Review: 'Evil Dead' - Evil Dead Week - Day 5

(Original Post Date: 03/22/2013 )

By: Heather Seebach

Remake prejudice is a plague that runs rampant among horror fans. Never mind that a song can be covered a dozen times without fan complaint, or a TV show like Battlestar Galactica rebooted and lovingly embraced by nerds. Many horror fans dismiss the very idea of their beloved childhood favorites being "raped" despite damn good remakes such as Carpenter's The Thing, Cronenberg's The Fly, etc. 

It is high time this stigma was removed, and Fede Alvarez's Evil Dead is just the movie to do it. Although advertised as a remake of Sam Raimi's classic, the new film is equally believable as a sequel or prequel. It puts five young protagonists in a cabin in the woods and unleashes an evil force upon them. The basic premise is there, along with some iconic elements, but that is where the comparisons end.

Like last year's fantastic Resolution, this film knows that nobody really stays in a rickety old cabin for fun. Mia (Jane Levy) is trying to kick her drug habit and her friends are there for moral support. But upon discovering an ancient book, they unwittingly release a powerful evil that takes them one-by-one. 

We're gonna get you, not another peep....
 Evil Dead is clearly made by a fan for fans. It delivers on every piece of fan service a Raimi-head could ever want. At the same time, it does not simply recycle what has been done. The story, the characters, the camerawork - all are familiar enough to be nostalgic but different enough to be original. In other words, it is exactly what a good remake should be. It captures the unrelenting, over-the-top horror of the original films, while giving non-fanatics a bloody good time unlike anything they've seen before.

Alvarez's love for the franchise shows in this film, but despite my initial worries, he does not simply follow Raimi's footsteps. The Uruguayan filmmaker, who impressed everyone with his short Panic Attack!, effectively balances Raimi homage and his own unique vision. The Sam-o-cam is still there (though I doubt it's still achieved with a 2x4) just enough to make fans giddy but not so much to feel derivative. Some shots and sequences recall why we love Raimi but are still entirely unique to Alvarez and cinematographer Aaron Morton.

One of many great Raimi-esque shots.
 The script lays out familiar characters and situations, and then turns them on their heads. There are also enough references and easter eggs to have mega-fans like me salivating. Make sure you stay through the end credits for no less than three surprises for the hardcore fans.

The actors in the film, with the exception of Jane Levy, are pretty bland, but they get the job done. Levy, however, gives a balls-out performance, both as Mia and the Deadite. As expected, there is no Ash, but elements of his character are scattered among the group. This is the best possible way any filmmaker could have done it. Don't expect a catchphrase-spewing hero with one arm, at least not in this movie. Evil Dead is not devoid of humor but it aims for your jugular, not your funny bone. Still, fans of the cheese will be rewarded for their patience. 
One complaint I have with the film relates to the evil and its origin. It doesn't entirely match up with the originals, which is fine, but some things are not explained. Namely a perplexing switch from "We" to "He." Was this left open for the forthcoming sequel? Perhaps. Much of what we know about Deadites came from Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness anyway. My only other complaint is some hollow Deadite dialogue that sounds more like a possessed Regan MacNeil than a Raimi monster. We probably have Diablo Cody to thank for that. 

Now the question everyone like me is wondering - how are the FX? Rest easy, my fellow gore-hounds, the splatter is perfection. Not only is the violence itself brutal and unrelenting, but there are some seriously impressive prosthetic pieces in here. For an R-rated film, it gets away with a lot of delicious nastiness. Even I squirmed a few times. The NC-17 cut of this movie will be EPIC. 

This shot seems to have been truncated in the R-rated cut.
  The Evil Dead and its sequels are very precious to me. If you have not read my rant about this topic, please do so. I have every reason to hate a bad remake of my beloved movie, but this is not a bad remake. In fact, it should not be called a remake at all. Alvarez gave it no discernible time period, and while fans will inevitably try to work out a timeline, this film could fall anywhere within the franchise. 

Perhaps this could be the film that changes how remakes are perceived. Horror fans should not worry if it's a remake, or even a sequel. Labels don't matter - it's just a good Evil Dead film! It is the film Sam Raimi would have made if he had the budget and technology to match his vision in the late 70s. It does him proud, and any Evil Dead fan should be thrilled that he or she can enjoy both movies today. 

Evil Dead is now playing in theaters.


After my second viewing of the film, I honestly did not enjoy it quite as much. It seems to lose some of its visceral intensity the second time around - or maybe I was too busy fiercely writing notes. A third viewing is inevitably coming now that the movie is officially out. 

 Already a few - very few - horror fans I know have been disappointed, and some for reasons I understand. The script is occasionally iffy and it's not an especially scary film (not to use hardened fans anyway). But my original assertion that this movie is all kinds of fun remains. As for the average moviegoer, expect them to be pissing their pants or at least carrying on like they are. It's definitely a fun movie to watch with a crowd.

 I also stand by the fact that this movie is not the lame re-hash we've seen time and time again. It has heart and, despite its flaws, it really tries. Things don't always tie together as well as I'd like but I still suspect that is at least partially due to it being cut. The trailers alone show numerous scenes not found in the final film, including a few that explain away some of my issues. And don't believe any bitching you might hear about the blood and gore FX - they are not CGI and they are perfection.

  So forget this remake stigma and at least give the movie a shot if you love Evil Dead or the genre in general. This movie stands on its own legs, not necessarily as a quality horror film, but as a fun splatter flick (don't act like you don't love Dead Alive, Riki-Oh, etc.). I have a feeling Alvarez's second directorial attempt will be stronger, and if/when that 7th film crossover ever happens, it'll be goddamn amazing.

If you don't want to take my word for it, here are some reactions from last night and today - taken from some of my friends whose opinions I trust dearly:


If you dig Evil Dead (new or old), check out my Evil Dead Week articles!

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