Better than the original?
Based on Sam Raimi's 1981 original classic The Evil Dead, first time director Fede Alvarez hits a home run with this re-imagining. It's everything a horror buff will love.
When the movie was first announced, fans were outraged. Only when Sam Raimi and the original“Ash” Bruce Campbell came on board as producers did the outrage soften. Not to mention the absolute killer and bloody red band trailer, which had fans in a frenzy.
The story is very strong and gritty. It isn't just about five friends going to a cabin in the woods. Main protagonist Mia is suffering from drug addiction and wants to quit for good, so her brother David, who she has barely seen since the death of their mother, decides to take Mia to their old family wooden hut to help her with her sobriety, accompanied by David's girlfriend Natalie and their two friends Eric and nurse Olivia.
When they find the cursed 'Book of the Dead' in a hidden basement and “accidentally” summon demons which possesses poor Mia, they must find a way to reverse the curse and horde the evil demonic spirits away before it takes all five of their souls and unleashes the 'Abomination'.
I really liked the emotional attachment and character development between the siblings Mia and David; that's the heart of the story. Their estrangement goes all the way back to the death of the mother and how David was absent when she died, which the demon later uses to its advantage.
You feel a sense of sorrow and pity for poor Mia because due to her vulnerability, she's an easy target for the demons when they are unleashed and the way they are summoned brings me to the next point – the Book of the Dead.
When they find the book in the witchcraft riddled basement, Eric becomes entranced by the book. He unwillingly and naively reads a passage from it, where a previous owner had specifically written not to read anything out loud!! It's ridiculous, I mean this character is a teacher after all. You'd think he'd know better, but whatever moves the story forward because from here on in it gets really messed up.
If you're not a fan of unrelenting violence, stacks of blood and gore, limbs getting chopped off then Evil Dead may not be for you. It's in your face and it doesn't relent. These evil spirits are intense.
Filmed in sequence, special mention must go to the tremendous SFX. The demons looked absolutely horrific and terrifying. They moved in such a way that had me thinking about them way after the movie finished. I also have to acknowledge the musical score by Roque Banos, who made the horrifying scenes much more frightening.
There is more than a little nod to the original. You'll definitely notice little pieces here and there including the famous “tree” rape scene but more disturbing. And if you stay around during the credits, a certain “groovy” character returns.
The performances by the actors were quite good. Jane Levy was the standout as Mia. Her struggle with drug addiction and reconnecting with her brother was a joy to watch.
While there was certainly character development there with the siblings and to a lesser extent with their two friends in Eric and Olivia, David's girlfriend Natalie barely had any dialogue and just looked like she was there to take the numbers to five as that is the number of souls the demons needs to unleash the 'Abomination'.
My other criticism is the muddled third act. Whenever I re-watch Evil Dead, the latter part always seems the weakest. Not bad by any means, just compared to the first two it's a bit of a let down. The abomination reveal was pretty disappointing.
Overall, it almost surpasses the original. It's more dark, more violent, it's more disturbing. They had a bigger budget and used it to full effect. A solid debut by Fede Alvarez, who gave us the excellent Don't Breathe last year, also starring Jane Levy. Highly recommended.