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.