The original Evil Dead has earned a reputation among fans for being much better than it actually is. A cult film that launched the career of B-actor Bruce Campbell and director Sam Raimi, Evil Dead was shot for a minimal budget and ending up grossing over $2 million when all was said and done. But it wasn’t all that good, a slasher film with supernatural elements that wound up earning a much grander reputation than it deserved.
Fede Alvarez’s remake, produced by Raimi and Campbell, doesn’t necessarily improve upon the original but is precisely the type of film Raimi would’ve made if he would’ve had the same budget.
It’s a simple premise. Five twenty-somethings go to a cabin in the woods and supernatural shenanigans occur. Mia (Jane Levy) is attempting to stop her addiction to heroin with the support of her friends Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), Olivia (Jessica Lucas), her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) and David’s girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore). It isn’t the first time she’s tried to kick it, of course, but this time the group are going to make sure she gets drug free. When they discover something the remnants of a bizarre supernatural ritual underneath, and the Necronomicon gets read from, evil spirits descend upon them.
Rivers of blood and viscera commence shortly thereafter.
Taking on the roots of the supernatural to a more significant degree than the original, Fede Alvarez has crafted a worthy big budget version of Evil Dead and nothing more. There aren’t any improvements or downgrades from the original on a story telling or acting basis; he’s managed to maintain the original but has done so with a much bigger budget. It feels better to a certain degree because it looks professional and made by a group of professionals, which the original decidedly wasn’t.
There’s a feeling that Alvarez watched the original and decided to improve upon the things that spending less than $100,000 on a film in the ‘80s that could be fixed with a budget of $17 million in 2013. This is a technically superior version to the original, looking professional against a cult film made by amateurs, and Alvarez peppers the film with enough gruesome images to give even the strongest stomach a second take. On a pure technical level this Evil Dead version looks like a better film than the original; there’s something to be said about professionals who’ve been there and done that as opposed to amateurs learning on the job.
Unfortunately while it looks better there’s no soul to it.
The biggest downside to this film coming in is that we don’t have much reason to care about any of these characters. This is essentially a dead teenagers film, nothing, with minimal character development and nothing that makes us want to see them survive. For all the gore and brutality involved, and the film’s general intensity, all we’re given is snippets of character and nothing more. We’re given snippets as the film develops but by then it’s too late; you can’t force us to care in retrospect midway through the violence.
The film has an expansive opening sequence that establishes the rules of the universe the film is set in, of course, but we don’t have any reason to want to see anyone survive other than for purely aesthetic reasons. Evil Dead looks like a brilliant film … but it’s just looks, nothing more.
Director: Fede Alvarez Writers: Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues and Diablo Cody based off of Sam Raimi’s original “Evil Dead” script Notable Cast: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Jessica Lucas and Lou Taylor Pucci