For nearly half a decade, Sam Raimi's talk about remaking "The Evil Dead" was met with mostly groans from fans who wanted a sequel to "Army of Darkness", not a watered down remake to a classic. But by 2013, the horror film genre had grown so moribund that any chance of a decent fear film reaching theaters was cause for celebration and by the time it debuted at SXSW , fan anticipation for this "Evil Dead" remake had reached a fever pit.
The anticipation was well warranted. As much a sequel to the original as a remake (one that ignores part 2 and "Army of Darkness") , the film does not intend to be a camp fest: Ash is nowhere to be found. With a script touched up by Oscar winner Diablo Cody and an experience young cast, this is far from a low-budget "Evil Dead" film. If the film deserves any kind of criticism, it may be that it's too slick and takes itself too seriously.
The film's strongest moment probably came in the opening minutes when we are delivered a precursor to the events in the film and learn some of the agony that the "Book of the Dead" has wrought on the nearby community. The film then pretty much follows the formula of the original "Evil Dead", with a group of five twenty-somethings (up from four in the original movie) driving in to stay at the infamous cabin. They have not come to party: Their friend Mia (Jane Levy) wants to kick her drug habit and a cabin in the woods looked like a great place to go Cold Turkey while her brother (Shiloh Fernandez), nurse friend (Jessica Lucas), buddy-turned-high-school teacher (Lou Taylor Pucci) and hot supportive blonde (Elizabeth Blackmore) stand by her side to offer support -- and prevent her from leaving the cabin if and when she starts seeing things.
Things start to go down a more familiar route from there, with the group discovering the Book of the Dead in the basement. Fortunately, the high school teacher among them is educated enough to know ancient languages and is able to translate it, but not before reciting the incantation that summons the demon in the woods that promptly begins an assault on the group -- first infecting Mia and turning her into a demon-possessed Linda Blair clone that needs to be locked in the basement.
Things from here on out are similar to the first film, with one more character added to the mix to kill off. We get much of the gut-wrenching self-mutilation you'd expect from an "Evil Dead" movie -- multiple self-amputations, women ripping their own tongues out, that sort of thing -- a chainsaw battle, along with the addition of a "Ringu "-like ghost/demon and gruesome use of a nail gun. The original is of course better, but this remake delivers the gore in a big way. I didn't like how it shook things up in the ending in a rather stupid way to make the story a parable about the horrors of drug addiction. But in an era where decent horror films are few and far between, this was a welcome addition to the Cineplex.