Directed by: Fede Alvarez
Written by: Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues, Diablo Cody
Featuring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Jessica Lucas, Lou Taylor Pucci
When it comes to remaking a classic horror film, creators find themselves on the receiving end of a shitstorm from the diehard fans no matter what. But when the film is as beloved as the original Evil Dead, the outrage is almost palpable. Fans online buzzed relentlessly as each new tidbit was released — rumors involving the production, Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell's involvement, and much more spiraled among the horror community for over a year before the first teaser was released. And now, at the film's world premiere at SXSW, ninety minutes before the doors were set to open, there were nearly a thousand people in line to get in.
The film isn't so much a remake as a complete reworking; forget anything you know about the Raimi series and focus instead on the fact that this is an entirely new film. Evil Dead follows Mia (Jane Levy), a troubled young woman struggling with a dope habit. She invites her estranged brother, David (Shiloh Fernandez), and three friends to their old family cabin in the middle of nowhere to see her through a no-frills detox and help her kick the habit once and for all. However, upon inspecting the old homestead, the friends discover a grisly scene in the cellar: dozens of dead and mutilated animals, cryptic symbols on the walls, and a strange book that appears to be bound in human skin. When one of the friends opens the book and reads a passage aloud, all hell breaks loose in the most literal sense.
One of the film's greatest achievements is that it manages to stay true to the spirit of the original but never strays into campy or over-the-top escapades. The characters have a realistic reason to be there (and it's much better than the old "let's get away for the weekend" cliché) and they're dimensional characters. Sure, the dialogue isn't always completely believable but when it works, it works, and there are some great blackly comedic moments that get pulled off really well.
The real shining star of the film is the FX team. The vast majority of the movie's effects are practical and it's obvious from how amazing they look. The gruesome, gory glory never flinches away, showing gaping wounds, hideous maiming, dismemberment, and much more with delight. True to Raimi's signature style, there are copious amounts of body fluid, gallons upon gallons of gore, and the camera never cuts away. It was hard to believe that the cut we saw was only rated R, because I was cringing, covering my face and squealing in dismay through half the film and we were told during the Q&A that this is the edited-for-theaters version. It takes a lot to make me truly squeamish, but there is so much brutality in the violence of Evil Dead that it will be hard to stomach for those who don't have a strong constitution for such things.
The performances by the leads, especially Levy, who transforms Mia from a vulnerable-but-tough young misfit into the cackling, insidious she-beast in the cellar and onward from there, are solid and enjoyable. Lou Taylor Pucci is great as Eric, the nerdy friend who rises to the occasion to help David battle the forces of evil taking over the house.
I could continue to laud this movie, but I'll leave it at this: Evil Dead made me laugh, it made me shriek, and at the end, it made me stand up and cheer wildly, along with the rest of the audience. I asked plenty of other viewers what they thought of it, and the general consensus can be summed up like this: "Is it perfect? No. But I had a hell of a great time watching it!" I believe that it's one of the best so-called "remakes" out there, and fans of the old film as well as new audiences will embrace the copious freakiness wholeheartedly. I myself can't wait to catch it in theaters again because, believe it or not, Evil Dead is a thing of beauty.