April 6, 2013



EVIL DEAD:  Watch It At Home – Plenty of Icky, Not So Much Scary

A slick, Hollywood-budgeted remake of Sam Raimi’s 1981 EVIL DEAD (actually there was a ‘the” in front of that one, the definite article having been misplaced over the decades) is sort of a contradiction in terms.  The whole appeal of Raimi’s bloodbath was its zero-budgeted ethos and wild abandon–Raimi heaved the camera like a toy and splattered every available surface with lovingly homemade gore.  A glossy Evil Dead, in comparison, is just a horror movie.

And that defines Fede Alvarez’s good-enough remake.  It’s accomplished and effectively gross, in no way a betrayal of the original (Raimi and original colleagues Robert Tapert and Bruce Campbell produced this one), but it misses the point.  Except, of course, that the real point is to make money, and it doesn’t miss that one.

We’re back in the deep scary woods, where five college-age friends have arrived at a long-unvisited family cabin and are about to see their souls become demon food.  The one smart change from the 1981 concept in Alvarez’s script (which was reportedly polished by Diablo Cody) is that this isn’t an idle weekend:  the group is deliberately holed up away from civilization to force Mia (Jane Levy, a long way from Suburgatory) to shake her drug addiction cold turkey.  This is a useful alteration because it also provides a slightly plausible reason why no one at first questions the fact that Mia starts acting a little… odd… later on.

That happens once one of the idiots, Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) unwraps the barbed wire from the house’s Book of the Dead, and despite numerous scrawled warnings not to read any of the incantations, immediately does so.  Soon enough, Mia is being raped by a nearby tree, her eyes are glowing yellow and limbs are being merrily hacked away.  If the demon can ingest all five of their souls, rather than just a 6th free one he gets to conquer the world, so there’s plenty of incentive for him.

Evil Dead isn’t particularly suspenseful or even scary, really–there’s hardly ever a surprise about who the demon is inhabiting at any given moment, and people get attacked exactly when you expect them to be.  Alvarez made the decision not to try to recreate the Ash character from the original, which made Campbell a cult star, and while it’s a reasonable choice to have no clear hero so it’s not clear who’ll still be standing in the last reel, it makes everyone somewhat more anonymous.  Even though the script takes its time introducing the characters (it’s half an hour before the serious blood starts spraying) and the cast, which includes Shiloh Fernandez as Mia’s brother, Jessica Lucas and Elizabeth Blackmore in addition to Levy and Pucci, is a talented group, nothing in the screenplay (or Cody’s reputed rewrite) makes any of them very distinctive.  Even the demon, who usually gets all the best lines in a story like this, has pretty dull dialogue.  The attempt to give Mia and her brother some unresolved feelings to work out regarding their mother’s death never really pays off, and that’s all there is for characterization.

That leaves the gore, which is pretty impressive.  One can certainly note (accurately) that if the MPAA cared about anything besides nudity and the use of the word “fuck,” a movie this intensely disgusting could never get an R rating, but all the sawed-off body parts and gushing liquids are so cartoonish that they have no emotional resonance whatsoever.  With the very brief exception of one exquisitely painful moment where a character’s knee is sliced ever so slowly, it’s all so over the top that all you do when watching it is speculate about what effects were staged ont he set, and which were inserted via CG. Alvarez keeps things moving, but there’s nothing here to suggest the visual imagination of, say, Andres Muschietti, who brought something a little special to Mama a few months ago.

There’s no point in getting exercised about a movie like Evil Dead, since it’s been clear for years that every major horror movie of the 1970s and 1980s (at least) is going to be remade at some point.  (Coming soon:  a new version of Carrie.)  Evil Dead, like almost all of its brethren, is entirely unnecessary, and little more than a reminder of what made the original memorable in the first place, but it’s an efficient vehicle for this weekend’s shipment of “ewwww.”

Consumer Note:  Evil Dead features a post-credits coda, but unless you’re a true devotee, it’s not worth sticking around through 7 minutes of credits.  The easter egg runs no more than 5 seconds and is irrelevant to the movie’s plot.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."