Like most of you, I am growing very tired of the seemingly endless amount of remakes and reboots of the classics we already love. Though occasionally these redos succeed, the majority fall flat leaving us shaking our heads each time a re-envisioned version of one of our favorites is announced.
For decades now, THE EVIL DEAD has been considered by many horror fans to be the ultimate king of the genre. Not only are the scares and gore as effective as they were back when the film debuted in '83, but the inspiring behind-the-scenes story
of a group of buddies raising funds from doctors and dentists and working intermittently for four years with little more than their own ingenuity is the stuff that legends are made of. Consequently, THE EVIL DEAD inspired legions of DIY film makers back then and even still today.
When the news of a reboot hit awhile back, many of us cried foul. When I learned that the original producers were onboard I calmed a bit. When I heard that newcomer director Fede Alvarez was determined to use practical effects only, my curiosity was definitely piqued. When the news broke that there would be no Ash, I finally realized that they were truly going in a different direction than your run of the mill remake. I was cautiously optimistic, yet the genuine enthusiasm of the film makers had me onboard. Though the idea of co-opting such a revered story still sits uneasily with me, after finally watching the new EVIL DEAD I have to admit that if you are going to desecrate hallowed ground, this is definitely how you do it!
The film opens at the fabled cabin in the woods with a group of childhood friends gathering in the remote location with the hope of detoxing the little sister of the crew, Mia, thus saving her from the evil clutch of addiction. Just as the gang hunkers down for a long weekend, a mysterious Book Of The Dead is found by one of the twenty somethings, and his curiosity gets the best of him. Despite several warnings at the beginning of the tome, an ominous incantation is recited aloud by the reader evoking a deadly spirit from deep within the woods. When the demonic possession first takes hold of the already unhinged Mia, the group rationalizes her behavior as symptoms of detox. Before long, however, things start getting pretty gory and the realization that something horrible is overtaking them becomes jaw droppingly apparent.
My initial take away from EVIL DEAD? Ultra gory and mean as hell. For those fans of the original who are afraid that the splatter factor might be dialed down a notch for the bigger budget version, never fear, because Fede Alvarez has flat-out refused to pull any punches here. The film nicely maintains some classic elements of the original while introducing a few wickedly twisted innovations that solidify Alvarez's take as no mere redux. The practical special effects are a revelation, and I hope more genre film makers take note. It looks real because it IS real. Okay, so maybe it's not actual blood and guts, but the materials exist in time and space instead of in ones and zeros. This, among other key elements (like Raimi's classic camera-flying-through-the-woods sequences) help maintain the spirit of the original while offering a fresh story in this beloved universe.
The talented actors help steer the movie far away from typical reboots filled with Gen Y starlets, however it is Jane Levy's performance as the troubled Mia that truly catapults the film from scary to downright terrifying. Her transformation to a demonic state reminds me what great effects and sheer talent can achieve in making even the most seasoned horror fan scream with delight.
Though I'm sure naysayers will still have a heyday lambasting the film for encroaching upon their precious, I can guarantee that the new EVIL DEAD will ironically prompt a whole new generation of fans to seek the holy grail of the original. While comparisons to the '83 classic are simply impossible to avoid, Alvarez's balls-to-the-walls effort re-imagining the cult classic definitely makes me eager to see what he can do with an original story.
- Rebecca Elliott