For years fans have been clamoring for a fourth chapter in the Evil Dead saga. The oirginal Evil Dead is a ferocious horror assault, a gory thrill ride with the ability to invoke fear in it’s audience while still maintaining a sense of fun. It instantly earned it’s place in the horror pantheon. Evil Dead II is in part a remake of the first, but with a tone that goes so over the top that it becomes a black mix of gore and humor. Insane camera work kicks it even further over the edge to new depths. The third film in the series, Army of Darkness, moves even further away from pure horror adding much more slapstick and medieval adventure motifs. Bruce Campbell’s third time playing irrepressible hero Ash is so full of memorable one liners that you can’t help but fall for Army of Darkness’ charms. Groovy baby.
Flash forward to present day and instead of a fourth take on Ash, we are treated to a remake of the original, sans Ash altogether. Ash is replaced with a female lead named Mia. So how does it fare? Well I love the fact that despite the original series’ continual tonal shift towards comedy, this remake takes things back to the original films dark roots. I also like the fact that the film is different enough from the original to stand on its own. We have the original–we do not need a carbon copy. Having said that, this is still clearly an Evil Dead film.
Let me get my biggest disappointment out of the way up font. The original film scared me intensely. It was raw, new, and rough and I can still recall cowering on the couch as the VCR spilled forth the film’s insanity. During my viewing of the remake, I never felt that primal fear. There is definitely a dark and eerie mood, and the tone is right, but I was never truly scared. That said, the film retains something that a lot of recent brutal horror films have pushed aside —that sense of fun. I liken the new film to an amusement park ride–Thrills and Scares are there but it’s in good fun. Think E.C. comics as opposed to modern torture porn.
One of the films new twists is to have the protagonist undergoing detox from drug addiction and venturing to a remote cabin with friends and her estranged brother to go through the ordeal. . This adds some great drama early on as everyone has reason to doubt the bizarre events Mia claims are occurring. It is a smart twist that modernizes and grounds the film.
Now let’s face it, some drama is all well and good but it is not the draw to a film titled Evil Dead. We are here for mayhem–and that is where the film delivers. Once the demons are invoked and the wheels are rolling, things escalate rapidly and soon fly off the road! The over the top violence that is a hallmark of the series is present and accounted for, and the practical effects work is top natch! It was great to see a modern horror film that is not overly reliant on CGI. Gore is plentiful and well done. And the insanity ramps up nicely. I am sure we will be treated to an unrated edition when this comes out on dvd and blu-ray, but as it stands the R-rated cut contains copious amounts of the juicy stuff.
There are several false conclusions, and they work well to keep the audience on edge. In the end, Mia manages to come out as a great heroine. The truth is no one is going to ever live up to Ash, so the decision to take the lead character in a totally different direction works in the film’s favor. In the end, the new Evil Dead is an intense, gory thrill ride, and one horror fans will want to take.