After around 30 years, horror fans continue to rejoice Sam Raimi's creation called The Evil Dead. This 1981 genre classic has stuck in viewers' minds for many years, and it has aged well. Nobody ever claimed the story is deep or that the characters are great, but it has always been able to accomplish its goals as a horror flick. It scared, shocked, and entertained audiences around the world, while developing an enormous following. In 2013, Hollywood itself is taking a shot at remaking it, but with the cleaner title of Evil Dead. My biggest concern with this announcement was that the material would be watered down for younger audiences in order to have access to a larger box office sum. However, Tri-Star appears to be glad with releasing an incredibly violent film nationwide. As a genre fan, the lack of R-rated horror pictures has irritated me. If this is a box office success, perhaps we'll begin seeing more graphic pictures, but sometimes the need for gore can hinder the feature's ability to scare.
Five friends head to a remote cabin in order to get Mia (Jane Levy) away from society, so that she can kick her drug addiction. She's surprised to see her brother, David (Shiloh Fernandez), show up to support her. After being led to the basement of the cabin, the group discovers a gruesome scent and the Book of the Dead. Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) decides to open it and begins to read a passage, which ultimately summons demons living in the nearby woods. This evil possesses them one by one, claiming that they will all die. These demons have a specific agenda that can only be stopped by fighting for survival and throwing this evil where it belongs. It's "kill or be killed" in this grotesque remake.
Even though this is a remake, don't be fooled into thinking that writer/director Fede Alvarez's Evil Dead is simply a rehash. While it most certainly pays its respect to the original, this is its own beast. Once Mia's group of friends go to the cabin, we're quickly introduced to the reason for their arrival. This run-down structure acts as Mia's rehabilitation center, which plays as reason for nobody believing what she begins seeing in the forest. Before the pacing rapidly progresses, we're introduced to a wide variety of unconvincing dialogue between Mia and David. Keep in mind that the decision to make her a drug addict seems to be more of a reason for the group to not listen to her than for us to sympathize with her. While you'll want the lead role to make it out alive, you won't have many feelings towards any of these characters. In fact, a few of them are so one-dimensional that you won't realize their presence at all. This screenplay falls on its face on a few occasions, but it manages to pick itself up through other aspects of the film.
Sam Raimi is known for his balance between horror and comedy. Alvarez's remake takes a much more serious look into this story, although Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) brings a small dosage of comic relief to the film. There are multiple scenes that will have you chuckling, but it quickly dives back into its dark material. Some horror directors have difficulty with the path they wish to embark on, but Fede Alvarez clearly knows what he wants to achieve with Evil Dead. Fans will be glad that it incorporates some similar scenes found in the original, but it takes a different path. Therefore, viewers will find themselves with a completely different final act. This fight for survival is highly intense and entertaining, even though the transition is quite sloppy. Once everything falls into place, you won't really care how you got there. Alvarez is trying to please adult horror fans, which has become difficult to find in mainstream cinema. This alone will surely have audiences happy to support this R-rated bloodbath.
Once all of the blood has been shed, what is left? Well, Evil Dead doesn't hold up to the poster's statement of being "The Most Terrifying Film You Will Ever Experience." In fact, it doesn't deliver any genuine scares to speak of. Yes, there are numerous jump scares, but nothing will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. While the sheer amount of gore will surely shock mainstream audiences, nobody will find themselves sleeping with the lights on. The violence serves its purpose. but Alvarez should have spent more time delivering spine-tingling moments. Evil Dead constantly bashes viewers over the head with the deadites and their carnage, but it forgets to include the subtleties that truly stuck with people for years after the 1981 classic. Perhaps a balance would have served better, especially if it had any hopes of living up to this picture's tagline. Regardless, this is still an entertaining movie that gives the impression that old-school horror might be returning to the big screen. Whether or not you find yourself jumping for joy after the credits are done rolling, this movie accomplishes many of its goals.
All of the actors look the part, but this cast is definitely a mixed bag. Jane Levy is Mia, a young woman who is trying to overcome her drug addiction. Her character has some interesting transitions, which she handles rather well. These scenes could have easily turned into a laughable mess, but Levy makes it very intense. Shiloh Fernandez isn't able to deliver such a performance through his representation of David. Not only does this character do some of the dumbest things in the entire movie, but Fernandez fails to make him likable. Lou Taylor Pucci is fitting as the comic relief in the form of Eric. He's believable as this high school teacher, who is stupid enough to read from the Book of the Dead. Jessica Lucas and Elizabeth Blackmore have an extremely limited amount of time on screen as Olivia and Natalie. Neither of these roles give these women the chance to do very much. The acting is decent, but a few of the cast members are better than others.
With the invention of digital effects, a large number of filmmakers have decided to move to CGI. When it isn't done correctly, the visuals can become an absolute disaster. Fortunately, Fede Alvarez decided to use all practical effects for Evil Dead. Horror fans will be absolutely thrilled with the finished product, especially with how gory this movie gets. Every gross-out gag looks fantastic, especially a few specific ones that will leave some mainstream audiences cringing at the brutality. The color scheme fits the movie, with an abundance of grays and reds. Alvarez utilizes a lot of familiar camera angles from the original, such as having the audience weave through the tress in the forest towards the cabin. Evil Dead carries a suitable score by Roque Baņos, which fits the atmosphere perfectly. From start to finish, this film looks exactly as it should.
There was a lot of positive buzz spreading after its premiere at SXSW, which raised my expectations fairly high. Since I'm a fan of the original, I was already excited to see how this remake would turn out. However, it simply isn't as fantastic as I hoped it would be. Despite its flaws, this remake is pretty entertaining, especially if you're craving a bloodbath. This does for horror flicks what big blockbusters do for the action genre. There isn't a lot of substance, but it makes for a fun experience in the movie theater, since it's even better when you're watching it with an audience. Evil Dead isn't very scary, but it delivers with gallons of gore. If you're a horror fan, then you should definitely check this out. It might not be "The Most Terrifying Film You Will Ever Experience," but it's a decent genre picture. Recommended.
P.S. Make sure to stay for the stinger after the credits.