NOTE I: This review was written and originally published in April 2013.
Fede Álvarez’s Evil Dead is likely the best film that could be made in current times bearing the title as Sam Raimi’s cult classic. Nonetheless, it’s a film that is always aware of its goal – to be as gory and as excessive as possible – and creates an easygoing vibe that will likely appeal to those who hold its original so dear to their hearts.
This sort of depends on your response to the exclusion of the original film’s main character, Ash, who was played by Bruce Campbell, who serves as an executive producer on this remake. His absence wasn’t a big deal for a non-fan like myself, but I can sense something of an upset being that the film doesn’t include its own main character. However, it’s not like Friday the 13th without a Jason, or a visit to Elm Street without Freddy, so there isn’t a huge hole in the film’s interior.
We focus on five kids that venture out to a remote cabin, only this time, they’re going there for a slightly different reason; they’re trying to get their friend Mia (Jane Levy) sober from drug abuse and get her back on the road to mental stability. The group winds up stumbling upon a book of the dead, which to add to ominousness, is inked in blood and bound by human flesh. It unleashes a demon into Mia, who in return, attempts to mutilate and butcher her friends, which will turn them into demons as well.
If you want gore, you’ll get enough gore for an entire horror franchise. With the original driving force behind The Evil Dead, Sam Raimi, still having a reasonable say in what goes on, the feel of the classic film is present alone in its abundance of bloodshed. Tongues are ripped in two, blood is vomited, flesh is frequently punctuated by knives, spears, glass, and whatnot, and violence and brutality is commonplace. I was astonished by how it is handled; not in the vein of another Hostel sequel, that would generate melancholic attitudes because of the constant brutality, but in the way where it is more of a novelty rather than a sickness. That’s what, I believe, makes the film so fun and entertaining; it isn’t so keen on being sick and nasty as it is on being a grotesque piece of entertainment.
Gone besides Ash, however, is that feeling of raw, unnerving naturalism that was present heavily in the original film. Raimi’s low budget endeavor seemed to be a surreal document of a trip went wrong, using original camera angles and woodsy videography to generate effective atmosphere and tone. This remake employs these tactics nicely, but with more of a well-refined, studio touch. Consider the POV-shots Alvarez attempts at, in order to effectively mimic (or perhaps pay tribute) similar sequences in the original film. They still work because we are unsure of what exactly it what the POV is from. However, they feel more polished and less amateur, which leaves us with more of a seldom appreciation than what we saw the first time around.
This is the kind of horror film that effectively works, even though it has its own limitations. It still favors weirdness and gross-out instances over character (even though this one tries a bit harder to evoke personality with some of its cast), and character stupidity is rather prominent here. And yet, there is enjoyment to be had simply because the events are fun and lax and the buckets of gore (all natural, by the way – no CGI) are a shockingly pleasant addition. This doesn’t have the unexpected setups, plot twists, and constant entertainment of recent efforts like The Cabin in the Woods and Final Destination 5, but it does have a heart and a sense of fun and terror.
NOTE: As of this writing, Evil Dead is available to rent on multiple platforms.
Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, and Elizabeth Blackmore. Directed by: Fede Álvarez.
Steve Pulaski has been reviewing movies since 2009 for a barrage of different outlets. He graduated North Central College in 2018 and currently works as an on-air radio personality. He also hosts a weekly movie podcast called "Sleepless with Steve," dedicated to film and the film industry, on his YouTube channel. In addition to writing, he's a die-hard Chicago Bears fan and has two cats, appropriately named Siskel and Ebert!