The original Evil Dead was THE low-budget Horror film that mixed black humor and gore. With this new remake they went in a bit of a different direction. The film is directed by first time feature director, Fede Alvarez. One would think he is in over his head but the directing is assured, confident, and gloriously fucked up. He creates intense scenes not shying away from images most other directors wouldn’t dare touch. The reliance on gross out gore occasionally tips a bit too far, but Alvares is often able to make it as fun as it is scary.
Alvarez doesn’t even attempt to touch Raimi’s camp and creativity — he instead entirely focuses on one upping Raimi’s flick with all out obnoxious gore and deliriously awesome amounts of blood. Alvarez uses all practical effects which is refreshing to see in not only the horror genre but just movies in general. The practicality of these effects greatly add to the terrifying imagery of the film. Limbs are cut off multiple times, bloody vomit is spewed, and skulls are cracked.
The production value and focus on terror over camp gives the film an overwhelming feeling of dread. The movie looks dark and leaves the viewer feeling dirty (good thing), but too often does Alvarez rely on gore to entertain the audience. While the body horror is a strength, we get so damn much of it that the creepy atmosphere becomes drowned out and the characters 1 dimensional decisions seem stupid.
For pure fun terror it’s a damn good film, but it’s conjured up at the cost of characters. The film’s attempt at pop out scares are hit and miss, but always done with gusto. Alvarez may be driving this in one gear but it’s a gear that is bloody as hell and never lets up. There are some truly disgusting and horrifying images throughout and Alvarez creates small sequences that build suspense in a way that modern horror films don’t do anymore.
Do we need to care about these characters even if we know their fates? To an extent, yes, but it depends on tone. When characters are given depth it’s far more terrifying when they are in peril. This is where Evil Dead is lacking. The original’s campy tone lent its character more wiggle room because the character of the film was essentially the tone — that’s not the case here. The characters decisions and even the dialogue tip into being conventional and stupid. But I must say the premise for why they are at this cabin was actually sufficient and covers up the question of why wouldn’t they just leave the cabin?
The two main characters, David and Mia, are given enough back story to get us to root for them. Alvarez is content with bare bones backstory and you can practically see him licking his chops to get into the bloody mayhem. The classic blonde utters maybe 3 lines before her fate is sealed along with two other characters that are incredibly stupid in their decisions. “Stupid characters” are fine unless they become a distraction — they’re pretty harmless here. The characters of David and Mia are the closest thing we get to Ash in the original, but you just cannot beat Bruce Campbell. He’s just pure awesomeness. Jane Levy who plays Mia gives a fantastic turn and is destined for stardom.
Jane Levy KICKS ASS!!! I found myself rooting for David and Mia, but I wish I could have been rooting for them even earlier. It happens too late, but when it does the film reaches a level of audience engagement that feels worthy of the original.
Evil Dead is a film that will satisfy fans of the genre while gaining some new younger horror fans. Alvarez’s atmospheric direction, the practical effects, and terrifyingly fun imagery are what drive the film. It’s got cracks with clichés, stupid characters, and lacks the dexterity and B movie fun of the original. That ultimately keep it from being a great horror film, but the third act gets pretty damn close. Alvarez’s reimagine of Evil Dead feels fresh for the genre, which is a huge accomplishment considering this concept has been done to death. I found myself having fun in the theater all throughout, whether it was intense scenes of gore or Jane Levy uttering hilarious lines.
Grade: B It’s flawed and lacking the original’s camp, but Alvarez’s remake is an atmospheric horror film with a great lead performance from Jane Levy.