Directed by: Fede Alvarez.
Written by: Fede Alvarez & Diablo Cody & Rodo Sayagues based on the screenplay by Sam Raimi.
Starring: Jane Levy (Mia), Shiloh Fernandez (David), Lou Taylor Pucci (Eric), Jessica Lucas (Olivia), Elizabeth Blackmore (Natalie).
One of the easiest ways to make money in Hollywood is to simply remake a movie that has already proven itself to be popular. Horror movies are especially prone to remakes – perhaps because horror fans are easy marks. After all, they show up to sequel after sequel after sequel of their favorite series – even long after they have lost any sort of originality (see Saw or Paranormal Activity). The best way to go about remaking a horror movie is not to simply do a retread of what happened before, but to take the original and twist it. Recent remakes like Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead, Alexandre Aja’s The Hills Have Eyes and Rob Zombie’s Halloween are perfect examples – the same basic premise of the originals, but a completely different execution. I think you can add Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead remake alongside those other three – perhaps not quite as good as them, but still quite good. Alvarez has maintained the impressive levels of blood and fore that Sam Raimi’s original series had, but has gotten rid of the jokey tone. This Evil Dead is a lot less fun than Raimi’s – but perhaps a better overall experience (I’m talking only of the original Evil Dead, not the two sequels which were much better). This Evil Dead is almost sickeningly intense, bloody and brutal. You probably know right now if you’re the type of person who wants to see this movie – like I am.
The setup for Evil Dead is basically the same as the original – five friends travel to a remote cabin in the woods, and wind up unleashing a demon that will possess them one after another, eventually gaining the strength to show itself in its real form. If there is a twist this time, it’s that one of the characters – Mia (Jane Levy) is a drug addict, and everyone else has come up with her to help her detox. There is her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) – and a tension between the siblings stemming from him leaving, his girlfriend Natalie, who really has no role other than to be another young body to hack to pieces. Then there are Mia’s friends Olivia (Jessica Lucas), a nurse who will help Mia through the withdrawal, and Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) because every group in a horror movie needs a long headed, eyeglass wearing smarty pants who, of course, will end up being the idiot responsible for unleashing the demons.
The acting in Evil Dead isn’t going to win anyone any Oscars, but for the most part, is fine. Jane Levy is the lead, but is also perhaps the weakest link – disappointing because I enjoy her on the otherwise average sitcom Suburbatory. She really isn’t convincing as a drug addict – no matter who greasy they make her hair – and she isn’t all that much better once she becomes possessed – her evil giggle is appropriately creepy (although considering the voice of the demon got their own credit, it’s probably not even hers). But I will say, she kicks it into high gear for the finale – and delivers the goods. The rest of the cast is merely average – as if they know they’ll just be playing second fiddle to the gore. Even Lou Taylor Pucci, who goes over the top in every role I have ever seen him in before, seems restrained. They scream well, though.
And really, isn’t that all we require from actors in a movie like this? They are not the star of the show – the special effects, demons, blood and gore are the stars – and this director Alvarez delivers in spades. Don’t worry, Evil Dead fans, Alvarez has a few of those improvised steadycam shots rushing through the forest that made Raimi’s film so memorable. And he also does the original movie – which received an NC-17 rating for “substantial graphic horror violence and gore” – proud in that regard as well. In fact, I think this Evil Dead is much more violent than the original, even with its R rating. Or at the very least, the blood and gore feel more violent this time around. Unlike most modern movies, Alvarez used very little (if any) CGI – preferring practical special effects and makeup instead, which is a refreshing change. The violence in the movie is strong, bloody, sickening and made me wince repeatedly. In short, it is exactly what horror fans want.
What keeps Evil Dead from being a great horror movie is one very simple thing – it didn’t really scare me. Wincing at the violence, looking away from the horror on screen is not the same thing as being truly scared. And as much as I like this Evil Dead, I have to say, I was never really scared while watching it. I knew what was coming – for the most part anyway – and the movie certainly relies more heavily on gore than the building of suspense. Still, I liked the movie – admired the craft behind it, and had a good time at a horror movie. For fans of the genre, this is a definite must see – for anyone who gets queasy though, you might want to see something else.