At a certain point while watching "Evil Dead" I thought to myself that this might just be the goriest film I have ever seen in theaters. That's a caveat worth noting. I would expect that most people visiting this site regularly have absolutely seen gorier films, but I can confidently say that there are things in "Evil Dead" that your average movie-goer has never before seen on a big screen. It's this ability to mimic, and at times honor the splatter-house roots of the original "Evil Dead" that makes this remake such a success.
Produced by Sam Raimi, "Evil Dead" is a modern day update to his classic 80's splatter gem. One of the few remaining beloved genre films without a remake, Raimi chose to shepherd the film along himself, and the decision definitely paid off. To direct he hired Fede Alvarez, a young unknown director who up until this point has only made short films. It makes sense in a way, since half of the enjoyment one gets out of the original is watching the kind of chaos that only occurs when a young, hungry director is at the helm.
The film varies only slightly from the original setup. After a brief flashback to show the cabin's back-story, we arrive immediately at the house in the woods during present day. We then meet our group of protagonists; friends gathered to help one of their tribe kick a nasty drug addiction by locking her in the cabin until her withdrawal subsides. It's an interesting twist on the "kids holed up in a cabin" theme, and almost immediately alerts you to the dark tone they're going for. The male lead, played by Shiloh Fernandez ("Dead Girl"), is the older brother of the addict in question and a figure who seems to have been estranged from his friends for a significant period of time. This tension serves to frame the relationships that we see throughout the movie. That's in addition to the the real tension in "Evil Dead", which comes from our characters trying not to be brutally slaughtered.
When one of them (a curious professor, naturally), stumbles upon the fabled Necronomicon (a word never actually used in the film), he immediately begins reading the incantations inside despite the hasty warnings scrawled in blood on every page not to do so. That's one of the rubs with "Evil Dead". In order to enjoy it, you're going to have to put on what I will dub "horror movie glasses". This is not a post-modern take on the horror film that strives to make each and every plot turn as logical and/or believable as possible. Like most of the films it tries to emulate, "Evil Dead" is not afraid to throw in some silly decisions and or plot-lines simply to move the story along. And let's be honest, it's appreciated. We all know what's going to happen, so the sooner they get us there the better.
Needless to say, reading the words in the book immediately unleashes a spirit that takes over one of the unfortunate crew. She then begins infecting others, and complete chaos ensues. Once things get going, "Evil Dead" moves along at a breakneck pace. It even manages at times to properly recreate the manic, chaotic feel of Raimi's original, a fact that makes it exceedingly fun to watch.
The real star of the show of course are the gore effects, which are pulled off almost 100% in real life, the old fashioned way. You may spot a few CG shots here and there, but even someone with a cynically trained eye like myself had a hard time pointing to any specific gore effect that wasn't practical. That's admirable as hell, and should hopefully send a signal to others making Hollywood horror films that sometimes the old fashioned ways are better. You know, "get off my lawn" and all that.
Whether or not it sends that message will depend on how well it does, but if the buzz coming out of my early screening is any indication, "normies" have a high level of interest in seeing what this flick's all about. By the time it ends in a literal shower of blood, I'd be willing to bet that most horror fans will be able to forgive the fact that Hollywood remade another of their beloved childhood memories. It's not the end-all be-all of horror films, but in what's been a slow year for horror so far, "Evil Dead" is a breath of fresh air. And as one final footnote, look out for where Fede Alvarez goes from here. The guy could have a promising future ahead of him.