Any time a new horror remake is announced, the news is met with overwhelming negativity. It's not surprising when we're constantly hit with terrible remakes that lack the soul of the original or any identity of its own.
We can't forget that the word "remake" or "reboot" isn't inherently bad, though, and can always point at The Thing and The Fly as successful reinventions. While Evil Dead isn't as drastic of a departure as those two movies and doesn't excel on every level, first-time director Fede Alvarez has created an insanely bloody tribute to Sam Raimi's classic that is worthy of the Evil Dead name.
Evil Dead sees five friends head out to a remote cabin in order to help Mia (Jane Levy) with her drug addiction. The hope is that some time away from everyone in the middle of the woods will allow Mia to kick her habit, but the discovery of an ancient book in the cellar interrupts those plans. Not long after the book is examined, things quickly spiral downhill for the five friends, and we're shown one graphic scene after another as they try to get out alive.
Without a doubt, Evil Dead is the most graphic and gory movie I've seen released by a major studio in the US in recent memory. I have absolutely no idea how they got away with the R-rating, and I'd love to have been a fly on the wall during the MPAA evaluation. What's amazing about this isn't necessarily how much gore ended up making it into the film, but how well it's carried out. This is a movie that achieves its effects with little to no CGI, and many scenes that may appear to be entirely CG were created practically. Evil Dead sets a new high bar for future studio-produced horror films, and will no doubt have its imitators.
What I like about the drug addiction setup is that it allows Evil Dead to avoid the typical party-in-the-woods atmosphere and allows for some interesting character interaction. Jane Levy delivers a standout performance as Mia, and appeared more than capable of handling every crazy scene Fede Alvarez threw her way. Both Lou Taylor Pucci and Shiloh Fernandez also give performances that elevate this from your standard slasher fare, and keep their predicament in the realm of believability. People will be shocked to see what Lou Taylor Pucci's character is subjected to and he's definitely a standout among the group.
Unfortunately, the movie doesn't follow through with the drug addiction story elements after the action kicks into high gear, and we're left with some underdeveloped characters. While we see and hear plenty from the three actors I mentioned above, the same can't be said for Elizabeth Blackmore's character. She's an active participant in the events of the movie, but we don't really hear much from her or about her. Jessica Lucas' character is also someone I don't feel we were able to learn enough about. This is a movie that goes by quickly at 92 minutes, but we've been told that Fede Alvarez has a longer cut. I'm interested in seeing if it gives us a better look at some of these characters that seem to have had their scenes cut short.
I've heard reactions from people that have seen the trailer and are expecting to be scared, but that's not the focus of this movie. Fede Alvarez isn't pushing scares, as much as he wants to disturb you, gross you out, and entertain you with the amount of blood being thrown around. I feel like this movie will play really well with new horror fans who are experiencing The Evil Dead franchise for the first time, and hopefully, it will result in many people checking out the original movies.
For some fans of the Evil Dead franchise, I can see them having a problem with this movie lacking the humor seen in Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness. There are some scenes that may make you laugh and cheer, but for the most part, this movie is a pretty serious take on the material. It's important to keep in mind that The Evil Dead was more of a straight horror film than its two sequels, and this new movie is leaning more in that direction. It might have bothered me if the past three films had exactly the same tone, but this doesn't feel out of place within the franchise.
Evil Dead accomplished the seemingly impossible by creating a movie that captured the spirit of the original while still being a beast of its own. It may not be a sequel to Army of Darkness, but horror fans should have no problem being won over by the bloodiest, goriest, and best studio horror film I've seen in quite some time.
Film Score: 4/5