Evil Dead, a modern re-imagining of Sam Raimi’s classic horror franchise, lacks the tongue-in-cheek humor and tone of the earlier films. But what it lacks in laughs, it makes up for tenfold with gut-churning gore sequences and unrelenting tension. It’s sick. It’s repulsive. It’s a bloody good time for horror fans.
The basic premise is the same: five twenty-somethings drive out to a secluded cabin in the woods, where they discover an ancient book bound in human flesh. Dismemberment and ejection of bodily fluids ensues. In the original Evil Dead, Ash and his buddies venture to the cabin to celebrate spring break. Here, the circumstances are much more somber. The plot revolves around Mia, a junkie looking to sober up at the cabin she used to visit with her family when she was young. Her friends and older brother accompany her to serve as a support system while she goes through withdrawal symptoms.
The script is lacking in many regards, from poor dialogue to a so-so story. The characters make painfully obvious observations, and ultimately we couldn’t care less who lives or dies by the end. Without the presence of a Bruce Campbell, there’s not really a character worth rooting for. Having said that, it’s important to recognize that at the end of the day, none of that matters. Evil Dead is all about excess, and it does not disappoint in that regard. Like the original, the pacing is like that of a roller coaster. The tension builds slowly, your heart starts to beat harder and harder until you reach the peak, and then you’re sent headfirst into an absolute bombardment of the senses. Flesh rips, bones break, limbs fall off, and the blood comes by the bucket full. At this point it’s very rare that simulated violence bothers me, but I found myself cringing and tensing my body multiple times over the course of this movie. It truly is terrifying at times.
What makes Evil Dead so special is that 95% of the effects you see were accomplished without the use of CGI. It’s a true technical achievement, and it goes a long way toward making you feel as uncomfortable and horrified as possible. I think it goes without saying that this one isn’t for people with a weak stomach. It’s true that the film relies heavily on established horror conventions like jump scares and quick cutting, but it’s all done so well and the atmosphere is so incredible that I find myself not caring that it falls into genre trappings. Fans of the original movies will appreciate the numerous references. I won’t spoil anything, but you can rest assured knowing that the filmmakers know the source material and their audience.
So how does it stack up against Sam Raimi’s beloved originals? Blame it on nostalgia or blame it on cult status, but this film just cannot compare. It does however stand completely on its own, and it’s legitimately one of the best horror movies I’ve seen in quite some time. Even those unfamiliar with the franchise should find themselves disgusted, shocked, and in need of a hot shower afterward. It’s not perfect, but Evil Dead is worthy of bearing the same name as its predecessors.