Director Fede Alvarez and producer Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead remake originated as the bane of existence for people who adore Raimi’s 1981 cult classic horror flick, but the tide of public opinion has altered course since a gleefully-bloody teaser premiered at the 2012 New York Comic-Con (with Raimi and Ash himself, actor Bruce Campbell, lending their unabashed support).
Anticipation rose higher once an even gnarlier trailer was unveiled, culminating with hordes of enthusiastic fans attending the movie’s opening night premiere at the 2013 South by Southwest (SXSW) media arts festival. Alvarez took advantage of the event to announce that writing on a sequel to the remake (yep) has begun, which sounds like a smart maneuver (going by the film’s promising box office prospects and initial reception).
We’ve assembled together informative excerpts from the first wave of Evil Dead reviews to hit the ‘Net. Each of these paragraph-long ‘sound bites’ are SPOILER-FREE and edited to be as concise as possible, so you don’t need to worry about ruining any surprises for yourself ahead of time (for a more detailed breakdown, click on any of the respective site links to read the full review).
“Blood-drenched” barely begins to describe Fede Alvarez’s remake of Evil Dead, a gore-for-broke affair that strips the flesh off Sam Raimi’s cult-beloved comic-horror franchise and exposes the demons at its core. The presence of Raimi, original collaborator Rob Tapert, and star Bruce Campbell as producers should give the faithful permission to attend what would otherwise smell like a shameless exploitation of the 1981 film, but the high production values and nonstop action offered here should also please younger genre fans who’ve never bothered to rent it.
There are a lot of character details and behaviors in the first 45 minutes of the film that seem to be setting up things that will pay off in the second half of the film, but a surprising amount of it ends up going nowhere…What I like about the film is the way things spin so wildly out of control in the second half, [where] there are sequences that are genuinely crazy and horrifying. But in some ways, I feel like they’ve sort of forced this into a more mundane “Exorcist”-style narrative, losing the unfettered creativity and punishing imagination of the first two Raimi films…
The movie opens a bit rough, both from a performance and a script standpoint, as there’s a good deal of forced exposition that needs to be waded through, but once the characters and story really gets going all of it improves vastly… The gore factor is what ultimately makes Evil Dead such a raucous crowd-pleaser. Alvarez not only completely drenches the film is the red, sticky stuff, he does so with impressive creativity and has an impressive knack for building tension.
Evil Dead isn’t perfect. After an intense opening, the film struggles to find the right balance of pathos and humor as it introduces its main characters… And that’s pretty much the end of the film’s problems. After things kick into high gear Evil Dead becomes absolutely unstoppable. If you’ve seen the trailers, this is exactly the movie they’ve been selling all along – and somehow it still manages to surprise. For one, it’s even gorier than you’re expecting. I seriously don’t have a clue as to how they wrangled an “R” rating here…
Of course, it wouldn’t be a good horror movie if characters tried to avoid making obviously bad decisions in order to advance the plot. Wait, scratch that. It would be a good horror movie if characters stopped doing that. But it wouldn’t be what audiences want, which is all Evil Dead is really about… It is extremely well-staged, [but] that’s also all it is, with little inventiveness on display besides the visual. Evil Dead is perfectly content to tread in the footsteps of the other recent remakes of ’80s slasher films.
The Evil Dead cast across the board are pretty great, but Jane Levy truly owns this flick as the things she’s forced to endure make her performance all the more authentic and downright badass… If forced to nitpick, the only downside to Evil Dead is that during its finale it seems like no one was quite sure how to resolve everything satisfactorily… [and we] also get tied up a bit in some of the characters’ personal business in the first act…
As a whole, though, Evil Dead truly delivers on the bold promises its poster made last fall- it is downright intense, at some points even terrifying and by far one of the most brutal flicks (with an R rating) I can remember seeing on the big screen in ages.
So, these first critical impressions of Evil Dead can be summarized as follows:
- This movie IS as disturbingly bloody and nasty as they come.
- Jane Levy gets put through the motions (physically and emotionally), but rises to the challenge and earns her crown as “the new Ash.”
- The script aims to give the story more substance, but with limited success.
- Alvarez comes closest to capturing (and exceeding) the demented zest of Raimi’s original film in the second half.
One matter which is emphasized throughout all these reviews is that Evil Dead ought to be seen in a packed theater, as everyone agrees this is a true cinematic “event” and you shouldn’t experience it for the first time alone. Similarly, no one is denying that Alvarez’ retelling has significant flaws; however, it sounds as though this is one cult horror remake which may actually live up to expectations (and leave viewers wanting to see a sequel).
We’ll find out soon enough if these initial impressions hold true for other critics and the general public alike, when Evil Dead opens in U.S. theaters on April 5th, 2013.
Check out the red band trailer, below: