Horror fans rejoice! The long drought is over. If over-the-top scares and gross-out effects are your calling, then Evil Dead is Halloween come early. Not since Cabin in the Woods have I had such a blast watching a horror movie. Don’t fret that it’s a remake—this is a film that you can enjoy even if you’ve never seen the original two (though having seen both of them certainly makes the experience more enjoyable). In many ways, it isn’t even necessarily a remake. The film leaves itself open to its viewers’ interpretations as to whether it’s a prequel, a sequel, or simply a rebooted love letter to the original. Sam Raimi (director of the original films as well as the Tobey Maguire-led Spider-Man trilogy) returns as executive producer alongside Bruce Campbell (star of the original The Evil Dead) and both are working on sequels, meaning we’ll hopefully know the terms of where exactly this film stands amongst the others.
The original The Evil Dead (1981) is the birthplace of the clichéd horror formula marked by a group of kids going into a shady cabin in the woods to get it on free of disturbances, away from city-distractions and parental supervision. This cliché has been mauled to death by countless imitators and was beautifully satired in Cabin in the Woods. Once there, the kids in the original The Evil Dead find a secret cellar door that leads them to find a creepy book, bound in what looks like human skin. Inside are Latin incantations, and of course one of the kids just has to read them aloud. Outside in the woods, something evil awakens, and thus, the party begins.
The new Evil Dead more or less follows this to a tee, with the exception of changing the context of why the kids are out in the middle of nowhere – a group of friends choose to meet at an old family-owned cabin to help their friend Mia (played terrifically by Jane Levy) get clean from her drug addiction cold turkey. By confining her in the woods without escape for a weekend, they hope to help her leave behind her junky lifestyle, which have almost killed her in the past. Drug addiction is a prevalent theme throughout the entire film and I was pleased to see it work so well in context of the demonic possessions that follow suit. Mia’s eventual encounter with real demons mirror the demons she must face to rid herself of her addiction; she must literally go to Hell and back to come clean. It sounds really, really corny; but trust me, it works.
Disclaimer: If you are squeamish, don’t like the sight of blood or don’t have a particular penchant for mauled faces and dismembered limbs, this might not be the movie for you. While the original films were goofy, campy and so dated that the unintentional hilarity of the events outweighed the horror, Evil Dead aims for pure, unfiltered shock and terror and it will totally plow through whatever defenses and safety rails you think you may have. Evil Dead holds nothing back—every time you think it can’t get worse, it gets worse. Eventually you begin to get so numb to it that it just becomes a game of guessing how they’ll outdo themselves next.
As a horror fan, I put this up there with some of the best. I honestly could not think of a single problem while watching it (apart from the normal horror trope stupidity of “No dontgodowntherehwhythehellwouldyougodownthereohsweetjesus”) – my one and only gripe is that one of the most famous lines from the original, one that has been shown in trailers for the new one, was somehow cut from the final film. I have no doubt there will be an unrated, director’s cut version eventually, but it baffles me why a filmed and advertised scene that is meant to be a selling point for the film was cut from the finished product. Other than that, I couldn’t recommend this film enough to those looking for the ultimate cinematic adrenaline rush.
Bring a date, bring an easily scared friend, bring something to squeeze very tightly and potentially bring an inhaler because this thing will grab you by the face and throttle you until you grin ear to ear from the sheer ridiculousness of it all. And if you are reading this and thinking, “You’d have to be crazy to see this,” then, yes, you do. But part of the fun is sitting in the theatre with a bunch of other sick crazies and laughing and screaming right along with them.