So I just saw the film everyone is talking about, and thought I’d go ahead and throw my own two pennies into the conversational pot. Since I hadn’t seen Sam Raimi’s 1981 classic in about twenty-five years or so, I snuggled up in the dark with it a few days ago to get me in the mood for Fede Alvarez’s reboot. Oh, how far we’ve come since Raimi’s buckets of karo syrup and bizarre claymation, which totally scared the shit out of me at the age of twelve. And Ash. Fucking Ash. Was there ever a cooler hero in a horror film? I think not. I wasn’t sure how Alvarez was going to pull off an Evil Dead film without Ash Williams…but somehow, he did it.
I’m not going to get into plot here; if you’ve seen the original film, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect. Evil Dead isn’t a remake of The Evil Dead, but a sequel that picks up thirty years after the original, with a whole new cast of characters: David, Eric, Mia, Olivia and Natalie (the first letters of their names spells what? Well played Mr. Alvarez). I can’t say these characters are anywhere near as memorable as those in the original (by “those”, I mean Ash Williams specifically), but the film makes up for it with stellar makeup effects (no CGI here, folks), first-rate cinematography, atmosphere, and gore galore. Speaking of gore, there were moments that actually had me squirming in my popcorn-scented seat. It’s unfortunate that some of the stupid decisions made by the characters had me squirming as well, but this is horror, right? If characters in mainstream horror movies had a collective half a brain, it would make for some pretty short films.
The baddies–deadites, demons, what have you–were a scary lot. If their sole purpose was to inflict as much prolonged fear and pain on humans as possible, then they served that purpose well. No doubt you will be reminded of Friedkin’s The Exorcist, or Bava’s Demons, but that’s mostly a good thing. It’s pretty damned difficult to create devil-spawn as frightening as those in the aforementioned films, but Alvarez is batting in the same ballpark for sure. I found the evil bastards unsettling, if not outright terrifying. There was a couple of times when I glanced over my shoulder to assure I wasn’t all alone in the theater, and that, for me, is a rare feeling.
Overall, I had a blast with this one. It was good, creepy fun that kept me highly entertained throughout. Sure, the characters weren’t the sharpest tools in the shed, and could have benefited from a little more development, but none of that was a deal-breaker for me. The film didn’t give me chills or goosebumps, or make me wet my pants or anything, but it was still scarier than 90-something percent of Hollywood’s best horror efforts of late. I can’t wait to see it again, along with Alvarez’s forthcoming Evil Dead 2, Raimi’s forthcoming Army of Darkness 2, and the later film, in which both Raimi’s and Alvarez’s stories will converge.
It’s a good day to be a horror fan.