Studio: TriStar Pictures
Director: Fede Alvarez
Writer: Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues
Producer: Rob Tapert, Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell
Stars: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore
Five friends unwittingly unleash an evil force during an intervention weekend at a remote cabin in the woods.
“Evil Dead” franchise fans are a fiercely dedicated group. With more than twenty years having passed since Ash last appeared on the silver screen (Has it really been that long? I remember seeing “Army of Darkness” in a theater more than once upon its release…), those hunger pangs have left deadites feverishly salivating for more Book of the Dead-related action.
Prior to release, hype for director Fede Alvarez’s remake was as eagerly devoured as rumors of a fourth installment in the “official” series. Whether or not the remake lives up to that hype comes down to exactly what one wants to see from an “Evil Dead” reboot.
Stripped of its connection to the much-revered horror classic, the new “Evil Dead” would have a hard time standing on its own legs. The movie is littered with fan service nods as subtle as a Michigan State sweatshirt and as overt as an arm stump handling a chainsaw. And with CGI kept to a minimum, practical effects deliver plentiful gore not just by the bucket load, but also by entire rainstorms. And that is about it.
Which is not to say that “Evil Dead” is a phoned in remake. Alvarez has enthusiasm for the source material, except his version of the original chapter puts an emphasis on visual horror over taking the mythology in a direction that could be considered new or bold. The passion is evident in the sight gags and makeup effects. The film absolutely relishes every drop of blood. It is everything else in the movie that ends up ringing hollow and underwhelming.
The setup is the most unique part of the plotline. For once, a quintet of college kids assembles at a remote cabin in the woods for a purpose other than a weekend of partying. David and his girlfriend Natalie have come together with friends Eric and Olivia to stage an intervention for David’s junkie sister Mia. What better place for an addict to scream through withdrawal pains than in a secluded forest? Shortly thereafter, an evil book is discovered, forbidden words are spoken aloud, and demonic forces arrive to rip apart the friends one at a time.
No one can deny the impressive work pulled off by the effects department. Not only does the gore push the limits of an R-rating to breaking, but it brings with it phantom pains of empathy that will have audiences sucking air through their teeth while watching the characters suffer mightily. Drenched in plasma, actors often look like Carrie on prom night. When it literally starts raining blood, you know that “Evil Dead” is smiling wide at the opportunity to bathe the screen in red.
Being that the film embraces its splattery side so wholeheartedly, it is undercutting that the script features so many unnecessary pauses. Visceral horror is the best thing going for “Evil Dead.” Rather than a relentless onslaught of in-your-face terror though, the story breaks up each severed limb and torn off face with moments that regroup the cast or explain how an event relates to a page from the book. This stop and go pace makes the film slow down at times when going full throttle would make for a much more heart stopping experience.
As satisfying as the practical effects are in delivering the horror, they only go so far in forgiving the remake’s lack of depth. “Evil Dead” leans heavily on a number of overused tropes from a frightening reflection in a medicine cabinet mirror to the well-timed failure of flashlight batteries. And certain characters serve no purpose other than to be dismembered in a script whose own purpose is merely to service the gore.
Consider the “Evil Dead” remake without reflecting fondly on Bruce Campbell’s smarmy dialogue or Sam Raimi’s inventive camera tricks. Devoid of the touchstone to an established franchise, this “Evil Dead” is really just a cabin in the woods teen slasher, with little to be remembered apart from a bloody sight gag or two. In a world without Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead,” it would be difficult to imagine the remake standing the same test of time as the original.
NOTE: There is a brief post-credits scene.
Review Score: 50