Movie Review: ‘Evil Dead’ (2013)

In theaters

“Evil Dead,” written by Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues and Sam Raimi (1981 screenplay), directed by Alvarez, 91 minutes, rated R.

There’s a thin line one must walk when remaking a film such as Sam Raimi’s cult classic “Evil Dead.” Of course, you have to remain true to fans of the original series, which has become known for its excessive and often comical gore, as well as plenty of one-liners from its self-proclaimed B-movie superstar Bruce Campbell. And then there’s an audience less acquainted with Raimi’s style, coming in expecting a straight modern horror film with cheap jumps and easy scares.

So what’s a filmmaker to do? Fede Alvarez does something a little unexpected, finding inspiration in Raimi’s more recent horror work, “Drag Me to Hell.”

Book-ended with its title and big, bold letters, Alvarez’s “Evil Dead” takes us into familiar territory — a cabin in the woods, where five old friends gather to show support and help keep their drug addict friend, Mia (Jane Levy), clean. Her rock is her brother, David (Shiloh Fernandez), who kept his distance while their mother died slowly in a mental institution.

David is back now, however, and along with his friends Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), Olivia (Jessica Lucas) and Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore), he has vowed to keep his sister in the family’s abandoned cabin until she has kicked her habit cold turkey. Drugs and a fractured sibling relationship take a backseat when the five discover the cabin was used to “exorcise” a demon, and the Necronomicon, aka Book of the Dead, remains in the house.

Eric becomes fascinated with the book, bound in flesh and written in blood, and while the others are occupied with Mia’s rehabilitation, he summons a demon seeking to possess all of their bodies and steal their souls.

The first third of Alvarez’s remake lacks originality and energy — a rehash of a story we’ve seen again and again and again. Though there’s an immediate deviation to this cabin-in-the-woods horror with Mia’s addiction, it’s scant on scares and substance.

Then the Book of the Dead comes into play, and “Evil Dead” begins to feel a little more like “Evil Dead,” though Alvarez’s remake isn’t quite what I had expected. In many ways, that’s a good thing.

The original “Evil Dead” trilogy embodies something very specific. They’re the epitome of cult classics, and instead of trying to re-create something that simply can’t be recaptured, Alvarez cherry-picks story elements that work for his remake, while giving plenty of not-so-subtle nods to Raimi’s trilogy to keep the die-hard fans at bay.

Though it strays from the original in tone, “Evil Dead” is full of classic, often pulpy horror imagery similar to “Drag Me to Hell,” and enough blood to keep a fleet of ships afloat. It’s not a great horror movie, but it understands what it is. And, in an era where most horror films walk on eggshells to maintain a PG-13 rating, that’s certainly worth something.

Grade: B-

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8 Responses to Movie Review: ‘Evil Dead’ (2013)

  1. Heather says:

    But Joel, should I see it? Wait for red box?

  2. Joel Crabtree says:

    I’d wait for the Red Box, Heather!

  3. Anthony Crabtree says:

    Heather, I would disagree with my brother on this one and say see it in the theater simply because I enjoy a theatrical experience over the Red Box rentals…

  4. matt says:

    Considering travelling into town to watch this in IMAX but i’m a huge fan of Evil Dead 2. Bruce Campbell’s overacting combined with the comedic yet chaotic side of the film makes me cringe at the thought of a remake. I can’t see a horror comedy working in 2013, we just don’t see this type of “Brain dead” film anymore. So i’m expecting run of the mill horror.

    One thing I am excited about however, is the use of props and no CGI in the film. I love good props, as in Evil Dead 2, for some reason they just make you wince because they look so awesome!

  5. Torii says:

    Id say see it in the theater the sound design alone is well worth it. The scratching behind you and the sound of flies moving about. Adds to the experience. If you cant handle gore…. don’t bother its toes to tip bloody. Its the wild waves Of blood and Gore in a move experience and entertaining in a sick sort of way with some of the darkest hopeless humor.

  6. Rachel says:

    In my experience with the movie, it was amazing. Non stop getting scared out of my seat. A very surprising movie to watch. I give it two thumbs up!

  7. Cat says:

    It’s not the original, but this movie is freakin’ awesome.

  8. Great review. I got to say, I really enjoyed this movie. I was nervous going in that it wouldn’t honor Sam Raimi’s masterpiece, but thankfully it played plenty of homage to the original. While part of me does miss the humor, I don’t mind that much since I got plenty of action and gore.

    I finally got around to reviewing this movie on my own novice, review-blog. I could always use an experienced critic’s opinion to help me fine-tune my reviews. Check it out if you get the time.

    http://horrormoviemedication.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-evil-dead-no-more-messing-round-we.html#evil

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