Directed by Fede Alvarez
There are pretty much two questions we all had going into Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead “rebirth” (a term the director used that seems rather fitting, more so than remake anyway): one, is it going to be good. and two, is it going to be good enough to stand on its own merits?
The answer to both those questions is HELLS YEAH.
Breathe a sigh of relief, fiends- Evil Dead delivers the goods and then some, even managing to step out and create its own universe that still wholly adheres to the one Sam Raimi concocted over three decades now. The amount of intensity, violence and downright nastiness that Alvarez manages to cram into Evil Dead is brutal, visceral and will prove to be an endurance test (in a good way) for anyone out there who goes into it thinking this is going to be another “by-the-numbers” studio remake.
The story of Evil Dead is pretty straightforward: Five friends go into the woods to help one of them kick a drug habit at their old family cabin located in the middle of nowhere. When they get there, the group discovers that someone has broken into the cabin previously and left quite a terrible mess (and a copy of the Book of the Dead conveniently enough) in the basement. Of course one of those friends just happens to take an interest in the book, and soon enough demonic forces are unleashed, limbs start flying and all hell breaks loose inside that tiny cabin.
And when I say hell, I mean the unholiest hell you can imagine- there’s dismemberment, people cutting their own faces off, someone getting scalded and covered with grotesque scabs and sores, a relentless nail gun attack and a ton more that I wouldn’t dream of giving away as it would ruin some of the gore-soaked fun (all of that stuff is referenced in the trailers so no spoilers). Suffice to say, when Alvarez said that on this Evil Dead they were going to push the R rating as far they could, he wasn’t effing around in the least bit.
Oh, and if you think Raimi crossed a line with his “rape vines” in the original Evil Dead, Alvarez doesn’t even consider the line while he’s crossing it at all. We start off with the scene we’re expecting and then – BAM – Alvarez takes it a notch further, making for a truly uncomfortable but highly effective moment of horror. It’s a great homage to the original’s iconic scene and really sets the tone for all that follows.
The Evil Dead cast across the board are pretty great, but Jane Levy truly owns this flick as the things she’s forced to endure make her performance all the more authentic and downright badass. There are also some interesting things that happen with her character which I won’t necessarily discuss here, but the way that Alvarez and co-writer Rodo Sayagues play with the concepts of victims and villains in Evil Dead is some rather fascinating stuff to watch for longtime horror fans who come to expect certain things from their favorite genre movies.
If forced to nitpick, the only downside to Evil Dead is that during its finale it seems like no one was quite sure how to resolve everything satisfactorily, and so things feel a bit rushed, with the story even seeming to betray its own rules at one point. Does it take anything away from the movie as a whole? Not really- but I was hoping Alvarez and company would finish as strongly as they started, and that wasn’t necessarily the case. We also get tied up a bit in some of the characters’ personal business in the first act that kind of slows things down a bit, but thankfully, business picks back up in no time at all as Alvarez, for the most part, keeps the movie going forward at a brisk and sometimes frenetic pace.
As a whole, though, Evil Dead truly delivers on the bold promises its poster made last fall- it is downright intense, at some points even terrifying and by far one of the most brutal flicks (with an R rating) I can remember seeing on the big screen in ages. Most fans of the original should love Alvarez’s version for its sheer ballsiness and gut-punch, no-nonsense approach; but I’m sure there are others out there who will be pissed this isn’t “funnier” (it seems like people forget Raimi wasn’t making a horror comedy back in the day), but that’s not necessarily the point of this movie.
It may not be the “reimagining” we were expecting at all, but that’s what makes this Evil Dead so great. Not once does Alvarez pander to the fans; he made the movie he wanted to make and tells the story he wanted to tell, and that passion and his own unabashed bloodlust show proudly here. THIS is where you all want to be come April 5th.
Oh, and make sure to stay through the credits, too.
4 out of 5