Five young people alone in a cabin. One finds an occult looking book and all Hell breaks loose. Literally. Sam Raimi’s masterpiece of low-budget horror film-making, The Evil Dead, is one of the most popular and enduring cult films of all time. Raimi and former star Bruce Campbell produce, while Uruguayan Fede Alvarez takes over directing duties on the reboot, Evil Dead. Gone are the Michigan State students enjoying spring break, replaced instead by socially conscious young people who venture to the cabin to help Mia (Jane Levy the standout star of the film) kick her drug problem.
Fans of the original The Evil Dead will remember the comic touches that Sam Raimi laced his screenplay with. Gone is this particular element of charm, replaced by Alvarez with a cascade of blood and self-abuse. That’s not to say that it isn’t entertaining. In fact there’s a sense that if Raimi had been blessed with an increased budget that his Evil Dead might well have resembled this whirlwind of visceral super-violence. Like any number of shlock horrors from the 1980s, it isn’t afraid to push the boundaries of what the audience will find acceptable and with the CG remarkably well-hidden, there is a tangible quality to arms being ripped off and people sawing off their own faces.
The acting on the whole is pretty mundane, especially in the pre-possession period. The dialogue is clunky and the curt attempt at introducing some mild character back story is as pointless as it is forgettable. Exploitation films like this have never been successes or failures based on the strength and depth of their characters, relying instead on a more base, primal and lascivious tendencies. As long as the film-maker doesn’t shy away from his intent, in this case gore, then fans of the genre will be happy, and in Evil Dead, the fans will be very happy.
It should be noted however that Evil Dead isn’t particularly scary. Moments for potential jump-scares are somehow muffled by the sheer volume of blood. It uses its one big scare early on in a stream after a car crash and then concentrates on explicitly showing every cut and slash. But this isn’t the type of horror to make you jump, it’s the kind to make you question whether a human with a chainsaw stuck in its mouth really would produce quite the cinematic eruption of claret. There is however so much going on toward the end that you barely have a chance to catch your breath. Even the overly long final scenes are given new life Alvarez’s direction and like any good film, these flaws do not distract from the viewing experience.
As the brutality of the self-harm increases, the tension explodes and the victims go from masochists to sadists with startling vigour. There’s probably a serious comment there on the state of society and the troubles associated with a lack of personal responsibility, but as soon as this thought raises its head, it’s promptly decapitated leaving the audience battered and bruised in a blood-soaked delirium. Not for the faint of heart.