Evil Dead leaves gore fans dissatisfied
by Gibson Merrick
Co-Editor in Chief
Danger! Spoilers ahead!
Remaking a movie is tricky business. Nine times out of ten, nobody wants the thing remade in the first place. Everybody else hopes the movie will be great, even when they know it probably won’t be. In the case of the Evil Dead remake, I fell into the latter category, hoping for months that the new film, which calls itself “the most terrifying film you will ever experience,” would at least deliver marginally on that promise. Well, the day finally came and when the credits started to roll, I certainly wasn’t disappointed, but I wasn’t all that pleased either.
I’m pretty biased when it comes to the Evil Dead franchise. Evil Dead II might be my favorite horror movie of all time, and for those who have seen it, it’s not hard to understand why. Manic violence, splatstick comedy, and Bruce Cambell…that film has it all. In remaking The Evil Dead, director Fede Alvarez (who gained Youtube fame as the director of the Uruguayan short film Panic Attack!) took on a behemoth, and the end result was mixed. The film gets off to a shaky start (and I mean really shaky) with an oddly acted hillbilly immolation. After, we’re introduced to our five twenty-something leads, Mia, her brother David and his girlfriend Natalie, and close friends Eric and Olivia. They’ve arrived at the archetypal cabin in the woods, hoping to kick Mia’s heroin addiction with a game of cold turkey. Our introduction to these characters is oddly paced and, with the exception of Mia and sometimes Eric, every actor is terrible (not in the good way). There’s a great scene where Mia tells her brother there’s a demon in the room with them, and actress Jane Levy manages to evoke a little of Shelly Duvall in The Shining, which I have to give her props for. After some shoddy character development scenes, our heroes stumble upon everybody’s favorite book of the dead, the Necronomicon (which curiously is never addressed by either of these titles). Passages are read from the book, evil is unleashed, and Evil Dead starts to find its footing.
The rapid transformation of these characters into the rotting, slimy, self-mutilating deadites highlights the remake’s biggest strengths: its makeup and special effects. I had heard going in that no CGI was used to film this movie, and while that’s not entirely true, Alvarez does a truly admirable job working in as many bloody, nasty practical fx shots as possible. In an age where computer-generated blood geysers and green screen mutilation are the norm, it’s more than a little satisfying to watch our Urban Outfitters-clad leads be possessed, stabbed, and murdered in a way that doesn’t entirely take you out of the movie. Without the practical effects, Evil Dead would be damn near unwatchable, and I sincerely hope more horror filmmakers will follow Alvarez’ lead in these departments.
The other place Evil Dead excels in is its blood drenched finale, which is easily the best part about the entire thing. The scene (which I won’t spoil here) is completely different from the original and manages to redeem what was, up until that point, a mostly unremarkable experience. I also appreciated the filmmaker’s willingness to depart from the source material and add in new scenes, characters, and kills, precisely because so many remakes simply retread what’s already been done without adding new to the experience. All that said, “terrifying” it is not.
The movie falters a bit between its two strongest sections, adding needless explanatory dialogue that, in many places, contradicts what’s already been established in previous installments. And assigning a designated sequence to the deadification process (and purification process, which shouldn’t exist but sure), takes away from the chaotic, unpredictable style that made the originals so fun and great. Evil Dead could have also benefited from a greater variety of evil forces (remember the laughing deer head from Evil Dead II?), rather than just relying on deadites, but since the original kept to these creatures I can’t fault to Alvarez for sticking to them too.
Ultimately, I found the good and bad of Evil Dead to balance itself out. I respect Alvarez for his effort because it’s obvious he has a lot of respect for the source material, and when the film works, it’s pretty good. When it doesn’t, it’s not. But the movie is certainly better than the majority of Hollywood’s lifeless remakes, if only for the reasons I’ve listed above. Still, that doesn’t mean Hollywood should keep remaking classics (how about remaking terrible movies that can only get better?) If you’re a die hard Evil Dead fan, go in with lowered expectations and you might find something to like, but probably not. And as a stand alone film, the movie works even less. Not surprisingly, I’ll stick to the original.