The cruel irony is that Mia is the only one who sees what else is going on. This backwater cabin is a gateway to Hell, and something on the other side is clawing at that door. Everyone else writes off Mia's erratic behavior -- scalding herself with third-degree burns in the shower, incoherently ranting about the woods attacking her, pointing a fucking shotgun at her brother -- as a junkie suffering from withdrawal. Before much longer, Mia's not there anymore. Some demon has invaded what was once her body and is wearing it like a meat suit. One by one, it sadistically disfigures and dismembers Mia's friends and family until it's swallowed every last soul, infusing it with the strength to at long last fling open the gates of Hell.
If you're bracing yourself for yet another rant and rave about horror remakes...well, you're not gonna get one here. As much as I love the original Evil Dead, there's a hell of a lot of room for improvement, and the pre-release press definitely suggested that this would be the right kind of remake. Turns out...? It's not. For way too much of its runtime, this re-envisioning of The Evil Dead is kind of an indifferent shrug of a movie.
On paper, the addiction angle is brilliant. Not so much for the metaphor of the demon within, but more because I love the dramatic irony of an unreliable character being the only one attuned to the horrors surrounding her. In practice, though, the first act of the movie is unrelentingly dark, dour, and depressing even before it starts to rack up a body count, leaving Evil Dead feeling kind of tonally one-note. The lack of any meaningful characterization is what really stomps all over it. Hardly anyone in front of the camera has anything resembling a personality, leaving 'em mostly interchangeable. At no point do they threaten to come across as close friends, blood relations, or hell, even people...just spam in a cabin, twiddling their thumbs until it's their turn to get hacked apart. Shiloh Fernandez lugs a lot of the movie around on his aggressively bland shoulders, failing to convincingly sell so much as a single line of dialogue. The guy's just a woefully miscast, gaping void of whatever the opposite of charisma is. Aside from Mia and occasionally David, I couldn't tell you the names of any of the other characters in the flick even as I was in the middle of watching it. Their initials do spell "DEMON", though, so there's that, I guess.
The demonic taunts pale in comparison to the original. "You're gonna die here, you pathetic junkie!" "Why don't you come down here so I can suck your cock, pretty boy?" "Mia's not here, you fucking idiot!" "Motherfucker! I will kill you like I killed your whore!" "Feast on this, motherfucker!" Absolutely none of it's
I get that the difference between suspense and surprise is knowing -- or at least thinking you know -- what's lurking around the next bend. Evil Dead delights in showing its cards way too early, so deliberately setting up every scare that you're kind of just, like, "well, I guess I know what happens next..." The moments that are directly remade from the first two Evil Dead movies -- the head of the possessed barely poking out from the cellar door, the tendril rape, severing a possessed hand...err, arm -- have a hell of a lot more money behind them but don't pack nearly the same impact. The direction and camerawork are undeniably accomplished but don't have that hyperkinetic verve that defined Raimi's original. Even with all the havoc that's wrought, it's surprisingly slow and uninvolving.
The frustrating thing is that this remake really does get so much right that I kind of wish it had fully thrown off the shackles of the original Evil Dead and were instead a completely original movie. Not having anything close to Ash gets it a lot of the way there already. New setpieces like a nailgun massacre are phenomenal. The final ten minutes are fucking brutal in the best possible way, so unnervingly intense that I paced around my living room watching them, unable to stay perched on my couch. The remake doesn't pull any punches: so visceral, so gruesome, and unleashing so many crimson geysers of blood that I'm kind of astonished that it slunk by with an R rating. I respect the hell out of director Fede Alvarez for using practical effects and old-school camera wizardry rather than leaning on CGI. There are some digital nips and tucks, sure, but every bit of the splatter you see is in-camera, and it's glorious. Jane Levy is something to behold as well. Hers is an astonishingly punishing role, playing someone who looks like she's already been to Hell and back, then torturing her relentlessly and gradually transforming her into a gleefully depraved demon. It's an indescribably intense and endlessly compelling performance, so much so that every scene without Levy seems kind of flat by comparison.
With a stronger screenplay and maybe more of a drive to be its own movie, this reimagining of Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead could've been a stone cold classic. Instead, it's a decent horror flick with a couple of tremendous setpieces and a hell of a leading lady, and I'll probably forget about the remake altogether once I put this Blu-ray disc back on the shelf. Rent It.
It's a far cry from a 16mm camera mounted on a piece of lumber, that's for sure. Lensed in 4K with Sony's shiny, F65 camera, Evil Dead is startlingly crisp and detailed. Black levels are appropriately dark and dense,
No aspect ratio controversies for this take on Evil Dead; this Blu-ray disc is presented at the film's theatrical aspect ratio of 2.39:1. Evil Dead arrives on a dual layer disc and has been encoded with AVC.
The six-channel, 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on this Blu-ray disc somehow manages to be every bit as aggressive as the movie itself. The sound design is remarkably immersive, filling every speaker with howling wind, creaking planks of wood, small armies of flies, and swirling demonic voices. Along with the deadites encircling their prey, the surrounds are also teeming with effects like a fucking nailgun massacre, with each blast embedding itself in wood and flesh alike with a deep, satisfying thud. Evil Dead also coaxes a hellish, gutteral growl from the subwoofer while it's at it, and the score inspired by the original films sounds tremendous as well.
Evil Dead features a second 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio track, this time in Portuguese. An English descriptive service track has been provided as well, along with Dolby Digital 5.1 dubs (640kbps) in Spanish, French, and Thai. Subtitles are offered in English (traditional and SDH), Chinese (traditional), French, Spanish, Indonesian, Korean, and Portuguese.
Director Fede Alvarez mentions "if there's ever an extended cut..." a couple of times throughout his audio commentary and even touches on an alternate ending, and maybe that explains the lack of deleted scenes. There's not even an unrated version on this disc, although
Evil Dead serves up an UltraViolet digital copy code and comes packaged in a slipcover.
The Final Word
As gloriously gruesome as this remake of The Evil Dead is, there's nothing as creepy as Cheryl rattling off the numbers and suits of those cards from the other end of the room, nothing as unnerving as the relentless taunts of "we're gonna get you...!", and, up till the end, nothing as visceral and disturbing as the pencil-through-the-ankle of the original. This reimagining somehow manages to be both brutal and bland, let down by an exhaustingly dour script that aims for little more than loosely stringing all the mayhem together somehow. There's no longer a pervasive sense of dread. You don't really get the sense that its characters are being pushed past the brink of insanity. It would've been a stronger effort without all the homages and recreations of key moments from Raimi's original; the remake is well on its way to being its own movie, and the slicker but less effective retreads of thirty year old scares just get in the way. (Forty year old scares if you count how many times it mimics The Exorcist.)
I mean, there are moments I like. I'm glad I took the time to watch it. I don't hate it. Many bonus points for shrugging off CGI and for dishing out batshit insane kills like the chainsaw mayhem that closes out the flick. Jane Levy puts in a hell of a performance that buoys a splatterfest that's less distinctive, less stylish, less charming, less terrifying, less intense, and a hell of a lot less memorable than the original. Rent It.