It’s hard to say if Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead is a remake of Sam Raimi’s version, a reboot or if it’s a continuation of the series, but it doesn’t really matter. This 2013 horror flick is a bloody good time, a grisly example of what can still happen when a full commitment to old-fashioned graphic violence and ghastliness is pushed to its breaking point.
What really stands out about Alvarez’s direction is how operatic the whole thing is. The score by Roque Baños, complete with sweeping orchestra movements and even air-raid sirens, plants Evil Dead in an almost musical sense. Alvarez works outward, assembling various turns and turnarounds with the characters hazarding down several morally challenging roads.
Mia (Jane Levy) is a junkie hoping to kick the habit. A group of friends, including Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) and Olivia (Jessica Lucas), take her to a cabin in the woods to get clean. Mia’s distant brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) shows up with his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) and hopes to add moral support, but there’s a considerable gulf between he and his sister.
Mia is struggling with kicking her addiction, but her friends insist on keeping her in the cabin. When she starts to complain about a foul odour nobody else can smell, the group discovers a cellar and a den of dead animals. Also in the cellar is a variation of the Book of the Dead. Eric begins reading through it aloud and unwittingly unleashes a demonic attack for the ages.
The distance between Mia and David comes up a lot and rightly so. Evil Dead uses their relationship as a spur for his insistence on saving her, even when the malevolent elements have an inimitable grip on her. Perhaps he is driven by guilt, but his intentions to rescue her time and time again prove to be his greatest strength and his greatest weakness.
With this relationship and the Uruguayan director’s fondness for the operatic serving as respective bases, Evil Dead gets down to business. There are certainly little touches of homage to Raimi’s classic, from the camera pushing its way feverishly through the timbers to the ludicrous goriness. Alvarez knows just how far to shove things.
What’s more, the movie’s refusal to lean on the CGI side of things shows. When the really revolting shit transpires, it feels stuck in something beyond a green-screen. There are some categorically diabolical moments, like a tongue-splitting morsel should have viewers quickly clutching for their mouths and a nail-gun episode that squelches to life with forceful sound effects.
Evil Dead works because it covers all its bases and then some. It features relationships that matter, a set-up that sinks its needle in with truly theatrical zest, gore that counts, and a grimy but bold bravura that keeps the momentum up. This blood-spattered revelation of demonic horror has all it needs to stand on its own two stumps; there is no requirement for redundant comparisons with the original.
Seeing this Evil Dead requires the viewer to understand the permanence of what Raimi crafted in the first place. It stands to reason that Alvarez is hell-bent on giving the audience a demonic presence that never quits, just like David never quits on Mia. There is always wickedness in that forest and there always will be. It’s an inexorable fact of life and the foul Book of the Dead will continue to torture and mutilate folks for ages. Deal with it.