I'm a little disappointed that I didn't see any 2 percent milk or creamed corn shooting out of zombie faces in the new Evil Dead. Sam Raimi, who directed the original schlock-fest, famously used those two foods in some of his gorier sequences, and it was gloriously disgusting.
The Evil Dead remake is a totally different animal from Raimi's deranged original and its even more beloved sequels, Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness. It's a far more polished movie, prettier than any of those films, with pretty people, pretty makeup and shiny camerawork.
That said, the new take on this old story is good enough for a few scares. I wasn't crazy about it but, as an original Evil Dead fan, I felt it was a worthy entry to the franchise, and a nice jumping-off point for a new Evil Dead series of movies. In some ways it's the best of the Evil Dead films when considering sheer quality, and it is the worst when considering the fun factor.
I didn't have the kind of sick fun I had while watching Evil Dead 2, nor did I have that sense of total doom I suffered while forcing the original The Evil Dead into my eyes. Director Fede Alvarez, making his feature debut, has made a humorless film for the most part. He also pusses out in a few key moments toward the end, which left me feeling a sense of relief ... something I don't want to be feeling when watching a serious Evil Dead movie.
There's no Ash (Bruce Campbell) along for the main story this time out. The central character is now Mia (Jane Levy), a heroin addict taken to a remote cabin by friends and family to detox. They eventually find their way into the basement, where they discover the infamous book that one shouldn't read aloud. Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) does just that; the forest does bad, invasive things to Mia; and things basically go downhill fast.
I liked Eric and Mia, but wasn't too crazy about David (Shiloh Fernandez), Mia's brother. He's a poorly written character, a mopey guy who failed to get me rooting for him. This is where Alvarez (who co-wrote the script with a couple of folks, most notably Diablo Cody) could've given us just a little Ash circa Evil Dead 2 attitude. David has some of the wimp factor of Ash in the original film (Ash changed a lot in the sequels), and he has a blue shirt. That's about all the comparisons he warrants.
The other actresses (Elizabeth Blackmore and Jessica Lucas) are just there to have bad things happen to them. Blackmore has an especially harrowing sequence with an electric carving knife, while Lucas takes shaving with a broken mirror shard a little too far.
I will say this for the new Evil Dead: Its gore effects are spectacular. There's a lot of old school, practical makeup effects up there on the screen, and some true freakout moments. When CGI is employed, it's done well, but the stuff that will stick with you is plain, old-fashioned gooey stuff poured on performers and shooting out of their mouths.
Levy and Pucci put this one over the top for me. They are very good and their characters work in the Evil Dead universe. Fernandez is the film's biggest flaw. Somebody with more charisma or likability would've served the film better.
Hey ... it's rare we get a good horror film these days. I'm putting the new Evil Dead just below Mama and Sinister as mildly recommended horror. I would also put this alongside the remake of Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes as a remake that doesn't necessarily damage the legacy of the original, like Rob Zombie's terrible Halloween films.
So, Evil Dead fans, breathe a sigh of relief. It's not great, but it's not a disaster either. Make sure to stay through the credits for a nice little treat and possible hints at story arcs for the future of the franchise.