It seemed pretty much inevitable. Someone, at some point in time, would want to remake Sam Raimi’s classic cult horror film The Evil Dead, and it would be allowed to happen whether the fans wanted it to or not. When Evil Dead was first announced, I had some hope that such a remake (or re-imagining, or whatever you want to call it) would be a neat companion piece to the original, hopes that only increased upon hearing that it was being produced by Raimi, Robert Tapert (producer of the original), and Bruce Campbell. With their blessing, what could possibly go wrong? As it turns out, some very important things could.
For those not familiar with Raimi’s film, it told the simple story of a group of five people who visit a cabin and accidentally release demons when they play a tape recording of ancient passages from the book of the dead. This time around, we have a group of five youngsters who are visiting a cabin in order to help Mia (Jane Levy) detox from drugs. Upon discovering a strange book in the basement of the cabin, Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) examines it and reads a passage from its pages. From that point on, our heroes are faced with demons that will stop at nothing to kill everyone in the cabin in some of the most gruesome ways imaginable.
Doesn’t sound particularly different, right? Well, on the surface, it’s not really all that different except for the slightly different storyline, but when you’re talking about the overall feeling of the film, it ends up being very different. I count myself as one of the big fans of Raimi’s classic and watch it just about every year, just like many others out there, but what is it about the film that keeps bringing people back to it?
For me, it’s always been about the fun spirit of the film, the campiness of the special effects, and the low budget approach that Raimi and his crew took. Not to mention that it’s so over-the-top that some parts you just can’t help but laugh at. After viewing this new version of the tale, I find that it is missing all of these aspects. The fun isn’t there and the campiness is gone, replaced with a larger budget that allowed for much better practical effects, and in turn, the spirit that made the original such an entertaining experience is gone.
The whole purpose behind this remake seems to be the same one behind many horror films these days: to throw as many buckets of blood around on the screen as you possibly can. As I’ve said time and time again (and will probably have to repeat for at least the next several years), this is not the way to make a true horror film. Granted, this is better than the more base of the genre such as the Saw sequels and the Hostel films, but it’s still the wrong direction to go to get actual scares.
The original had a decent amount of blood in it (the second film had even more), but it was able to accomplish much more with less. In other words, the minimalist approach worked much better than trying to give it a bigger budget, or “less is more” (just watch John Carpenter’s Halloween to see how brilliantly it can be done). For this remake, by the time you get to the umpteenth limb being torn off, all you’ll probably be wondering is just how much longer it will go on.
The best things that can be said of this new version are that there are a couple of moments that garner a bit of laughter, though they are few in number, and that the practical effects are done quite well. It is said that not one effect produced for the movie is done with CGI, but rather that they were all done on set, which is rather impressive for what occurs in the short 90-minute runtime. By the time it was over, I found myself contemplating what they could have possibly cut out from the original cut, which was deemed NC-17.
It’s rather strange that Raimi, Tapert, and Campbell would let it get out of hand like this. Perhaps they simply felt too pressured to be like the multitude of other horror movies that have been put out in recent years. This is the first feature from writer/director Fede Alvarez, making him a bizarre choice to be the one to helm a remake of a cult classic. You would think that they would want to give such a project to someone a little more experienced. A remake was not necessarily a bad idea, but without that fun spirit, it becomes nothing more than another drop of blood in the bucket of horror films.
The film itself is presented in a 2.39:1, 1080p High Definition transfer that is top-notch. As you can probably imagine, most of the film takes place in the dead of night, with many scenes draped in shadow, but remarkably the picture stays perfectly sharp and clear throughout. The 5.1 DTS-HS Master Audio is likewise flawlessly audible throughout, so you can hear every scream, groan, and detachment of limb without fail.
The release comes with a number of special features which includes:
- Making Life Difficult – The intense and physically exhausting creation of the film
- Directing the Dead – Director Fede Alvarez re-imagines a cult horror classic
- Being Mia – The physical and psychological transformation into “Evil Mia”
- Cast & Filmmaker Commentary – With Director and Co-writer Fede Alvarez, Co-writer Rodo Sayagues, and Actors Jane Levy, Jessica Lucas, and Lou Taylor Pucci
- Unleashing the Evil Force – The origins and designs of the new Book of the Dead
- Evil Dead the Reboot – Bruce Campbell, Cast Rehearsals, Deadites and more!
As you can see, there’s a fair amount of extras to be found here. In order to go ahead and get it out of the way, I’ll go ahead and mention that the commentary isn’t particularly interesting. You would think with five people involved, including the director, writers, and actors, that someone would have something intriguing to say about the film, but sadly there isn’t much to be had here.
As for the featurettes, they all include some pretty neat behind the scenes looks at the making of the film and include lots of interviews with cast and crew. You get a first hand look at some of the makeup done on the film, as well as some of the practical effects. Jane Levy even takes you through one of her typical days during the filming of the extremely gory climax of the film. All in all, even though the movie isn’t particularly good, these extras are well-worth taking a look at for those interested in how a movie like this gets made.
As a fan of the classic original, this is a remake that I had extremely high hopes for, but without that fun spirit, there’s nothing to differentiate this from the multitude of other gratuitously-gory horror movies already out there. The filmmakers may have had good intentions in trying to please the fans with the over-the-top nature of their re-imagining, but what they end up with in Evil Dead is merely a shadow of its great predecessor.
This review is based on a copy of the Blu-Ray that we received for reviewing purposes.