Disclaimer: This article contains spoilers as well as several descriptions of violence and gore. If that’s not your thing, navigate to another article. I’ll try not to take it personally.
I don’t know why it took me so long to watch The Evil Dead. During my junior year of college, I lived with a friend who attended the live musical, read Bruce Campbell’s books, and coveted her boyfriend’s Army of Darkness t-shirt. This year, the IT guy at my workplace raved about Sam Raimi’s 1981 classic for months leading up to the release of the reboot. No matter where I turned, I saw evidence of the film’s cult followers. I decided it was time to join them.
Objectively, one could say the effects and storyline of The Evil Dead have not aged well. The gore occasionally looks a little too much like chocolate syrup, the bodily secretions too much like rice pudding. Cosmetics used for demonic effect often call to mind a Tammy Faye makeover gone awry. Yet, there’s something about its B-movie aesthetic that appeals to my sensibilities.
Through its innumerable campy chills, The Evil Dead reminds modern viewers—especially those accustomed to big budget, impersonal productions—that earnest filmmaking exists. Raimi’s attempts to scare and repulse are pure and unpretentious; The Evil Dead strives for nothing other than twisted entertainment. Often, that sort of straightforwardness relegates movies into a cinematic void. In the case of The Evil Dead, simplicity provides the substance. It makes the film worth appreciating decade after decade.
Despite being produced by Raimi and Campbell, the new Evil Dead (in addition to ditching The in its title) fails to deliver the same charm as its predecessor. The plot is more developed, the effects more realistic, the violence more plentiful.
Overall, it’s just plain more. By the time the final skin-shredding, blood-spewing horrors take place, one feels slightly browbeaten. That’s because the outrageous happenings overwhelm instead of engage, isolate instead of invite. Somewhere within the process of modernizing the film, the filmmakers lost sight of what made the original so great.
If Raimi devotees are willing to wade through the gore, they might discover enough Easter eggs and homages to deem Evil Dead a worthy reboot. I wish those fanatics the best. In the mean time, I will look to Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness for another dose of hokey horror.