Evil Dead has one of the most difficult names to live up to. The original film is a consummate cult classic. While most fans of The Evil Dead franchise may not hold the reboot in the same esteem, it does succeed in bringing the story into the 21st century.
The new film is gory. Very gory. While there are only one or two startle points in the entire thing, there is enough blood to make millions of black puddings (gross).
The rules of Evil Dead are slightly different than the 1981 movie, but the same tropes are all hit. Five people in a cabin in the woods find the Book of the Dead and unlock a demonic presence. Simple.
If you’re looking for the famous tree branch scene, it’s there. Corpses bursting from the soil? You bet. A badass strapping scene? Definitely. Some chainsaw action? Of course.
To its detriment, however, Evil Dead trades in the camp of The Evil Dead for a pristine, modern aesthetic. Unless you are easily terrified, you won’t find Evil Dead particularly scary. Gross, yes. Thrilling, probably. But the original series leaned very heavily on its unapologetic camp, and the new attempt could have definitely used some of that.
Because it’s difficult to scare modern audiences with the same techniques that were used in 1981, Evil Dead comes across as somewhat lost between old and new. It’s an old story that we’re very familiar with, retold through a pristine modern lens, but with none of the modern horror elements that terrify audiences today.
Director/Co-writer Fede Alvarez does frame Evil Dead in an unexpected way, however. First of all, while horror films tend to feature sex-crazed teenagers played by 25 year-olds, Evil Dead features 25 year-olds played by 25 year-olds, which is much appreciated.
And there’s no sex. None. Well, except for the tree scene…
Instead of the usual “let’s escape our hectic lives and go get drunk and make out in the woods” thing, Evil Dead brings its characters into the woods to help Mia, played by Jane Levy, detoxify from years of drug use.
What the drug back story does is make it impossible for the other characters to believe Mia when she tells them she’s seeing demons. It creates a natural time-lapse before they start to think that something more than withdrawals is happening.
It’s refreshing to see a horror movie, or any movie for that matter, actually take care to establish a context and a story for the 90-minute investment the audience is making.
Instead of just plopping five sexy personality-devoid teens in the woods and slowly picking them off one-by-one, Alvarez gave us a reason to want to see what happened, and gave the characters a reason to act they way they do (imagine that!).
So while Evil Dead suffers a bit by assuming gore is scary, and from a kind of ridiculous ending that leaves the audience trying to piece together the logic of what just happened, this reboot is not just a run-of-the-mill horror movie. It has a pulse. You can tell because something has to be pumping all that blood.
“The most terrifying film you will ever experience?” Definitely not (sorry, posters). A fun, thrilling, 90-minute gorefest? Absolutely. If you’re into that, then go see Evil Dead.