From the early on — even from the trailers — it’s clear this remake of Evil Dead is no laughing matter. If the original was mostly tongue-in-cheek, the new version is impossibly grim and so drenched in gore, it makes the Texas Chainsaw Massacre look like a Pixar movie.
The one thing the remake is missing is characters, as opposed to disposable youths: This guy called Ash comes to mind.
The set-up is unusually strong: In an effort to kick a heroin addiction cold turkey, Mia (Jane Levy) agrees to be brought to an abandon cabin in the middle of nowhere. Those joining her in the procedure are not a particularly likeable bunch, least of all her brother David (Shiloh Fernández, Red Riding Hood), who has avoided responsibility most of her life.
Everybody’s worst personal traits come to light when they find several rotten cats in the basement and a copy of the Necronomicon, signed by the author. One of these nincompoops reads from the book and unspeakable evil comes knocking.
Evil Dead would be a lot more effective if it wasn’t for Cabin in the Woods. In fact, portions of the script are so similar, you almost expect the game masters to show up. The most remarkable aspect of the film are the practical effects. There is little CGI in Evil Dead, and the gore feels uncomfortable real, cringe-worthy.
Uruguayan director Fede Alvarez does a good job creating atmosphere and placing scares. But for all his technical proficiency, he is unable to break the molds of the genre. (Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell are credited as executive producers, but their influence is nowhere to be seen.) Alvarez brings back all the classic elements from the original –the hand, the chainsaw, the slithering camera- but finds new uses for them.
The new Evil Dead is not without humor, but the comedy is pitch black. Most laughs at the screening I attended came from the sustained punishment endured by one of the protagonists. Lou Taylor Pucci (Thumbsucker) is successively cut with glass, stabbed with a syringe, shot with a nail gun, stabbed again with an x-acto knife, beaten to a pulp with an iron bar, and wouldn’t die.
Given the mediocrity horror remakes have us used to, this one could be considered a triumph. Three desiccated prairie dogs hanging from the ceiling.