Film Review: Out in Theaters: 'Evil Dead' Ups the Gore, Drops the Laughs

Evil Dead
Directed by Fede Alvarez
Starring Diablo Cody, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas and Elizabeth Blackmore
91 Minutes

This 2013 rendition of Evil Dead definitely does enough to distinguish itself from the 1981 original but in doing so abandons a lot of the winking goofiness that made the original such a one-of-a-kind. It's mucky, yucky and dripping in goo but there's not quite enough beneath the buckets of blood to claim the bone-throne of horror classics.

Although it didn't quite meet the lofty expectations it set for itself with it's tagline, "The Most Terrifying Film You Will Ever Experience" but it does rise to the occasion of trying to out-do it's predecessors and certainly scores. There's no denying the goal behind this Fede Alvarez's remake was to rain down the blood and treat it's central troop of unfortunate victims like human pincushions just waiting to be jammed full of a whole spectrum of unconventional weapons chilling in the tool shed. In regard to that goal, congratulations are in order. Alvarez has made one of the most chilling, grisly, visceral horror movies to date.

For those unfamiliar with the original storyline, the whole conceit of the Evil Dead franchise follows a group of five twenty-something year olds who visit an abandoned cabin in the woods and after reading a passage from the Necronomicon, an ancient evil book made from human flesh, unleash evil personified hell-bent on devouring their physical bodies and claiming their souls. Sounds like the kind of vacation just about anyone would ask for. This film deviates in the setup to this weekend of death with some exposition that is pure Diablo Cody (Juno, United States of Tara), who penned the script. Evil Dead imagines that this group of old friends and family reunited to help carry out a cold-turkey weekend for junk addict/little sister Mia. As you can imagine, things didn't quite go that way.

In establishing the little weekend getaway as a rehab stint, the film avoids the tired cliche of friends on vaca in a creepy locale and at least attempts to justify the initial refusal to run at the first hint of things going awry. It's this small semblance of intelligence that offers some promise for Evil Dead to transcend the genre stereotypes but in the end, it's still the same breed, just a little prettier and a little smarter. 

Once the evil is unleashed, the heads begin to roll and Alvarez and Cody only stop the onslaught of human plasma to occasionally remind us that these are people with relationships that we're supposed to care about. The only problem is most of these relationships are built on rushed and shaky foundations so it's hard to really elicit much of a response. We're not watching My Girl, we're watching Evil Dead so crank up the deaths and dial down the pity.  

As a remake, it hits the right marks. The basic elements are in the same place but it heads in enough of a different direction to make the affair noteworthy not only in the horror genre but in the much beloved franchise. I'm sure there will be a legion of deadites protesting against the absence of snark involved but it never quite tries to capture that element that so clearly defined Sam Raimi's films. Instead, it's happy being the depraved little cousin reveling in the sick carnage of it all. Just like the best and most memorable, the telltale earmarks of exploitation are written all over and the film essentially presents itself like a dare; a cynic's double-dog dare to watch the thing wide-eyed and not occasionally cringing; but I personally guarantee that it'll make even the most stable of knees go wobbly thanks in large part to the top notch practical effects and a fantastically creepy turn by Jane Levy.

The bottom line: a gory mess in both substance and execution, this bloody remake drops the campy laughs of the original in favor of an all out gore-fest. There's enough viscus flying around the camera in Evil Dead to make even the hardest stomach squeamish and even though the laughs come from the rare sadistic chuckle rather than the cackle inspired by campy lunacy this is exactly the kind of goopy, gory goodness any horror affiliate is hunting for.