Fede Alvarez‘s Evil Dead isn’t exactly the remake we were expecting or the one that we needed. What Alvarez does here is create a new story in a familiar setting, often borrowing from Sam Raimi‘s original film, while also attempting to pay homage to various other demonic horror films. Evil Dead is gory and sometimes unsettling with its approach to on-screen violence, while also remaining a Sam Raimi-produced film, which means a layer of comedy and general silliness is around every corner. Evil Dead doesn’t quite work as well as it should, but it still gets away with being a slightly above average film.
Mia (Jane Levy) is a drug addict and she wants to kick the habit once and for all. She retreats to an old cabin with her brother and some close friends to finally rid herself of this life-sucking drug addiction. While doing so they encounter an evil book that unleashes actual demons directly from the doorsteps of Hell.
These demons slowly start killing each and every one of them by manipulation and exposing their true fears. What was supposed to be a rough weekend of cold turkey soon becomes a blood-soaked nightmare, full of decapitation and gore.
Fede Alvarez always had an uphill battle with this new Evil Dead, which is being wisely marketed as not a remake, but a rebirth. Fans of the original were always going to judge this one unfairly, while people that never saw the original will more than likely claim this one as a highly original piece of new wave horror. Neither groups are right or wrong, but instead just approaching the film with their own expectations. That’s always a tough thing to do, because you need to understand the director’s intention and figure out if he achieved it or not.
I think Alvarez mostly achieves what he set out to do, which is to take a well-established property and throw in a few new surprises, while still catering to the massive amounts of fans. For that this new Evil Dead is simply a good horror movie, but nothing worthy of praise.
Alvarez as a director puts not a single unique stamp on this film. He shoots everything fairly competent, occasionally using the legendary “run-up” shot, while also adding a few other angles to the mix. Evil Dead doesn’t get any special points for looking much different than the original film or any other film for that matter. It’s full of mostly traditional shots that look gloomy, stained and dream-like. It gives the film a certain tone, but it rarely makes for trademark shots that will have you calling back to Alvarez in future films.
This is good though, because he doesn’t straight-up copy Sam Raimi‘s style either. That was a wise choice, because only Raimi can blend that oddball comedy with over-the-top horror. Alvarez tries to inject a little life into the film by way of humorous one-liners from the demons, but he mostly shoots a serious horror film.
Evil Dead has all of the jokes most cabin in the woods horror films would have, but when it comes to the killing (which there is a hell of a lot of) there’s not a lot of funny to be found. And that works in the film’s favor, because the advertisements have claimed that this is one of the most terrifying films that you will ever experience.
It’s not, but it’s groundbreaking when it comes to the effects. Alvarez and his crew have bragged and bragged about the film’s use of practical effects over digital and that is truly where this adaptation of Evil Dead shines. The blood comes pouring out by the buckets and the gore pushes the limits for what is acceptable for an R-rated film. I’m surprised they got away with this much mayhem on-screen.
But what happens to be one of Evil Dead‘s brightest moments is also one of its weaker ones. The gore is awesome to look at from a technical standpoint, but it almost gets to be a bit too excessive when it’s all said and done. Some moments win you over, while others feel like they only exist to attempt to try and get a reaction out of the audience. It works the first couple of times, but soon becomes just another experiment of how much can we get away with before the audience gets bored or eventually adapts to this new level of sick and twisted.
The film’s also got some pacing issues due to the uneven cast. The opening twenty minutes feel stretched out and empty, mostly due to the lack of on-screen presence by leading lady Jane Levy and everyone else aside from Lou Taylor Pucci. Seriously, the entire cast is forgettable aside from Pucci — who plays the film’s “nerd” with an even dose of arrogance and charm. He’s funny and almost always giving the film that sense of humor that it so badly needs.
Levy on the other hand struggles opening the film, but then sits on the shelf for most of the middle portion, only to make an impression towards the end. By that point you’ve simply stopped caring about the characters and have instead focused on the demons and how many different ways they can torture these poor souls. It’s kind of sick, but it’s the honest truth.
Evil Dead is rarely scary, with only a few jump scares embedded to make sure that you’re awake. The rest of the film is a darker and much meaner approach than what Raimi did with the original. This new film has moments where it appears as funny and fresh and something that’s almost a direct result of last year’s genre-changing The Cabin in the Woods, but then there are bulk moments of Evil Dead that are piss-poor and cliché, reminding us why we approach every new horror film with extreme caution.
Alvarez deserves credit for pushing the on-screen gore to the maximum, but at the same time I often found myself questioning just how much of it was necessary for the film to prove its point. Evil Dead isn’t over-the-top enough to be considered a downright fun time at the theater for gore-hounds and it’s also not that creepy or effective when it comes to actually chilling or terrifying the audience, aside from those that are squeamish when they see tree rape or limbs getting sawed/chopped or blown off.
Fans of the original will find more than enough to admire in this new adaptation, but I’m not sure how general audiences are going to react. I’ve never considered myself a die-hard Evil Dead fan, but I have seen the films and with that in mind I found myself enjoying moments of this new film, while also being slightly disappointed with the lack of originality. Fede Alvarez is a director to keep an eye on, but I’d much rather see him working on original material that he created and not stuff that has already gathered cult-status.
Evil Dead – 7.5/10