The promos for the new Evil Dead, read: "The most terrifying film you will ever experience." I have a few rewrite suggestions. How about "The most ridiculous film you will ever experience," or "The most boring film you will ever experience," or maybe my favourite, "The most unnecessary film you will ever experience." Any of these adjectives are better choices than terrifying. Any of them. One could also toss in such replacement words as, in alphabetical order, dense, dull, dumb, foolish, futile, half-baked, ill-advised, inane, laughable, ludicrous, mindless, moronic, pointless, slow, sluggish, think and witless, just to give a few basic choices picked from the thesaurus. Take your pick. Any of these are better choices than terrifying. Hell, I saw a rerun of the Golden Girls the other night that was more terrifying than this film. Granted, Bea Arthur can be quite scary, but that is another story for another day. Suffice it to say, this new version of the Evil Dead, be it a prequel, a sequel, a remake or a reboot, or whatever the hell it may be, is anything but terrifying. In fact, it is downright, and dreadfully so, boring as all get out, and is a strong contender for my year end worst of the year list.
Now don't get me wrong, I suppose the thing is a moderately well done film when compared to most of what passes as horror these days, but still, much like those films that pass as horror these days, Alvarez relies way too much on gross out effects (nothing we haven't seen before, and in much more creative ways) and literally buckets and buckets of blood (Alvarez did go old school on the film, and tried to use less CGI and more traditional effects magic) and scenes of what have become known, both favourably and unfavourably, as torture porn, and way too little on sensible storytelling and narrative that does not reek of contrivance and stupidity. Sure, it's a horror film, and people act stupid in horror films - don't go in the basement/attic, don't walk backwards when there are monsters or madmen in the house, don't split up to cover more ground, don't read aloud satanic passages after you are warned doing so will summon evil spirits from Hell - but the level of stupidity found in this version of the Evil Dead is beyond belief. But, on the other hand, why worry about such things like sensibility and intelligence when you can just make it rain blood or have someone saw their own fucking arm off? Really?
Now, how does this new version play into the whole Evil Dead franchise, you may ask. I'll tell ya, but first a quick primer on all that has come before. In 1981, after a student film-cum-prototype called Within the Woods, Michigan State lit major and future writer/director Sam Raimi, known by more mainstream audiences as that guy who made the first Spider-Man trilogy, fellow Spartan econ student and soon-t-be producer Robert Tapert, and college dropout-turned actor Bruce Campbell, made the first Evil Dead. It was followed up in 1987 by Evil Dead II, basically just Raimi remaking and restyling the first film with a slightly larger, though still quite miniscule, budget, and then in 1992 by Army of Darkness, known in some circles as Evil Dead III, which transports Campbell's character Ash, back to Medieval times to fight evil minions known as the Deadites. These films have quite the cult following, and are quite enjoyable as modern day comic-horror classics. This new version, produced, not so incidentally by Raimi, Tapert and Campbell, acts as not a sequel or even a remake, but as a separate story involving the same book of evil found and used by Ash and his cohorts in the original films. To compare this film to the others is just silly, since it cannot honestly hold up to such comparison.
This film will have a sequel of its own, and, if rumour has it, a Raimi-directed followup to Army of Darkness, and eventually, again, if rumour can be trusted, a seventh Evil Dead film that will tie together Ash's story with that of Mia, from this version. And what of Mia and her cohorts in this version. Well, we do get a few fun things, some hidden cookies if you will. We see a character wearing a Michigan State shirt, in homage to both the first film, and to Raimi's alma mater. There is a visual reference to Ash's car from the original as well, and in a neat little play on letters, the first letter of each of the five main characters here, David, Eric, Mia, Olivia and Natalie, spell out demon. Other than these cute little self-referential tidbits though, this new version of an old favourite, is just as drab as drab can be. Even my quite low expectations going in were not met. The most terrifying film indeed. And as for Campbell's involvement (stay after the credits for what is essentially a completely unnecessary cameo, but also probably the best moment of the movie), in a 2011 interview, the man with the chin said of the then-upcoming film, "We are remaking Evil Dead. The script is awesome. The remake's gonna kick some ass. You have my word." I think me and Bruce need to have a talk.