When it was first announced, the idea of an “Evil Dead” remake was offensive to fans of Sam Raimi’s original trilogy. Most horror fans would be hard-pressed not to have one of them in a list of their all-time favorite scary movies. For me, horror has never, and probably will never, get better than “Evil Dead 2.” On top of the news that this classic piece of American cinema was getting remade, word came out that they were changing Bruce Campbell’s legendary Ash into…a female junkie. But it works. Really.
Mia (Jane Levy) and her friends have traveled to a remote cabin in the woods so she can kick her drug habit for good without the distractions that come with modern living. It’s so remote they have to drive through a river to get to it. Once they arrive, there’s some conflict with Mia’s brother David (Shiloh Fernandez), who moved away from Michigan, leaving Mia alone to deal with their sick mother. But that’s not important. Once the five arrive at the cabin, all that’s left to do is wait for the Book of the Dead to be read aloud so the fun can begin. The one who ends up reading it, a science teacher played by Lou Taylor Pucci, should probably be the one smart enough not to read a book that has the words “Do Not Read This” written all over the pages, but he does. And so begins the marathon of horror.
What made the original “Evil Dead” and especially its sequel so classic wasn’t that these people were being tortured by some sort of demon and subjected to all kinds of tortures and mindtricks until they died a horrific death. It was the way in which Raimi & Co. went about it. Raimi made the “Evil Dead” films and especially the third film, “Army of Darkness,” a house of horrors at a carnival, so audacious and insane that at first you’re not sure if it’s better to laugh or scream. And the ringleader of it all was Ash, whose one-liners would get better the more he went insane.
Fede Alvarez, making his feature-length debut, steers the new “Evil Dead” more into sadistic gore than Raimi did, which takes away from some of the “Evil Dead”-ness. Parts of the movie feel like a run-of-the-mill contemporary horror, but there’s plenty of fun to be had. Alvarez makes good use of Raimi’s hectic visual style, from the unseen evil chasing the characters to the crash zooms of various objects. The best thing about this “Evil Dead” is how much of a love letter it is to the original, and truth be told the film is more a remake of both the 1981 classic and its sequel than anything else. Those who are familiar with the originals will pick up on several nods, some of which are fun, while others are major plot points.
It may not stand up to the originals, but with Raimi and Campbell serving as producers, “Evil Dead” is in good hands. It’s an entertaining, cringe-inducing remake worthy enough to bear the name “Evil Dead” and should please not only the most die-hard of fans, but new ones who have never seen or heard of the original classics. Shockingly enough, some people have actually never seen an “Evil Dead” film. You know who you are and you know what needs to be done, so do it. See an “Evil Dead” movie.