When the reboot of Sam Raimi’s 1981 classic horror film The Evil Dead was announced, many fans rolled their eyes at the thought of it. Even the involvement of the original’s star and director, Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi, as producers did little to sway the negative buzz. Then newcomer Fede Alvarez signed on to write and direct the film after making a splash with a short film that caught Raimi’s attention and had fans wondering what an unknown director would do with the film. Fast forward to the reveal of the new film’s first trailer and everyone was talking about how awesome the film looked. Admittedly, I was pretty intrigued by the trailer and thought that there could possibly be something to this reboot after all. The word of mouth from some early screenings had been generally positive and I went into Evil Dead hopeful and actually kind of excited to see someone else’s take on a film I absolutely love.
While I hoped to see something new brought to the remake, Alvarez ends up only providing a weaker remix version of Raimi’s classic. It’s the story you expect just injected with a more serious tone. Evil Dead starts off with a bang but then meddles around with exposition of the uninteresting variety. The script doesn’t really present any characters that could really carry my interest through the movie and the film only gains traction once the blood and gore kick into gear. The script is where the remake falters the most. It’s kind of generic and feels like it’s written more as a nod to fans of Raimi’s film by providing references to memorable sequences from the first two Evil Dead films. The problem with that is that you only remind the viewer of what an awesome movie the original is and fail to give the remake an identity of its own. On top of that, the movie feels messy with events unfolding haphazardly, giving it a disjointed feel. The new film tries to differentiate its storyline and characters by having them arrive at the cabin to help someone cold-turkey their drug addiction. This set up works on paper but ended up leaving me feeling cold to the characters and less concerned with their outcome. There is also a brother/sister relationship at the core of the story that feels vacuous despite some screen time dedicated to their frayed relationship.
The gore is definitely where the film succeeds and is what will have audiences gasping and cheering. Alvarez lets things get gross and really bloody and definitely goes over the top in that respect which definitely felt true to the spirit of the Evil Dead series. The blood vomit/fountains were certainly appreciated. I also appreciated the use of practical effects. I’m not sure I believe that everything was practical, as Alvarez has stated, but the majority of the special effects are done sans computer and that is pretty awesome. I hope that the Blu-ray features some great documentation of the special effects of the film as I’d really like to see how they pulled off some of them.
Evil Dead sports a cast of mostly unknown actors, with exception to Jane Levy who plays Mia, the sister of the protagonist and reason for the cabin-in-the-woods-based intervention. Levy, who some may know from ABC’s Suburgatory, was a draw for me as I really enjoy her as an actress and was excited to see what she’d do in a horror film since she had mostly done more comedic work. Sadly, I wasn’t all that impressed with her performance which seemed a little rough at times. I like her more when she’s possessed and less when she’s human, at least in the first act anyway. The rest of the cast are okay but no one really stood out to me.
Despite having some fun with the movie, Evil Dead lacked something for me. It didn’t have the same sense of fun as the original and that may have do with the fact that Evil Dead feels like The Evil Dead but without Raimi’s imagination and energy. The remake also feels very polished, whereas the original has rough edges that give it personality. Raimi’s film featured the character of Ash (as played by Bruce Campbell) and Alvarez was wise to leave that character out of the reboot as that role would be nearly impossible to replicate. Ash was most certainly missed but Alvarez actually does something in reference to the character and turns the Evil Dead series on its head, setting up a new legacy by fulfilling that void in creating a new but familiar character to lead the franchise.
The ending of the film is easily my favorite segment of the movie, even if I had some issues with it. The evil that lurks in the forest gets personified as an androgynous humanoid that fails to impress and lacks any real sense of threat. Despite this, the finale sequence was a blast and I loved the blood raining down as the events unfolded. I don’t want to spoil it for others but the final kill is pretty amazing and will have the audiences cheering for sure. Unless of course you’re grossed out by the sight of massive amounts of blood.
There are things I enjoyed about the new Evil Dead but it just kept reminding me of the original and how much I love (and prefer) Raimi’s film over the remake. I’m not bitter about the remake’s existence nor do I feel I wasted my time with it. I just think the remake could have been improved. Evil Dead got my attention with its over-the-top gore but failed to carry me along for the ride enthusiastically with its lack of interesting characters and erratic pacing. Alvarez would have been better off going for a true re-imagining of the original film instead of what ends up ultimately being just a remix of a movie that already works really well. I’m sure that audiences will take kindly to the remake, especially those who’ve never seen Raimi’s film, but for me the original is king. After all, the remake is simply titled Evil Dead and the original is The Evil Dead. I feel there’s significance to that distinguishment. Raimi’s is THE superior film. Hail to the king baby.
by Ben McBride