I swore I would try to judge the Evil Dead remake on its own merits, but when you decide to remake an iconic low-budget horror film that basically still holds up, you’re kind of automatically inviting the comparison. There’s nothing groundbreaking or innovative about this new film. It’s simply what ‘The Evil Dead’ might have looked like if Sam Raimi had had a budget way back when. If that’s all they were striving for, then they succeeded. If you’re expecting more than that, as I did, you might leave feeling disappointed. Though my exact feeling wasn’t disappointment, per se. I mostly walked away saying, “That film seemed unnecessary.” So what do you call that feeling?
Five friends meet up for a weekend in a cabin, as five friends are wont to do. Right away, the exposition of how everyone knows each other is conducted in some of the clunkiest dialogue ever put to film. “Hello, Mia, who is my sister. Because you are my sister, you should remember that time our mother died. By the way, I’m totally here for you as you try to quit drugs cold turkey. I’m here for you as your brother. Because you’re my sister. Hey, how about our mom dying, huh?” ‘The Cabin in the Woods’, which I might remind you was MAKING FUN OF this exact setup, actually pulls off this setup much better in about half the time.
After a trip to the basement, where the remnants of some nasty ritualistic business are found, including an ominous looking book that is wrapped in barbed wire and appears to be bound with stitched human flesh, Mia’s detox really starts to kick in. Hippie Nerd Scholar guy cuts the barbed wire off the book, ignores every dire warning that appears to be written in blood, and recites the secret evil curse he has painstakingly revealed by shading with a pencil. Basically, they took listening to a tape in the original, which anyone would reasonably do, and replaced it with stupid guy being the stupidest guy who ever stupided. Whatever. Mia attempts to escape her friends and gets attacked and raped by a thorny tree, which IS a direct lift from the original and therefore a good idea to keep.
After finding Mia and dragging her back to the cabin, ya know, for her own good, things take a turn toward the demonic. As things get worse and worse, Hippie Nerd Scholar begins to piece together that he might be to blame more than any old detox side effects. Who will survive the night? Will the demon be defeated? Does this count as a zombie movie? https://kjburke.wordpress.com/2013/04/27/evil-dead-and-the-zombie-movie-dilemma-revisited/
If you can look past the standard horror cliches and horribly idiotic characters, which is itself a horror cliche, there are some redeeming qualities to be found. I liked how the detox angle gave the other characters pause. Someone trying to get over an addiction might really be seeing and doing some horrible things. Maybe they shouldn’t still be clinging to that notion once Mia is trying to murder them and is unaffected by tranquilizers, but it started in a good place. I also enjoyed one character succumbing to cumulative injuries. So often, we see the plucky kids shaking off absolutely everything, but this time there was just one too many puncture wounds to overcome over the course of three or four different beatings. We also saw some classic implausible gore, which is usually reserved for campier productions or at least ones with lower budgets. ‘127 Hours’ be damned, if you get your hand trapped, just pull it off. Duh.
In conclusion, I am tempted to knock ‘Evil Dead’ down a few pegs for its sheer lack of a need to exist, but that wouldn’t be fair. Instead, I will have to hold other things against it. Such as the aforementioned clunky exposition and stupidity of the characters. There’s also a fairly jarring hero switch-up at the end which is effective at first due to the ambiguity of who is possessed or not, but it transforms quickly from ‘can they be trusted?’ to ‘oh, I guess we’re rooting for that person now.’ And as much as I dislike cliches, this is one film that might have been better served by it all being a detoxed fever dream in the end. Like, it really rained blood for twenty minutes, you easily tore off your own hand and everyone is dead? That stuff all really happened? C’est la vie!