Title: Evil Dead
Is The, Uh, "Tree Scene" Still There? Wouldn't be Evil Dead without a little botanical assault, now would it?
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Four '73 Oldsmobiles out of five.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Young junkie and well-meaning friends travel to remote cabin to detox, experiences worst withdrawal ever.
Tagline: "The most terrifying film you will ever experience."
Better Tagline: "Groovy."
Is There An After-Credits Scene? Yup.
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Poor Mia (Jane Levy). Bad enough she had to drag her ass to her family's old cabin to kick a smack habit. Now, to make matters worse, her friends have discovered a weird old book in the cellar, and one of them recites several passages (in spite of explicit, all-caps warnings not to do so), releasing demonic spirits bent on possessing Mia and her friends and releasing something called The Abomination. So now Mia's possessed and murdering everybody, leaving the dwindling survivors, including estranged older brother David (Shiloh Fernandez), precious little time to try and set things right.
"Critical" Analysis: It's rare, but occasionally you'll get a horror remake that does it right. David Cronenberg's The Fly was a clear improvement over the 1958 original, while John Carpenter's version of The Thing, a remake of Howard Hawks's The Thing From Another World, remains a classic of the genre (though it's admittedly a bit of an apples-and-oranges kind of thing).
The remake of the remake, on the other hand...
Is Fede Alvarez's do-over of Sam Raimi's beloved 1981 cult hit better than the original? Short answer: yes, with an if. Long answer: no, with a but. The Evil Dead is widely regarded as one of the greatest horror movies of all time (meaning all of that period of human existence when they've been capable of capturing images on film, still nothing to sneeze at). If Alvarez's aim is to top that, he's got a tough road ahead of him. Fortunately for us, he isn't trying something so outlandish. Instead, he's upped the ante by playing his film (mostly) straight and kicking the intensity up several dozen notches.
Admittedly, much of the charm of Raimi's original (and its 1987 sequel) came from its self-awareness and darkly comic turns. Bruce Campbell ("Ash") not only demonstrated an enthusiastic willingness to get the crap kicked out of him, but to this day possesses just about the best deadpan line delivery of any actor alive. It helped temper the horrific things we were seeing on screen.
There's no such release valve this time around. Lou Taylor Pucci's Eric provides the closest thing we could describe as comic relief, and that mostly comes from his growing hysteria. Everything else is calculated for maximum skeeve. Alvarez and co-writers Rodo Sayagues and Diablo (Juno) Cody start the whole thing off by burning someone at the stake, and that's one of the more moderate deaths, horror-wise.
Beyond the whole "Who do they think they are remaking a beloved film from my childhood?" issue, Evil Dead is a fine horror movie on its own, relying on an accomplished blend of suspense, jumps and viscera to freak out the audience. Even more impressive, this is a movie almost wholly free of computer effects (minus a few dismemberments, I
hope assume). Alvarez compensates for Hollywood's recent infatuation with CGI blood by dumping thousands of gallons of the "real" thing on Mia and company, and it helps bring Evil Dead closer to the original's DIY roots.
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Alvarez's affection for the original shows and is a big reason why you can't get too worked up about the remake angle. From the appearance of "The Classic" to the DemonVision shots in the forest to the use of "Fine?" between David and Eric, there's plenty for fans of the original films to latch onto. But Alvarez doesn't let inside baseball ruin his vision for the film.
Although I must say, at least in the original they had the excuse of listening to cassette tapes. For future reference, if someone goes through the trouble of wrapping a book in barbed wire and blacking out certain passages, it's probably not because the recipe called for using all-purpose instead of self-rising flour.
Finally, this is hard "R" territory we're talking about here. If you're looking for that "gateway" movie to introduce your kids to the genre, Evil Dead ain't it. I say this mostly for the benefit of the couple at the preview screening who insisted on staying to the end even as their (under-ten-year-old kids) were begging them to leave. If you bring children to this, I hope someone removes your reproductive organs with a box cutter.
See It/Rent It/Skip It: See it. This is a horror movie that definitely deserves to be experienced on a big screen and with a big crowd.