Directed by Sam Raimi, The Evil Dead was one of the most successful and talked-about horror films of its time, garnering a storm ton of controversy (in the UK, for example, the film was cut and labelled a “Video Nasty” by social activist Mary Whitehouse). It’s unsurprising, then, that nearly two decades later a remake – retitled Evil Dead and advocated by both Raimi and original cult star Bruce Campbell – is making its way to the big screen.
Four friends – David (Shiloh Fernandez), Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), Olivia (Jessica Lucas) and Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) – head to a remote cabin in the woods to help David’s sister Mia (Jane Levy) overcome a severe addiction to drugs. However, when the group discover the Book of the Dead, worsening Mia’s already unstable state, they inadvertently unleash an evil force that subjects them to the most horrific of acts, picking them off one by one.
Right from the pre-credits that decently, yet somewhat unnecessary foreshadows the evil to come, subtle differences are made to the narrative by director Fede Alvarez and screenwriter partner Rodo Sayagues in an attempt to set Evil Dead apart from its source – the most noteworthy being the reason why they’ve come to the woods (others include a darker, more somber tone) – and arouse the interest of newcomers to the series, while also appealing the ready-made fan-base.
These tweaks work intermittently mostly adept way in which Alvarez handles the direction, yet there’s a constant overriding feeling that there’s nothing new to be seen here, with most of the twists, turns and tricks simply mirroring what’s been seen in recent horror films of the cabin-based persuasion. There’s a noticeable lack of humour, too, that proves a serious error considering it was one of the main reasons why The Evil Dead has achieved its cult classic status.
The bloodshed and abhorrent violence, however, is retained – magnified, even – in gleeful fashion. Like Raimi did with the original, Alvarez relies on practical effects over CGI, which makes every act of mutilation – from eye gauges to nail piercing – all the more stomach-churning. Roque Baños’ score, too, helps to build and maintain tension, even when the more streamlined, detracting shooting style blights the audiences ability to empathise with the characters’ ever-increasing plight.
This all results in a remake that’s well-made and reasonably pleasing, with a admirable central performance from Levy, who assumes the hero role over Campbell. It’s not, however, the Evil Dead many will expect. The humour is lacking (Diablo Cody’s reported influences on the narrative are nowhere to be seen) and the carnage, while delectable enough, isn’t enough to cover the glaring inconsistencies that mar the narrative and the absurdly quick way in which the finale plays out.