Now Playing: ‘Evil Dead’… Again

My name is Bryan Kluger and I’m an ‘Evil Dead’-aholic. One of my life-defining moments in film was the very first time I saw ‘Army of Darkness‘ on VHS, right when it was released on home video in the early ’90s. It blew my fragile mind. I never knew that a film could have everything I ever wanted in a movie in the span of 90 minutes. It had thrills, monsters, demons, romance, comedy, action, a boomstick and a chainsaw. I had to find out everything I could about this movie, and soon discovered the two films that preceded it, ‘The Evil Dead‘ and ‘The Evil Dead II‘. After a lifetime of fandom, now we have a remake of the first movie. Can it possibly live up to what came before?

Seeing a college filmmaker, Sam Raimi, make an intense horror film with his friends inspired me to go to school for film. And when Raimi got the chance to make a part-sequel/part-remake to the movie that put his name on the radar, he didn’t let anyone down. In fact, a lot of people would argue that ‘Evil Dead II’ is better than the first one, a very rare occurrence in the world of cinema. Over the years, Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and the ‘Evil Dead’ films became household names that my friends and family would talk about on a daily basis. Still to this day, my house is covered in posters, books, statues, comics and props from the ‘Evil Dead’ franchise.

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet Bruce Campbell on several occasions, and have talked with him a great deal about his life and career. Campbell repeatedly assured me and everyone else that there would not be another ‘Evil Dead’ film, so don’t even ask. This has been the case since the mid ’90s – that is, until the past couple of years, where everything seemed to burn a little brighter and ‘Evil Dead’ fans all said “Groovy” in unison when we heard that Raimi, Campbell and Rob Tapert would remake the ultimate horror film that started their careers.

I followed along and reported the up-to-the-minute news as I got it about everything to do with this remake, and I have to admit that I was apprehensive about a lot of it. Having newcomer director Fede Alvarez fill the mighty shoes of Raimi, without Bruce Campbell reprising his iconic role of Ash (or even having an Ash character at all) made me both scared and annoyed that this glorious remake I’d wanted for so long would go down the tubes. And the fact that Campbell, Raimi and Tapert were only producing the flick had me even more worried that they might not be on set every day to make sure things ran smoothly. Luckily, after a little production time had passed, we learned that the trio was very hands-on in every aspect of production. Then came the first, very scary trailer. After viewing it, my mind was eased and my worries disappeared, because I knew that we’d get the ‘Evil Dead’ we deserved, even if it didn’t have Bruce Campbell as Ash.

‘Evil Dead’ is still scary as hell.

With the help of Raimi, Alvarez has conjured up a spectacular remake does the original justice. It has tons of homages and throwbacks to the first two movies, and enough of the same storyline to know what will happen next. However, the remake has a few curveballs that it throws in your direction, along with enough blood and guts to make Peter Jackson squirm.

As in the original film, we focus on a group of twentysomethings who journey off to a remote cabin in the woods. However, this time it’s not for a fun vacation. Instead, the group is here for a girl named Mia (Jane Levy) who has a serious drug habit. They’ve planned a detox and intervention. Her friends have even enlisted the help of her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez), who has been off for the past few years doing his own thing and not once thought to call his sister or his friends. But something doesn’t smell right, and soon enough someone finds the Book of the Dead. Even though the book is wrapped in plastic with barbed wire, and written in the pages it says “DO NOT READ,” they read the passages and all hell breaks loose.

Fede Alvarez will be a household name soon. He’s successfully taken the reins of this iconic fan favorite and made it his own. In return, we get a no-holds-barred gorefest that has great acting, plenty of genuine scares, and a treasure trove of scenes that will have you covering your eyes in horror. Alvarez keeps the tone close to the first film, in that it’s mostly serious with no silly gags. If you indeed do laugh during this remake, it will only be the nervous kind of laughter.

The remake has no CG blood. Raimi, Tapert and Campbell have made sure to secure a generous budget and decent shooting schedule to create a perfect atmosphere for real effects, using gallons upon gallons of real (fake) blood. The result is very satisfying. Audiences can easily spot CG blood, and I always feel slighted and taken away from a film because of it, as if it didn’t happen and the actors didn’t get dirty or hurt in any way. That’s not the case here. The movie has plenty of flesh cutting scenes involving tongues, eyes and various limbs that will make you scream out in the theater for it to stop.

The acting is surprisingly good this time around. Yes, I know, Bruce “man-god” Campbell is the greatest thing in the world, but he wasn’t the best actor back in the ’80s. Here, we have relatively new actors who all turn in very solid performances and are believable as they meet gruesome and violent deaths. The cream of the crop here is Jane Levy, who seriously terrified me to no end. She plays a girl who has some problems, but is always very charming. However, when things take a turn for the worse, her voice and body language will haunt my nightmares for quite some time.

From cutting off your own hand, to a nail gun, to blood literally raining from the sky, ‘Evil Dead’ is a very satisfying and fun experience at the theater — one you won’t want to be alone at, but rather view the film with friends. Fans will have fun picking out all the nods to the original film throughout the entire movie. And when you’re not on the edge of your seat and covering your eyes from the pure and unadulterated horror on the screen, you’ll find yourself clapping at moments when someone sees a chainsaw or reloads a boomstick.

‘Evil Dead’ is some of the most fun I’ve had at the theater in a long time and I can’t wait to see it again.

Don’t forget to stay in your seat until after the final credits roll for a very special treat.

Rating: ★★★★½

7 comments

  1. malakai

    It’s good to hear that instead of trying to erase or replace the original, this film pays homage to it. The darkness, grit, grain, and bad acting in the originals are what gives the films character and makes them both scary and comedic at the same time.

  2. I saw this a few weeks ago in a prescreening in AZ. I have to agree. I really enjoy everything they did with this movie and thought if any of it was over the top it was for good reason. This is everything you would want out of a horror movie and more.

    The special ending still confuses me because the staff said it connects the originals to this one…

  3. Matt

    I was less than impressed. Saw it today, and perhaps I’m just desensitized to these kinds of jump-scares and gore, but I didn’t feel my flesh crawl. I don’t have a subconscious fear of entering my basement now that I’m home at night. The creepiest thing in the movie to me was Levy nodding her head shortly after being possessed (she is ghastly pale and those eyes…).

    That said, it’s still a well-made film. The practical effects were outstanding and it looked atmospheric. It just didn’t scare the pants off of me like I was hoping it would. There was nothing here I haven’t seen before, sometimes in dozens of other films (vomiting blood, for example).

    I certainly didn’t hate it. I just feel like horror movies are running on empty these days. Copious gore doesn’t equate horror.

  4. It takes something special to really scare people anymore, especially the seasoned horror fan, not once did I expect this was going to scare me, although Levy as the demon was definitely creepy looking (disappointed her talking through the door under the stairs was cut from the film, its in the trailers), not much else made me afraid of the dark or anything like that, nothing made me jump really. But I knew that it wouldnt, what it did give me was a return trip to the world of The Evil Dead, homages and a style all its own at the same time made it incredibly awesome to witness.

    It already raked in almost 2 million for midnight shows and this weekend will easily put it on top of the box office, with only a budget of 17 million, its going to be a hit and I couldnt be happier about that, glad to see the fans coming out to support it and I’m certainly hoping for a new sequel on top of that Army of Darkness 2 we are rumored to get 🙂

  5. Cameron

    Hardcore Fan here. The original Evil Dead expertly built suspense, and while gory, was never outrageous. Evil Dead 2, didn’t have the same dread and suspense, but instead ramped up comedy and a hilarious amount of gore. Both are masterpieces. The sucky thing about this remake is that it took the dread and suspense of Evil Dead 1, and the outrageous gore of Evil Dead 2, and put it together. In my opinion it didn’t work well enough to make it nearly as good as the originals. If you’re too busy saying ewwwww every scene, then you spend less time getting lost in the suspense. The fear is gone, and all you get is gross out after gross out. The remake was fun, but will be forgotten years from now, while the originals will continue to stand the test of time.

  6. Very well-written review, but I have to disagree with it.

    Lets be honest – had this movie NOT featured a dozen throwbacks to the originals, it would be nothing more than another crappy and forgettable torture-porn flick. The only reactions that it draws come from the excessive gore. There’s nothing scary about it at all.

    I not only love the classic trilogy, but I love horror movies – and in neither sense was Evil Dead satisfying. Of course, I enjoyed the recreated moments and easter eggs, but this remake – like most remakes – is nowhere close to living up to its name. Glad I saw it once; I’ll probably never watch it again. When I need an Evil Dead fix, I’ll hail to the king – Raimi’s films.

    • Well after seeing it myself, I disagree with you and couldnt agree with this review more. Was it scary, no it wasnt scary but it delivered on everything else, this was insane and crazy and serious and completely NOT what Hollywood puts out for horror films. To me this definitely lived up to the Evil Dead name and I’m a big big fan of the originals, I own the books of the Dead editions, I own them on Bluray, I own the 30,000 copy collectors edition of Army of Darkness, so yes I’ve been a fan for a long long time and this remake did the franchise total justice IMO. It took its own route while staying true to the source, modernized the insanity for a new crowd and simply brought the goods.

      While I can and always will watch the originals, I cant help but say that the original is NOT scary anymore (of course neither is this remake) and the FX just dont hold up at all anymore, in 1981 it was great stuff but now its become unintentionally cheesy and funny and the remake made sure to stay away from all of that. You will most likely be able to watch the new Evil Dead 20 years down the road and nothing will look any faker than it does now. No claymation and horrible low budget FX, this is the kind of stuff (like Savini’s work in Day of the Dead) that will last forever and still look amazing.

      To the new crowd of horror fans, Evil Dead to them probably doesnt hold up as a serious horror film and it was always meant to be, for us fans it will always be amazing but that isnt reason to say this new Evil Dead was anything short of awesome

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