Sam Raimi’s seminal cabin-in-the-woods cautionary tale The Evil Dead and its sequels are, paradoxically, somewhat hallowed ground in the horror realm; they are to demons as George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead is to zombies. It’s a testament to the reverence for the series that in an entertainment genre filled to bursting with copycats and remakes, no one dared to touch the franchise proper for 30 years. Even now, this reimagining is spearheaded by Raimi himself, co-producing with part of the original team as well as the films’ breakout cult star, Bruce Campbell. Raimi tapped the director of a popular web short, Fede Alvarez, to bring the story to a modern audience.
Surprisingly, the “modern” aspects of this Evil Dead are limited to the sleek production values, the special effects, and the refreshingly different motivation for the five characters to be at the cabin—a drug detox for one of a group of friends instead of a weekend bacchanal. In most other ways, this incarnation is actually a throwback to a more classic sensibility, which is both a blessing and a curse.
The Evil Dead movies have a reputation for over the-top gruesomeness, and in that respect this is a gore fan’s dream. Alvarez has a knack for getting up close and personal with much of the bloodshed, resulting in delighted and horrified screams from the audience. However, much of the other strong reactions the film elicits are due to frustration at the characters who, in classic horror-movie form, behave with zero common sense, refusing to learn from even their own on-screen experiences. Logic is the true victim of Evil Dead, with the characters (the still-human ones, at least) repeatedly getting stabbed, bludgeoned, bitten, etc. well beyond the point that anyone could believably survive.
With an otherwise complete lack of humor in the script (a major component of the latter entries of the original trilogy, by the way) it’s unclear if the ridiculousness on display is intentional or not, and that’s a problem. It’s what makes the difference between a great thrill ride and an excellent movie. But the so-bad-it’s-good debate is a tired one.
Evil Dead is that great thrill ride, fully delivering on its promise to shock and scare. It’s full of visceral, squirm-inducing moments that linger long after the last drop of blood is spilled. Yes, it’s flawed, but all the more fun for a game audience to taunt and hack it to pieces with demonic glee.
Director: Fede Alvarez
Writer: Fede Alvarez, Diablo Cody, Rodo Sayagues (screenplay); Sam Raimi (1981 screenplay)
Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore
Release Date: Apr. 5, 2013