Sam Raimi’s 1981 The Evil Dead is, to some, the definitive cult classic. Its tale of kids being stalked in the woods by demons, whilst not perfect, has a place in many a horror-phile’s heart. It would be a foolhardy person to want to take on board a 21st Century remake. Cue Fede Álvarez, a first time director, who has been backed by Raimi and original star Bruce Campbell as executive producers.
Australia has had to wait a while for Evil Dead to get a release, and even now we’re only getting a limited one. So, is the Book of the Dead worth opening one more time?
Álvarez is obviously a massive fan of the original and has said as much in interviews. He laces the film with numerous nudges and winks to it through dialogue, sound effects and set pieces. The problem is that for a long time it just feels like a checklist of things fans would want to see. As such, it all starts to feel a bit samey; as if we’ve trundled through this corpse-strewn path before.
When the film does manage to throw off the shackles of familiarity towards the second half, it really finds its purchase and very rarely lets up. It becomes a cacophony of chaos and cartilage. Álvarez throws everything at the screen from nail guns to shotguns to blood to vomit in an effort to make us jump; which he succeeds on doing at several points. Once the screen becomes awash with a literal rain of blood, it’s extremely hard not to be swept up in the moment.
Evil Dead recalls a time when horror movies were less about getting you onto a cinema seat and more about making you jump out of it. It was a brave move to remake such a beloved film, but they just about pull it off.