Remakes don't get much better than this - in terms of revitalizing the franchise and servicing both veteran and newcomer viewers.
Evil Dead 2013 re-imagines the story first made famous by Sam Raimi's (Oz the Great and Powerful) 1981 cult-classic flick, The Evil Dead. In this new version, a group of five
victims friends travel out to a remote cabin in the woods to help Mia (Jane Levy) kick her drug addiction, cold turkey.
When science teacher Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) finds a mysterious book in the horrific basement of the cabin, he unwittingly unleashes an evil force that grabs hold of Mia and begins to infect the other members of the group one-by-one. Soon, it's up to Mia's estranged brother, David (Shiloh Fernandez), to put an end to the growing evil... if he can manage the courage to do what needs doing.
In the dreaded land of movie remakes, Evil Dead (2013) is that rare example of a film that manages to strike a near-perfect balance: It's a new interpretation offering something slightly different, while simultaneously honoring the spirit of the original, and what made it so enjoyable. The soul of Evil Dead is alive in this new version - in all of its sick and twisted glory.
Evil Dead architect Sam Raimi and his leading man Bruce Campbell are behind this new version (serving as producers), and it is their choice of behind-the-camera personnel that makes the remake work. Director Fede Alvarez and his writing partner Rodo Sayagues broke onto the scene with their impressive apocalyptic short film, Panic Attack!, and that imaginative filmmaking is put to great use in the shock-gore world of Evil Dead.
From the get-go, the film is a full-speed assault that never lets up, moving from one horrific sequence to another seamlessly and efficiently, with nary a second of dead time (sorry, bad pun). Sure, it's a pretty repetitive and episodic progression (gore-horror scene 1, gore-horror scene 2, etc...) but each of the "episodes" is imaginative, fun, gross, and tense enough to keep your body clenched tight. In short: from start to finish, it's pretty much what you'd expect from Evil Dead. The movie also relies mainly on old-school practical effects, and the difference is certainly noticeable in its impact. There are also many stylistic nods to Raimi's film, which hardcore fans will recognize and appreciate.
Alvarez also shows off some great directorial skills in his own right when it comes to blocking, cinematography and sequencing, making the film richly visual and fun to watch. Our director also knows exactly what this film is supposed to be (more shock-gore experience than tension or jump scares), and he manages to stage many of the agonizing moments in a slow, purposed way, with an unflinching eye and sense of almost goading sense of sadism. (It's painfully evident (bad pun #2) why this film once had an NC-17 rating.)
The script - by Alavarez, Sayagues and Oscar-winner Diablo Cody (Juno) - is also a successful adaptation of the original premise, married to some new and (fun?)(sick?) ideas. The revised premise actually sets a competent subtext to the horror, using Mia's addiction, backstory and relationships with her friends and brother as a (albeit thin) emotional through line to follow. More to the point; while this new version isn't as playfully silly as Raimi's version was, there is still a good deal of humor throughout.
Those wary of Cody's involvement need not be; her "hip" signature in no way corrupts the film, and in fact, a betting man might wager that the better moments of self-reflexive wit and subversion of classic horror tropes belong to her. In this post-modern era of slasher flicks, when one character says "Maybe things will get better," audiences are all-too-aware of the irony dripping from those words; thankfully, so are the writers of Evil Dead, which is why a response like, "I don't know if you've noticed... things have been getting worse, every second," is welcomed and enjoyed by all. Like the direction, the script for the film knows what it is supposed to be, and knows the proper balance between taking itself seriously, and not taking itself too seriously.
The cast is made up of relative unknowns who turn in some pretty good performances. Suburgatory star Jane Levy certainly makes a leading lady name for herself playing Mia, enduring all sorts of goop, gunk, and grossness with commitment and dignity, while also managing to bring gravitas to Mia's backstory. While likely doomed to be labeled a generic 'knock-off Ash,' Shiloh Fernandez (Red Riding Hood) is also solid in the role of David, bringing just enough weight to the central drama of the story.
Lou Taylor Pucci (Jack and Diane) is the biggest scene-stealer as Eric, tasked with serving as the film's deadpan comedian. From the timing needed to deliver lines of witty meta-humor, to moments of drama and a pretty extensive run of physical horror/comedy gags, Pucci makes Eric into one of the best things about this new version. Meanwhile, Jessica Lucas (Melrose Place) and Elizabeth Blackmore (Legend of the Seeker) are just window dressing... until they both get to have some sick fun in "abomination" form.
Evil Dead was always a B-movie cult-horror favorite, and this new film - for all its polished, big-budget looks and deeper character drama - makes the smart decision of not trying to aspire beyond that. Even at its best, the film is only going to reach a certain height on the grand scale of cinema; however, taking that into account, it's easy to commend Alvarez and co. for achieving as much as they have. Remakes don't get much better than this - in terms of revitalizing the franchise and servicing both veteran and newcomer viewers.
Best of all: Evil Dead is one of the rare horror films these days that functions well as a theatrical experience. You want to see this film with a crowd (late-night crowd if possible), and it's a pretty fair bet that the usual interruptions - cellphones, talking, etc. - won't get a strong foothold in this shock-a-minute parade. You'll laugh together, scream together and cringe together - and isn't that what the movies are all about, in the end?
Still not sure? Check out this red-band trailer for Evil Dead:
Evil Dead is now playing in theaters. It is 91 minutes long and is Rated R for strong bloody violence and gore, some sexual content and language.
If you want to discuss the film without ruining it for others, visit our Evil Dead spoilers discussion. To hear our editorial team discuss the film in detail, stay tuned for the Evil Dead episode of the Screen Rant Underground Podcast.
Consider yourself a hardcore fan? Check out our article, "Evil Dead Remake: 23 References to the Original Version". Did you spot any references we didn't?