Good news, horror lovers – Evil Dead wasn’t terrible! As a devoted lover of Sam Raimi’s camp-laden, bloody-but-funny original trilogy, I had my doubts going into this one. But Raimi hand picked Fede Alvarez to direct, marking a debut for the 35 year-old that’s as impressive as it is disgusting. And Raimi and Bruce Campbell, who played Ash in the first installments of The Evil Dead, both came on to produce and signaled their approval of “the most terrifying movie you will ever experience.”
I don’t know if I would go as far as suggesting that the tagline is anywhere close to correct. Yes, the film was terrifying at times. I found myself leaning backwards into the couch, trying to keep my eyes off the screen as sharp objects kept finding their way towards people’s fragile frames. But Evil Dead was so much fun and so in-your-face with its seemingly limitless gore that you just can’t look away.
It’s not over the top, funny gore like in the original (and definitely not the latter two films with their purposefully comedic tone). Evil Dead really ramps up the fear factor with buckets of blood. It slaps its viewers in the face with severed limbs and demands that you watch the entire hour and a half run time that’s pretty much non-stop craziness – and yes, there’s a few of those in there. Severed limbs, I mean.
It starts off as your typical horror film: five friends head out to a remote cabin, one of them unwittingly unleashes demons, who begin to possess and pick off said friends. We’ve seen it all before, and it draws directly from its predecessor. But what separates Evil Dead from the rest of the horror pack, especially reboots and remakes, is its love of the source material. With Raimi and Campbell on board as producers, it gave fans of the originals and the genre in general reason to hope, and I think that this one delivered pretty well. The nods to 1981 version and its follow-ups abounded: the awesome, stalking-inspired tracking shots, locking the possessed girl in the cellar, the shotg- excuse me, boomsticks, the severed hand, the chainsaw, the hand rising through the ground grabbing the girl’s throat… I could go on. There’s just references enough for fans of the original to draw the parallels and go “yes! I remember that,” without relying on them as a crutch. Supplanting Ash with Mia was a brilliant move, and the parallels are just enough to have her sort of take over as the hero – and its something Jane Levy does with a sure hand and great acting, even if she is in zombie mode half of the time. Alvarez makes Evil Dead his own, and instead of focusing on the macabre humor and sexual undertones that existed in the original, he chooses instead to key in on the horror and gore to really gross out the audiences (hint: it worked).
It didn’t escape some of the predictable horror tropes and jump scares, but I didn’t mind – and keep in mind, this is coming from The Gent, who typically has trouble digesting freaky flicks. Stupid decision making such as reading the Necronomicon (Really? You’re going to read the book scrawled in devilish obscenities that’s bound in human skin?) and the disbelief that something is going wrong were just two immediate flaws in these characters that stood out. There were more, and it took away from what could have been a completely frightening and memorable experience.
Evil Dead stands apart from The Evil Dead to be sure, but it does so with just enough allure and staying power to warrant addition to your yearly Halloween cannon – I know its in consideration for mine, and Evil Dead will be scaring viewers at drive in theaters and basement sleepovers for years to come.
(3.5 / 5 Stars)