Remakes tend to be awful – not always, but most of the time – and yet, hope lives eternal. Evil Dead not only had the stamp of approval from the original film’s creators, they also produced it – so there was some cause for hope. Of course, it also followed Joss Whedon’s Cabin in the woods – a complete deconstruction of the genre. In a sense, then, Evil Dead is a reconstruction of the genre and y’know what? For the most part, it works.
After a brief prologue, five young adults head off to a cabin in the woods. Four of the five are there to help the fifth get of a nasty drug dependency. The cast of characters is familiar, but just different enough to keep us interested – Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), the long-haired apparent hippy is actually a high school teacher, for instance. Mia (Jane Levy, Suburgatory) is the one trying to get straight; David (Shiloh Fernandez, Jericho), is her estranged brother; Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore, Legend of the Seeker) is David’s girlfriend, and Olivia (Life As We Know It, Melrose Place) is Mia’s best friend.
The cabin turns out to have been broken into and foul stuff is found in the basement (see prologue). Before you know it, Mia is suffering what everyone first thinks is withdrawal – though we know better because we’ve seen Eric reading a book with human-skin covers – and ignoring the Do Not Read This Book exhortations written over its pages in what looks like blood.
Of course we know what kind of things are going to happen the rest of the way, though writers Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues and (uncredited polisher) Diablo Cody have changed the beats so that we don’t know quite when. Alvarez directed and it’s clear he has a firm understanding of when and when not to use quantities of blood, vomit and/or pus – and when/when not to use make-up effects and CGI.
There are quotes from the original film (Tree rape? Check! Chainsaw? Check! Lose a hand? Check!) but they are put into different contexts and, as a result, work just as well. One of the biggest differences, though, is the movie has a budget that has to be at least a hundred times the original film’s. So the bodily fluids, make-up and CGI look really good – which is to say really, really gross.
Evil Dead is also faithful to the original in respect to humor – there is some, but this is a straight horror movie so it’s never too overt, or campy. Everyone in the cast does a respectable job, with Levy and Fernandez going above and beyond.
Does it equal the original? Not quite. But it takes the original’s bones and builds interesting variations on them – and the big finish is as twisted, and almost as well executed. In the end Evil Dead is pretty groovy.
Stay to the end of the closing credits for a very on point tag. You won’t be sorry.
Final Grade: B+
Photo courtesy TriStar Pictures