I can’t help but wonder what Fede Alverez was thinking when he got the call to do evil dead. Not just any evil dead; a remake. A parallel continuity or continuation or a rebirth, or however their spinning it is arguable. What is not arguable is that evil dead is a franchise coveted by horror fans. Yes, their have been bigger franchises that made more money and spawned more sequels and been far more critically acclaimed but one important thing to remember is evil dead is one of those franchises that hasn’t been touched in film since the early 90’s. There have been comics, games, and people tattooing that shit on their fucking bodies but no features. It has (putting it mildly) a ravenously loyal fanbase and starred an actor that is one of the biggest if not the biggest cult icon of modern times, Bruce Campbell. So when Fede Alverez got that call that told him that for his first big studio movie he was doing is evil dead, and that it would be a remake and it wouldn’t have Bruce Campbell I’m sure he realized if not then but soon that he was going to have to do better than any horror remake in the last 10 years.
A group of young friends gather together in an old cabin that belonged to the siblings Mia (Jane Levy) and David (Shiloh Fernandez) The idea is to help Mia get off drugs. So while her friends try to detox her ( and spit out some awkward exposition dialogue) they discover a bloody mess in the basement of the cabin along with a mysterious book. Not content to leave well enough alone the words are spoken and what follows is a bloodbath to end all bloodbaths. Or maybe a blood shower?
The strongest points of this movie are the dedication spent to the gore effects. Even though they do use a lot of CGI in some shots it’s not too distracting and seems to be melded well with practical effects. A lot of the damage the characters take is absolutely unreal. In particular, the character of Eric played by Lou Taylor Pucci, that guy just takes a beating throughout the entire film.
There are countless moments throughout the movie that are nods back to the original trilogy. Be it camera angles, lines of dialogue or the pacing of the film but at the same time it isn’t an hour and thirty minute inside joke that new comers to the series will be left out of.
There is a fine balancing act that Alverez performs by doing justice to the franchise but also making it his own. The third act is entirely new and feels unique and fresh, while the first two acts seem like a glowing tribute to the source material.
A few things I didn’t like was the stiff dialogue between a lot of the characters. Beyond the previously mentioned exposition scenes there is a point in the movie where I just don’t feel like these characters are really freaked out enough. It might have been a way to further desensitize the violence for the audience but I think it’s more of a case of the movie relying too much on its namesake and special effects while its actors are generic. Nobody stands out, and in a lot of cases aren’t even given much of a chance to. This is about the point where I was missing Bruce Campbell. His character of Ash stole the show and he as an actor oozed charisma that made the series what it was. It’s not as though anyone did a bad job it’s just that I felt nobody elevated the movie by being in it.
Another thing which was probably the biggest sin was showing what was chasing Levy’s character. They played tribute to the classic and extremely distinct POV chase scenes that dotted the original franchise but instead of leaving it to your imagination they decided we needed to see it. Also, every time somebody did something weird (weird means violent and gross) they felt the need to show us a page in the book that related to what was happening. It seemed unnecessary and I felt that it took away from those scenes. Then again I love when things aren’t explained.
It’s an insanely bold move of the studios to back a movie and push its production while at the same time taking their strongest muscles (Rami and Campbell) and regulating them to producers. (One with an extremely uneventful cameo after the credits.)
As I’ve said many times; remakes, sequels and prequels have been around for awhile but the internet hasn’t. These days it takes about two minutes to find someone online and send them a message, or publicly bash them or their product. The things I read coming from fans of the original while this movie was being made was ridiculous enough but I honestly believe they did something evil dead fans and the mainstream will be happy with.
This is easily the best horror remake (rebirth/sequel/whatever) I’ve ever seen but I can’t help but wonder how amazing if would be if Bruce had returned to play Ash. Given the early buzz that this movie will well exceed its modest budget I guess we only need wait for the inevitable Evil Dead 2