Director: Fede Alvarez
Cast: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore
Running time: 91 minutes
When five friends descend on a small cabin in the woods to help Mia (Levy) overcome her drug addiction, they become increasingly concerned with her state of mind. What they think is simply a reaction to being sober, Mia is convinced is an evil force in the woods out to get her…
It’s finally upon us; the long-awaited remake of Sam Raimi’s cult classic The Evil Dead, an ultra low-budget shocker which launched the career of both its director and star, Bruce Campbell, and has gone down in history as one of the best of its genre. Thirty two years on and Hollywood has decided it’s ripe for a remake. Generally this type of news is greeted with apprehension by fans, and often a degree of animosity, but much of that backlash was cooled down when the first gore-infested trailer rolled in, promising a no holds barred, rip-roaring homage to the original.
Anyway, it’s a much different beast to the original. Something which I discovered about half way through is that there’s no point in judging the film purely by comparing it to Raimi’s version, because it’s simply not trying to be Raimi’s version. Instead, it’s using that as more of a platform to become its own thing. Initially you might be disappointed by the lack of Ash, one of the greatest and most iconic movie characters of all time, but then you realize that there would be no point in even attempting to re-do him. Ash is Bruce Campbell, Bruce Campbell is Ash. Anyone else in that role, whoever it might have been, likely wouldn’t have pulled it off.
You might also be disappointed that there’s absolutely nothing tongue-in-cheek about Alvarez’s film, which was one of the things that really helped the original gain its classic status, and was the tone adopted by the two much-loved sequels, but then you realize that this version isn’t going for that approach. Everything is much darker, much more sinister, right down to the relationships between the characters. Where the original depicts a group of five friends going to a cabin to party and have fun, here they are to help a friend overcome a drug addiction, and they’re in pretty darn bad moods from the very first words they say to each other. Of course, I’m not saying the original isn’t dark (it is, especially when you compare it to the bonkers Evil Dead 2), but there is definitely a smile here or there that lightens the mood. A smile can’t be seen for a hundred miles in this one.
However, considering that dark tone, it’s simply not scary enough. It has it’s moment for sure, and there are several jump scares that caught me out, but the horror junkie needs more. Gore, whilst shocking and grimacing, isn’t scary. It’s a subjective point, of course, and it’s maybe not an entirely fair criticism as it’s really less interested in haunting the viewers at night and more interested in thrilling them at the time, which it certainly does.
There are further problems with the stop-start pacing in the first act. I haven’t heard or read of anyone having the same problem, but I just thought the set-up felt very choppy and at times it threatened to pull me out of the movie. Once things start to kick off properly it evens itself out more, and that’s when it really begins to deliver on its relentless, blood-splattered promises. On a second viewing (which I plan to carry out imminently) there’s every chance I’ll see it differently as this has happened to me more than once.
As a word of warning to anyone planning on going to see it, this thing is gory. And I don’t mean a stab here or a slice there, I mean seriously blood-splattered shocks. It’s like the ‘Crazy 88’ fight in Kill Bill with twice the fake blood budget. But before you go thinking it’s just mindless and gratuitous, I want to assure you that it’s not, and that I only warn of the gore as, well, a warning, in case you don’t like blood. Importantly it’s not hateful violence like you often get in torture films (which I mostly can’t stand to watch), and it’s always very obviously fake and OTT. As a horror fan watching a remake of The Evil Dead, I’m expecting at the least a few wincing moments, and this certainly doesn’t hold back on them. Frankly I’d be upset if it did.
It’s far from perfect, but most horror fans will probably get a kick out of it (non-horror fans, mind you, are sure to think it’s the worst thing in the world). It certainly doesn’t top the original, as was always likely to be the case, and it doesn’t do much for repeat viewings, but as far as remakes go, this is pretty solid. Atmospheric, relentless, gut-churning horror.