Some catering to fans of Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead franchise was expected when it was announced that there would be a fresh start to the franchise two years ago. Cult classics only succeed with a passionate fan-base and Fede Alvarez's update of five kids going to the woods was met with a great deal of hesitance, but the dread of a soulless cash-in disappeared once Bruce Campbell and Raimi backed the project.
Even with this reboot though a great deal of the enjoyment to be had is dependent upon knowing the turns of where the original 1984 film goes. Misdirection and a subversion of audience expectations is more than half the fun of Alvarez's film.
Going cold turkey is never easy, so Mia (Jane Levy) and her four closest friends go away for the weekend to a secluded cabin in the woods for her to detox. Left with little to do, the five come across the Necronomicon (Book of the Dead) and accidentally release the demons therein. Deadites abound, the group of five are picked off one at a time.
Placing Mia's heroin addiction center stage makes it a little easier to stomach that when all hell breaks loose, no one simply just says "screw it" and leaves.
Two major standouts spring out from the acting branch: Jane Levy and Lou Taylor Pucci. Levy puts in her time as the emotional wreck before she eagerly dives into playing a Deadite. Playing a vaguely hippie-ish teacher, Pucci isn't replacing Ash, but he is easily just as put-upon as Bruce Campbell was. And like Campbell, he too gets some of the best lines.
While Jane Levy and Lou Taylor Pucci are very game for the source material, the other three performances feel like they thought they were walking onto the set of a Michael Bay produced remake of The Evil Dead, not Sam Raimi's.
Evil Dead will leave fans wanting for nothing when it comes to props and makeup. Every corn-syrup drenched scene screams practicality, replacing computer generated foolery with hand-crafted scares. Very rarely is gore done well enough to be appreciated, yet the technical prowess here should be applauded.
Fede Alvarez, whether by choice, or not, recreates several shots from the thirty year old predecessor (demon speeding through the woods cam) and he is quite competent at composing scenes. Still, giving him a chance to create more scares of his own would have been appreciated. By referring back to the original in so many ways, Evil Dead is defined more by what it is than what it isn't.