Let me start this review by letting you know that I don’t get out to the movie theater as often as I’d like, but for me, EVIL DEAD was a given. I was going to see this movie. In fact, the worn out VHS of the original THE EVIL DEAD is partly responsible for my chosen field in the film industry. So whether or not Sam Raimi is directing or Bruce Campbell is starring, I’ve invested a lot of time into the franchise and into being a fan of the filmmakers.
I’ve invested money as well: on movie tickets for “Army of Darkness” (the first installment I was old enough to see in the theater), updating formats from VHS to DVD, DVD to HD-DVD (don’t get me started), HD-DVD to BLU-RAY, and eventually Blu-RAY to Smellivision. And I even took a trip to New York City (before it was taken over by homeless-looking rich kids) to see a stage adaptation, which was delightful by the way.
So for me, this remake is part of the THE EVIL DEAD phenomena, and for that reason it’s a must-see. For that same reason, it’s a tall order for a director whose name is not Sam Raimi to take on a remake of this long-treasured horror masterpiece. Just look at the other remakes of late, like Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN. On second thought, don’t . You’ll hate it.
This time, the film’s director Fede Alvarez was successful because he made some good decisions. The most important decision was to make a solid horror film that simultaneously pays respect, homage, and tribute to one of the most beloved horror films of all time, reminiscent of the way JJ Abrams approached Star Trek, an even more iconic series. Evil Dead works on its own as a taught and thrilling horror film with plenty of scares and memorable gory moments splattered throughout. If someone sees this film having never seen its 1981 counterpart, there’s a good chance they would appreciate it as one of the best straight up horror flicks in the last 10 years. Or, they may describe it as a creepier rip-off of CABIN IN THE WOODS without all that weird holodeck stuff.
But if you are a fan of the original series, you won’t be disappointed because of another good decision the director made, which was to pepper the film with inside jokes and tips of the hat to the original film without slowing down the pace or getting in the way of the plot. In fact, if you go into the film with a checklist of what they’d better do, you will probably have it all marked off by the end of the film.
And what I’m most impressed by this film, is the way that each element from the original film (including the car nicknamed “The Classic”) is addressed in a fresh and fun way that is always unpredictable. This kept the story fresh and exciting and not just an updated version with better haircuts and slicker lighting, (which this movie has too).
Not only as a remake, but as a movie, Evil Dead is full of surprises. Just when you think you might have figured out the way a set piece is going to play out based on your knowledge of the genre, Alvarez turns it on its ear which makes the suspense very effective.
And as far as trying to please all the devoted Deadites out there, instead of trying to find an actor to fill the size bizillion shoes of Bruce Campbell, Alvarez Kobi Oshi Maru’s it by leaving the character of Ash out altogether and spreading the memorable “Ash” moments out to all the other characters. This proves to be a good way of avoiding a comparison that would inevitably end up being worse than the original.
It’s the only way to approach such sacred geek territory. Yet another good decision on the producer’s part is to look at the original and pinpoint what was missing. In this case they decided to delve a little deeper into the origin of the evil at the cabin. They did so by opening with a clever, to the point scene which gives a glimpse into the nature of the evil spirit at the heart of the story.
The film’s suspense and gore are masterfully done and will keep you literally wincing for 90 minutes…well 60 minutes, (it does take a few minutes to get all the pertinent character stuff out of the way.)
I look forward to more from Alvarez as it’s clear his devotion is to storytelling and not servicing a fan base looking for nothing less than a shot-for-shot re-filming.
In short, I’ll describe this film using an immortal catchphrase from Bruce Campbell in the original: Evil Dead is…“Far-out”