I did everything short of suffer a major head wound in order to walk into the new Evil Dead with an open mind. After all, this wasn’t a Platinum Dunes situation. Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert and Bruce Campbell retained the rights to their breakthrough movie. The remake was put into production by the three. They handpicked the director and the script. No reason it couldn’t be good. Why there’s no reason to think of it as a remake at all really, just a film set in the same universe, another group of unlucky so and sos who stumbled across the wrong book and got possessed by some nasty Kandarian demons for their trouble. To quote another beloved cult film, I walked into Evil Dead thinking, “I have a positive feeling about this.”
In all fairness Evil Dead isn’t as bad as most of the remakes of classic horror films that have oozed out over the last decade and a half. The fact that it’s made by people who clearly understand and care about the source material, rather than seeing it as a license to print the coin of the realm shows. This is more on the level of the profoundly miscalculated remake of The Thing. Which is even more baffling.
Evil Dead actually starts of pretty strong. With an opening prologue that cleverly inverts expectations and actually bares a closer resemblance to Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell than Evil Dead (not that this is at all a bad thing). But things get off to a bad start just as soon as we get to the plot. The story is basically the same as the original, five friends go to an isolated cabin in the woods, where they find a book bound in human flesh and inked in human blood (also wrapped in barbed wire with a helpful note urging them reconsider reading it, no points for guessing what they immediately do). The twist on the remake is that the friends have gathered for an intervention not a vacation and so when one of their members starts shrieking, convulsing and cursing its hardly unexpected.
In the early going Evil Dead is an effective, if still vaguely pointless remake of The Evil Dead. It’s not shot with the innovation or the passion of Raimi’s original, but there’s some decent character rooted horror in the mix, and a few intense scenes that make good use of the film’s hard R. But things go off the rails and hard when for some bizarre reason the filmmakers decide that the threat of being murdered by your demon possessed friends isn’t a strong enough hook for the film to rest on, and they instead must bring in a master plot, about prophecies and chosen ones and the apocalypse and yadaddaaddaaa because now even freaking Evil Dead needs to have the exact same plot as ninety percent of what comes out of Hollywood.
The original Evil Dead is as organic and eccentric as movies get. It’s a film that made because the creator had to make it and was determined to have a career directing. It’s more than a labor of love it’s a labor of will. The remake never really had a hope of matching that passion, and all the cute call backs and gallons of gore can’t disguise the fact that the urgency just isn’t there.