A glorified video nasty, Sam Raimi's original splatterfest Evil Dead hit screens to a magnitude of gasps and controversy; but that was the 80's. On board as a producer in the latest of a current string of horror remakes, Evil Dead hits our screens once again to an audience that splits between the unknown and the die-hard fan.
Helmed by Uruguayan writer-director Fede Alvarez and with the original team, including Raimi himself, on board as producers, anticipation was there but highly cautioned -- we've learned before from building expectations when it comes to remakes.
A group of friends head to their childhood cabin in the woods to help friend Mia (Jane Levy) as she powers through early stages of cold turkey. Unbeknownst to them, however, is the power that lurks within the basement, and with the reading of one simple sentence powers beyond their reach transform each of them, mutilating, dismembering and ultimately torturing each one of them until five souls are claimed, of which a higher evil will rise.
This 21st century reboot knows its game. Alvarez understands Evil Dead, and more to the point we know Raimi would have inspired him to do his ultimate best. While the original stands firm as an easy target for epitomised horror, it's undoubtedly dated. And while aspects of it remain utterly grotesque, Raimi's vision thrives now on comedy. This is where Alvarez pulls a dozen tricks from his sleeve, not only inducing enough horror to make a stand alone horror entry but one that's respected enough of the Evil Dead franchise. While Alvarez could chuckle more every now and again -- we're dragged to hell and back, a little lightheartedness was due -- he hits horror bang on the head. Intentions are to purely horrify, and in most aspects he does just that.
Levy, the true victim of Alvarez's new vision, goes through hell. Taking pivotal and cinematically recognised sequences from the original, there's an updated spin on them making them all the more disgusting, frightening and increasingly more disturbing the further the possession takes her. By halfway, she's unrecognisable, but damn is she fantastic. Undoubtedly enjoying the freedom her character is given in regards to her previous PG-rated roles, Levy's stand in this franchise holds firm but without spoiling anything, it's increasingly more obvious how Alvarez is shaping her.
Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci and Jessica Lucas are amidst the handful who're also dragged relentlessly through the nightmare, though barely get off to more than a couple of words until the situation is blood red and we're merely awaiting the next chop.
It's increasingly more dangerous how far Alvarez takes his reboot, the boundaries, or lack of, parallel the sheer craziness of Raimi's classic, so in retrospect as a remake, it's unarguably one of the best we've seen. It barely thrives on story, or acting (bar Levy) at that, but that's not what the core of Evil Dead is. An absence of CGI works as cinematic trickery, pulling out all the stops as grotesque prosthetics and buckets of blood drown the screen.
A dozen nods to the original provide enough material for fans to have a full-on hearty fangasm which, as i can testify to, ultimately makes this reboot worthwhile, and in turn could easily welcome a sequel with open arms. If he remains as faithful to the franchise as he already has proven, Alvarez's stardom will soar.
Verdict: A relentless, disturbing venture into the mind of an obvious Evil Dead fan, with the passion, charisma and dark charm of its predecessor's director. It's uncomfortable viewing, but that's what we want.