Why do people insist on retreating to old, decrepit cabins in the middle of the woods, away from all civilization. Nothing good ever comes from this scenario. In 1981, Sam Raimi wrote and directed The Evil Dead, starring his friend Bruce Campbell as Ashley “Ash” Williams. While the film initially made little money, it soon amassed a huge cult following, spawning two sequels and earning the title as one of the greatest horror films ever made. So it comes as no surprise that Hollywood, with little originality left running through it’s veins, decided to remake this now classic film; this time throwing gobes of money at the film as if it would make it better. And like most remakes, Hollywood proves once again that if it isn’t broke, it doesn’t need fixing.
Evil Dead begins differently than it’s original counterpart. We witness a distraught girl in the woods, who is soon captured and chained to a post in a basement. And in a scenario that plays out over and over ad nauseum throughout the whole film, goes from helpless, innocent girl to possessed psycho killer before she is burned alive by her own father. Flash forward sometime later when five friends arrive at the same cabin in the woods. The main character, Mia, has made a life changing decision to quite drugs cold turkey, and with the help of her friends and brother, decides that being cooped up in an old cabin is safer than entering drug rehab; but hey… one of them’s a nurse, so they should be okay… right? Ignoring every warning sign which includes a cellar door with blood smeared around it, an empty room with dead animals hanging from the rafters, and a book covered in plastic and wrapped in barb wire, hippy-looking Eric, in all his wisdom, decides to read from an old book that clearly states doing so will lead to evil things happening. But this being a horror film, Eric does so anyway, setting in motion an hour of terror, gore, and dismemberment that never lets up.
It really says something when the most original horror film to have come out in the past couple of years is a film that parodies the genre. That film, Cabin in the Woods, was smarty, funny, and self-deprecating of the genre, and yet uniquely original. Conversely, while Evil Dead may change a couple things, it’s essentially the same beast, and an ugly one at that. Of course there are the nods to the original franchise, as if the writers want you to know that they, too, have seen the film, but in the end it just feels like one of those connect the dot pictures; you see what it’s supposed to be, but it doesn’t have the same impact as the real thing. If director Fede Alvarez was aiming to make his own, unique version of The Evil Dead, then he failed, as the whole film feels like a bad rip-off of the original. Many have complained that while the remake is faithful to the original in the amount of blood, gore, and scares it delivers, it lacks the laughs and self-parody of the original. Evil Dead II and especially Army of Darkness brought comedy to the mix, but the first Evil Dead film was never meant to be anything but a horror film. But with all the homages this version makes to the original, it’s a shame that a little humor didn’t make it’s way into the film.
The biggest element lacking, however, is a character with charisma. Watching The Evil Dead again, it’s easy to see that Bruce Campbell would become a star. Every character in this version, however, is forgettable and boring, due mainly to the serviceable acting of almost everyone involved. The only bright spots in the whole film was the score, which was felt unique and inspiring, and the use of practical effects. Director Fede Alvarez did a great job of minimizing the use of CGI, allowing for the gruesome mayhem to feel realistic and therefore cringeworthy. Too bad the effects work doesn’t make up for the rest of the film.
Evil Dead was a disappointment, which is surprising considering Sam Raimi was involved, but after grossing nearly $100 million it’s no surprise a sequel is in the works. It’s a shame Hollywood doesn’t put this money towards an original idea.