I normally detest remakes. You want to remake something? Take a bad movie that wasted its potential and do what it should have done the first time. But don’t try to hijack the fanbase of an existing franchise as if it was your fanbase all along. However, when the original filmmakers are involved, things are a bit different. Taking your decades-old idea and using what you know now to improve on it may sound a little George Lucas-y, but like all things I detest, there can be exceptions.
Mia is a junkie trying to kick the habit for hopefully the final time. Her friends, including her estranged brother David, take her to her parents’ remote cabin in the woods, only to discover it had been broken into at some point while they were away. As Mia suffers through withdrawal, the others find evidence of witchcraft in the basement, including a book with handwritten warnings on it, advising whoever finds it NOT to read from it. But read from it they do and an evil is unleashed, which sets its sights on the most vulnerable member of their group: Mia. And thus begins a night of all-out horror for the five friends.
There’s no Bruce Campbell this time around (“Booooooooo!”), but rest assured, the new cast of characters is strong. I especially liked Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), who could have been a great unlikely hero. Olivia (Jessica Lucas) could have used more screen time, but all of her scenes are well done nonetheless. David (Shiloh Fernandez) did seem a bit 90’s in his struggle to accept what’s happening around him, but he does get better towards the end. And Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) may seem completely useless at first, but her change halfway through is probably the most memorable and unsettling of any of the characters. But no one deserves more props than Mia (Jane Levy), who goes to hell and back for this movie, going from victim to villain to hero and making it look effortless.
One thing you can’t deny with this movie is that it is one of the purest horror movies in recent memory. The dark and twisted setting, the unrelenting evil, the blood almost literally running down the screen, are unapologetic techniques to shock and disturb its audience. This is a 90-minute nightmare, and it works. I was even fooled into forgetting it was a remake unless the occasional set-piece or line of dialogue buzzed me back to reality. Whatever these guys set out to do, they did it.
It may not be as good as the older Evil Dead‘s, but it is definitely worth a watch, especially around Halloween time. This movie makes remakes look good, taking an older idea and modernizing it, without relying overly much on the original’s fan expectations. And having a female lead this time is somewhat reminiscent of Within the Woods. That’s the movie that started it all, and it had a female lead: Ellen Sandweiss. So in a way, it’s kind of like coming full circle, ironically in a franchise famous for its male lead. Oh, and absolutely make sure to watch the 5-second clip after the credits. Like the movie itself, and the original it’s based on, it’s “Groovy!”
4 out of 5