On one hand, I feel obliged to give credit to filmmaker Fede Alvarez for taking the remake of Evil Dead in an original direction while retaining some of the most familiar imagery. Rather than simply copying what made the original successful, Alvarez attempts to go his own path. Some of this convolutes the simple storyline with more melodrama than the narrative can handle, making this a relentless film to endure. The most noticeable element missing from the original is a sense of humor, which has all but disappeared from the horror genre since 9/11.
The simplicity of a group of teens escaping for drunken debauchery in a remote cabin has been altered to the much bleaker task of helping a friend kick a drug habit. Mia (Jane Levy) gathers her brother (Shiloh Fernandez) and three friends (Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, and Elizabeth Blackmore) in a family cabin, attempting to go cold turkey with their help. When the group discovers a horrific secret chamber underneath the cabin, reading from a book leads to a demonic possession of sorts. The behavior change in Mia once she is possessed becomes increasingly erratic and violent, which is assumed to be symptoms of withdrawal from the drugs.
What follows are a series of increasingly dramatic and violent confrontations, as if the demon possession were a virus which is transferable. Gender roles have been altered in the remake, which saw a rewrite by the hack stripper-turned-screenwriter Diablo Cody. While the original broke convention by offering Bruce Campbell instead of a final girl, we have returned back to a female protagonist. This allows for a continuation of the metaphor for drug addiction, but an odder choice in the film deals with the deaths. The only villains in this movie end up being the five friends who are also trying to survive, so it is inevitable that they must fight each other. What is oddly coincidental is the fact that both of the two male characters are forced to gruesomely dispatch their significant other, and both do so without much hesitation. Though it doesn’t seem significant to the themes or the plot, Evil Dead ends up becoming a brutal battle of the sexes.
The horror violence in this film is graphic and intense, without the relief that comedy provided in the 1980s. Fans of horror will undoubtedly find plenty to enjoy, though this is not a movie for the casual spectator. Only die-hard horror fans will likely be able to endure the relentlessness of Alvarez’ vision, though he certainly gets points for creating something that will shock the desensitized veteran fans.
The Blu-ray release includes an additional digital copy of the film, as well as a number of fantastic technical special features. Exclusive to the Blu-ray is a cast and filmmaker commentary track, a featurette on the revival of the cult classic, and one on the design of the new book of the dead. There are also three additional featurettes, with a great deal of focus on the exhaustion caused by filming such an intense movie.
Entertainment Value: 8/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 7/10
Historical Significance: 5/10
Disc Features: 7.5/10
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