Five friends venture to a cabin to help Mia (Jane Levy) kick her drug habit. Things are not as they seem from the very start, but it only gets worse after Mia's claims she was attacked by a demon in the forest. Her friends just think she is adjusting badly to going cold turkey, but strange occurrences start to take place within the cabin, and it quickly becomes obvious that Mia is not quite herself.
I went in with low expectations, but Alvarez does a great job bringing the film to life. It hints at and replays certain key moments from the original series, but for the most part, Evil Dead is very much its own individual thing: a re-imagining that exists all on its own. The story is not all too important here, but it does more than enough to move the film along from beginning to end; something the horror remake genre has botched all too often. Better yet, Evil Dead never feels like it is struggling to live up to lofty comparisons, and seems very content at having fun mercilessly torturing these five young people. Fans will love seeing how Alvarez reinterprets some of the franchise's most popular scenes, but non-fans will still get a hint of glee seeing just how depraved the film quickly becomes. It may take a while to get there, but it never lets up afterwards.
The trailers and marketing elements suggest that the film is terrifying. Indeed the trailer was absolutely horrifying. But I found myself not so much scared as why I was mortified by some of the kills and ludicrous ideas inflicted on the cast. I say ideas mainly because some things that happen should result in a criminal diagnosis on everyone involved. The film is definitely not for the squeamish, and revels in the amount of blood and gore it spills at every turn. It uses the original franchise as a barometer, and then throws it out the window in favour of being more "inventive" and eclectic with its choices. The trailers may have prepared you for some of the brutality, but it only hints at the lingering after-effects. Expect to hear a lot about the vivid and fully realized makeup effects – they are so much better than you could have ever imagined, and are light-years ahead of the minuscule CGI effects employed during the film.
For how enjoyable and loving a tribute this re-imagining is to Raimi's work, there is still plenty wrong with it. Roque Baños' score, although tense throughout, is way too serious and overbearing for the film. It helps create plenty of frightening moments sprinkled generously throughout the film, but I feel like it belonged in a much different film. It never gels quite properly with the tone of the film, and feels off even in the minute sections where it does work. Much the same goes for the prologue that opens the film – a totally new invention of Alvarez and crew. It tries to set the tone for what is coming, and tries its very best to totally set itself apart from the original films (even going so far as to introduce an actual "identity" to the demons possessing the precocious young adults), but ends up feeling totally out of place. About halfway through the film, I forgot it even happened because of how little it affects what comes after. Why bother adding it in the first place?
While I take issue with a number of idiosyncrasies involving a bizarre third act twist I should have seen coming, my bigger concern is with the characterization of everyone except Mia. Their driving force is to help her get better and rid her of her drug dependency, but they seem to have no other motivations outside of that. Lou Taylor Pucci's character Eric unleashes the demons in the first place, but he never really gives any hint of why he commits this act of malice or even how he can read it so well. Elizabeth Blackmore's Natalie is a glorified stage prop, frequently disappearing for whole scenes at a time, only to reappear when the film suddenly needed her to be on hand for reaction shots. The only reason I had any idea of who this character is supposed to be was because she shows up with Fernandez at the beginning of the film. Should she have already been hanging out at the cabin, I do not think we would have been afforded that luxury.
But I digress. For what it is, and for what I can only assume most people expected, Evil Dead is a satisfying, albeit bloody mess of a movie. It does enough right, and does an admirable job being its own film – as opposed to coasting along on the tail of the original film. With a little bit more work, this could have been a significantly greater film. But whether you look at it as pieces or in the sum of its parts, it is more than worthwhile to see.