarez’s EVIL DEAD is fast, messy and immensely satisfying- everything that it rightfully should be. If you don’t feel like you need a cigarette after then I think you’re doing wrong.