The 1981 film The Evil Dead wore its tiny budget with pride, replacing sturdy sets and quality makeup with gonzo camera work and one very frightened Bruce Campbell.
The remake, inevitably, piles on the blood until audiences may demand a tourniquet.
Evil Dead strips away the madcap spirit young director Sam Raimi brought to the original film and replaces it with a go for broke zest that’s catnip to horror fans. If you can’t top Raimi’s loony source material, at least drown your film in bravura shock.
It helps that the remake offers a crisp level of craftsmanship which sets it miles apart from the rickety Raimi material.
Five 20-somethings arrive at a remote cabin, but this group isn’t keen on partying. They’re here to help poor Mia (Jane Levy) detox for the umpteenth time, and they hope this one will stick. When Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) finds an odd book in the cabin bound in barb wire he simply must read it, and any Evil Dead fan will tell you what is about to be unleashed.
Director Fede Alvarez’s remake follows the basic beats of the original, but like a police chalk outline there are smudges along the path to sustain our interest. Demons are unleashed, our heroes suffer aplenty and we’re served wink-wink moments to satiate our need for a respectful homage. Yes, there’s a chain saw in play, and that rapid film effect of something sinister rummaging through the woods is blissfully intact.
That leaves a series of singular gross-outs, some wonderfully old school effects sequences and a pace that ensures boredom is never an issue.
We don’t get to care enough about the characters, but that surely was also the case way back in 1981. The new story’s internal logic isn’t strictly followed, either, but that’s part and parcel of how horror films tick no matter the era.
Evil Dead won’t be considered a classic by anyone save those who think watching a woman split her tongue in two is a sign of cinematic genius. It’s a thoroughly modern production content to keep us amused without challenging viewers or attempting to one-up Raimi’s crude classic. That’s about the best we can hope for with today’s brand of horror movie remake.