Evil Dead (Blu-ray)
Sony Pictures / 2013 / 91 min. / R
Over the past couple of decades, Hollywood has seemed hell-bent on rebooting every major horror franchise in hopes of finding a new cash cow to milk for at least as many movies as the original film spawned. The knee-jerk reaction to this from horror fans has been to hate the movies before they were even made and whine about how we don't get original ideas anymore. More often than not, the horror fans have been correct to loathe the reboot. None of the TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE reboots/prequels have held an oil-can to the 1974 original and only the 1990 remake of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was worth the 90 minutes of your life to watch. However, not all of these reboots have been the blasphemous abomination fans feared. I won't say Zach Snyder's 2004 DAWN OF THE DEAD was as good as George Romero's 1978 original, but it was a blast and a half and the two films can sit proudly next to each other.
This brings us to the subject of this review: the new reboot of Sam Raimi's classic EVIL DEAD. Fans of Raimi's original trilogy are some seriously die-hard fanatics. They have been clamoring for over two decades for a fourth film in his series and the internet is filled with rumors and speculations about it. The thought of somebody else daring to remake their beloved classic was enough for them to want to raise an army of kandarian demons to halt production. But a reboot was made and from the very beginning Raimi, original star Bruce Campbell and original producer Rob Tapert gave it a thumbs up by not only producing the reboot but by constantly reassuring fans that they really liked new co-writer/director Fede Alvarez's take on their material.
Alvarez's EVIL DEAD is not unlike Snyder's DAWN OF THE DEAD in that it takes the basic premise of the original; in this case a group of teenagers in an isolated cabin unleash Hell via the evil Necronomicon, and then proceeds to do its own thing. In this EVIL DEAD, recovering drug addict Mia (Jane Levy) is taken to the remote cabin by her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) and three friends to help get her clean. The group finds the book, reads from it and then tries to survive the consequences.
It is clear that Alvarez has tremendous respect for Raimi's original film and really wanted to make a movie worthy of being called EVIL DEAD, and for the most part he succeeded. Once the kids read from the book, the elaborate scares just escalate at a very fast pace and donot stop until the end credits. The effects are impressive, the gore is measured by the truckload rather than the gallon and Levy is a decent enough heroine for us to latch onto (although NOBODY can replace Campbell's iconic Ash). What is missing is the humor and out-there slapstick comedy that defines the second two movies of Raimi's trilogy. This EVIL DEAD is not funny. Not at all. It takes itself extremely seriously which is fine... if it wasn't called EVIL DEAD. Even though the comedy/horror mix isn't really in Raimi's original EVIL DEAD, it is that aspect that has come to define the series. Alvarez made a great little horror movie, there is no doubt, but it just doesn't feel like an EVIL DEAD movie.
Both Raimi and Alvarez are reportedly planning sequels (Raimi a direct sequel to ARMY OF DARKNESS with Campbell returning as Ash and Alvarez to this film with Levy returning as Mia) that will be followed by a seventh film that will bring Mia and Ash's story together. Only time will tell if these plans actually happen and how successfully the two EVIL DEADs blend.
Where the original EVIL DEAD benefitted from a grainy, dirty look and 16mm film stock, the 2013 reboot benefits from a crisp, clear and immaculate looking picture. The anamorphic 2.39 transfer is top notch with excellent detail emerging from the countless almost pitch black scenes. Color appears to be intentionally washed out but don't worry, those reds pop when the blood starts to pour.
The picture looks spectacular but it is one-upped by an even more spectacular DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround soundtrack. This is one seriously active, heavily nuanced mix that will give your high end sound system a thorough workout. Top marks on the technical front!
The supplement package may not be the lavish affairs the countless releases of the original films may have received but what is here is decent and should please fans.
First up is a commentary track with Director/Co-writer Alvarez, Co-writer Rodo Sayagues and cast members Jane Levy, Lou Taylor Pucci and Jessica Lucas. Nothing much to report on this; it is a fine track that covers the nuts and bolts of the production.
"Directing the DEAD" has Alvarez discussing his duties and the cast commenting on how well he did them.
"EVIL DEAD the Reboot" is the featurette fans of the original will want to check out as it includes Rob Tapert and Bruce Campbell talking with Alvarez, Sayagues and Levy about bringing the franchise into the 21st century.
"Making Life Difficult" looks at the nearly non-stop physical challenges Levy went through as Mia.
"Unleashing the EVIL force" looks at the new Necronomicon prop.
"Being Mia" is Levy's on set video diary.
This EVIL DEAD may not have the humor of Raimi's original trilogy but it is a good solid horror film in its own right. Recommended!