I’m not going to pretend that I was outraged when a remake of classic 1981 horror The Evil Dead was announced because I only saw that movie for the first time about six weeks ago. What I will say is that when I did see it, I loved it and suddenly hoped that a remake wouldn’t do what so many other horror reboots/remakes do and cock up and completely miss the point of the original. Evil Dead ends up somewhere in the middle, remaining recognisably true enough to the original while growing its own branches and taking its own directions. It fails to match the original in terms of entertainment or laughs but is much scarier and is possibly the most stomach churningly disgusting films I’ve ever seen.
Differing slightly from the original, five friends converge on a cabin in the woods in an attempt to get one of their number off drugs. Believing the secluded cabin is the perfect place to cure their friend’s illness they are unaware that it also has a history of the occult and is home to a demonic presence. One by one the group are forced to deal with the demons, leaving them either possessed or gravely wounded.
One of the things I enjoyed about the original Evil Dead and indeed many other classic body horror type movies, was the over the top gruesome bodily dismemberment and general grizzly carnage. It looked fantastical and unrealistic but also really gruesome. The remake creates similar scenes of over the top bodily injury which looks so realistic that I was forced to turn away on several occasions. I’m not overly squeamish but I have to admit that many scenes were just too much for me to take. The effects are excellent but by being excellent are also deeply repellent. The more realistic they look, the less I wanted to watch and the scarier the film was. While the main aim of the film is obviously to create fear, it was just too much for me.
The film’s intensity is at times on a par with the original and occasionally tops it but it felt like a long time coming. Even when the possessions began and the horror started, it subsided for a time before coming back with vengeance. The balance between all out, bat shit crazy horror and run of the mill tension was well handled though once things kicked up into a high gear. I don’t think that the early plot was very good and the story as a whole felt too Hollywood. The film is basically a giant, gruesome metaphor for going cold turkey. It is no coincidence that the demonic happenings first coincided with the initial moments of a central character’s substance withdrawal. Because of this, the entire film can be seen as occurring in the head of the lead character. This wasn’t a choice that I liked and would have preferred the story of the original to remain. While not the strongest, it was better than the extra drug angle.
I also wasn’t keen on the ending before the ending. The switch in lead character was surprising to say the least but felt a little to me as though it was simply a way of the film makers saying “Actually, you know what, they’d be better for the sequel than the other one”. Despite this, the closing, blood drenched scenes are as intense as anything else in the film and it ends with a flurry of flesh breaking, blood soaking mayhem. A slight problem with the film is that it takes itself a little too seriously. I barely laughed, and when I did it was mainly at the sheer audacity of some of the gruesome acts. I would have preferred a bit more comedy to lighten the mood in between the crazy, blood curdling scenes. The cinematography was sharp and popped out of the screen. The movie looked fantastic and I was glad it avoided the trappings of 3D.
Overall Evil Dead does what it sets out to do and that is to disgust, shock and scare. It did all three to me and the visuals, while not being to my taste, are very well done. The plot isn’t great but this is rarely a strong suit of horror and generally it’s a decent stab at a well loved movie brand.
- Bruce Campbell's post credits scene is brief but worth staying in your seat for. Audio from the original movie also plays over latter stages of the end credits.
- In the opening scene, the old woman speaks only in Welsh.
- The first letter in the names of the five central characters spell out D E M O N.
- Diably Cody polished and Americanized the script but went uncredited.