Whether intentional or not, the original “The Evil Dead” contained ample amounts of humor mixed into the gore. 2013’s reimagining removes all trace of silliness and goes straight for the throat with a nonstop barrage of bloodthirsty havoc and creepy, possessed devil girls. Without the intrusive zooms and campy comedy to alleviate the tension, “Evil Dead” successfully presents a nearly uninterrupted 90 minutes of potent terror highlighted by perverse bodily harm to its protagonists from a varied assortment of cutting tools. Everything from knives and syringes to crowbars and the bathroom sink are used to inflict gruesome slayings to unsuspecting victims. The unrelenting pace combined with the ferocious nature of the violence is numbing, so if your cup of tea isn’t overflowing with blood, then look elsewhere. The inclusion of a backstory for the witchcraft and the snippets of character development that are offered before the characters are dissected (physically, not figuratively) aren’t involving enough to invoke much concern for their wellbeing.
In an attempt to help rid his sister Mia (Jane Levy) of her drug addiction, David (Shiloh Fernandez) takes her to their parents’ old cabin in the woods for some distraction-free healing. Accompanying them for support are their childhood friends Olivia (Jessica Lucas) and Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), as well as David’s girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore). When the five young adults unwittingly conjure a demonic force of incredible power, the hellish spirit possesses Mia and a murderous rampage begins that quickly finds the number of unharmed souls diminishing.
For all intents and purposes, this remake is about the same as the 1981 original. While there are minor alterations to the story, slight changes to characters, and casual swaps in physical mutilations, very little has been redone to the point of making this project worthwhile – except, of course, for the strikingly obvious advancements in gore. Had it not been for the low budget, Sam Raimi’s film would have aspired to be something closer to Alvarez’ vision of extreme fleshly disruption. The entire premise is essentially a setup for five friends to share a night of torment, torture, and ludicrously violent demises. The addition of an opening scene to expand upon an explanation for the powers of the “Book of the Dead” doesn’t detract from the experience, but it hardly matters. Ultimately, each character still battles for survival in a nightmarish bloodbath of shotguns, razorblades, and chainsaws.
While it proceeds to tell the same events, half of “Evil Dead” pays homage while the other portion dives headlong into the realm of hypervirulent brutality – passionately struggling to outdo not only its predecessor but also every other horror film basking in the notoriety of absolute crowning carnage. It starts with the familiar aerial shot of the drive to the woods, followed by similarly borrowed camera movements hurriedly scurrying low to the ground through bramble to represent demonic approach. Once attacked, the possessed victims act in a fashion reminiscent to the original movie, not only in brute strength and a fixation on sharp objects, but also with synthesized voices and visage-altering mind tricks. Prosthetic designer Roger Murray does an outstanding job topping much of the competition with the sheer offensiveness of muscular butchery, as well as sporting topnotch practical techniques for realistic (although tinged with an over-the-top absurdness due to pure excessiveness) bodily annihilation. Nothing here appears bowdlerized, despite the rumored cuts necessary to prevent an NC-17 MPAA rating.
“It looks like she might have run into a thorn bush out there,” calmly remarks Olivia. Later, David tries to explain the sanguinary insanity by commenting on the possibility of a virus or disease. Reasoning for a solution just doesn’t feel adequate or requisite, especially when every character wanders off alone, bravely descends lightless basements, approaches bloodied bodies facing away from them, or engages in countless other expected horror movie clichés. This repetitively leads to popular jump scares and slow chases, letting anticipation skyrocket and nerves flutter with cruel manipulation. In the end, the upgrade in graphicness is the only amusing improvement – but one so greatly gratuitous it seems that the borrowing of the title and setup is just a gimmick for presold audiences.
– The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)