Disclaimer: my cousin Lou Taylor plays Eric in this film. Some of my enjoyment was derived from watching him suffer demonic abuse from a Home Depot aisle of deadly implements, but I genuinely loved this “redo” of the classic and think it is one of the best modern horror films to be released of late, and certainly the best remake since Dawn of the Dead.
If you don’t know the original The Evil Dead, it is an extremely low budget brutal horror film made by fans of the Three Stooges. There is a bit of extremely dark humor. The original is pretty bare bones. Guy shows up at deserted cabin with his girlfriend. Demons of the forest possess their friend in the most repugnant way imaginable, and Ash, played by Bruce Campbell, cuts up the baddies and his demonic love with a chainsaw.
The “sequel/remake”Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn is superior in every way, and EVIL DEAD (2013) takes from both and makes the bloodiest, goriest horror film I’ve seen in a long time. Is it scary? It’s gut wrenching. There is plenty of tension. I do not jump or get scared at horror films anymore. But during EVIL DEAD, I gasped and cheered and laughed and groaned.
The basics are all there. The Necronomicon (never so named) bound in human skin, full of medieval woodcuts and guttural prayers for the summoning of demons. A small group of hapless young innocents about to succumb to ancient evil. And a cabin built to resemble the iconic one from The Evil Dead (down to a rusty Oldsmobile, “the Classic,” that appears in most of Raimi’s films).
Eric, played by Lou, is the dumb-ass who reads the evil book. I recently toured Bourbon Street with my cousin and know his tics and behavior. His Eric is so damn good I didn’t recognize my own blood up there. The rest of the cast is equally impressive, and the director Fede Alvarez approaches the material with just enough respect. There is no obvious gushing wankery. No one does anything completely and unutterably stupid to advance the plot, other than read from a strange book. And let’s face it, I’d read the book. I’m that kind of dummy. I read books full of naked witches that I found in houses my father was demolishing. I could have summoned a Candarian demon.
The gore is unrelenting. There are just enough laughs- one poor bastard loses a lot of limbs, and a nailgun is used to great effect. But you never know who will survive and who will get a chainsaw up the ying-yang. And that is the movie’s power. Unlike the goofiness of FEAST, which shot its “anyone can die!!” wad in the first five minutes, EVIL DEAD plays with our expectations but always by its own rules. If you like horror, forget the first film. Accept that Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell gave their ideas to a fresh new director, who eschewed CGI and jump-cut scares to make the same kind of movie they did thirty-plus years ago.
And pray that they make a sequel that merges Ash from the end of Army of Darkness as a bitter old one-armed crank with the survivor of this film to battle Candarian hellbeasts in Evil Dead 2: Hell on Earth. or something. I’ll write the script, Fede. Just tell Lou to call me.