A horror movie that doesn’t follow the “quick fix before Halloween” cliché could be either really good or really bad. Unfortunately, Evil Dead, a re-imagining of the 1981 cult horror classic of the same name, is painfully underwhelming.
Similar to the original, Evil Dead isn’t about vampires, werewolves, or aliens, but about a book, the Book of the Dead, which is centuries old and possesses the power to summon nasty spirits. When a group of friends, looking to get away in the old family cabin in the woods, discovers the book in a hidden cellar, the movie picks up in motion, but it just isn’t enough.
Let me begin with the cast of characters. Barely leading the pack is David (Shiloh Fernandez), the older brother of recovering drug addict, Mia (Jane Levy). David has assembled a group of childhood friends, including Olivia (Jessica Lucas), Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), and David’s new girlfriend, Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore), to stage a recovery for Mia in the remote setting.
Now the tone is set, and you’re ready for a good scare. However, if you’ve seen any trailers, you’ve already gotten the movie’s full scare quota. The ticket price brings nothing new, save for gallons of excessive gore that is substituted for the original film’s clever placement of dark humor. Evil Dead isn’t Saw, but it’ll still make you cringe. More than that, the gore is just out of place and simply unpleasant. Looking back on one of the movie’s more grotesque sequences, I thought, “If I wanted to see that, I would’ve seen…wait, there’s nothing else that offers that. Nobody wants to see that.”
I already knew that the acting in a modern horror movie wasn’t going to be memorable; at least, I hoped so after I had sat through the movie. Sadly, I had the misfortune of remembering these performances in a way that annoyed me, beginning with the character of Eric. He’s introduced as a teacher, but doesn’t take a hint when he discovers a book wrapped in barbed-wire in an ominously disturbing cellar. Instead, he carefully unwraps it and recites a chant from a page clearly marked “Leave this book alone.” Then there’s Elizabeth Blackmore’s Natalie. You won’t remember much of her, because she’s there only so that the lead character can have a partner. He calls her “Baby,” but they have the chemistry level of a rock and a paperclip. As for Evil Dead’s lead character, Shiloh Fernandez is no Bruce Campbell. It’s clear that he’s the leader of the group, but he’s the kind of character who holds power solely because the script says so.
In the end, the execution of Evil Dead can be best compared to a rollercoaster that loses its brakes at the top of the slope: it’s got a lot of momentum going for it, but nothing to support it. As a result, the ride down is unanticipated and out of control. The original Evil Dead was one of the few horror films to seamlessly balance genuine scares, dark comedy, engrossing atmosphere, and head-tilting camera work, while taking horror to new places. Here, the new heights are felt, but it’s all just for show. Is it worth the cost? My answer is that if you’d like to see the same premise executed far better and set against a far eerier backdrop, see the original Evil Dead.