After "Cabin in the Woods" basically dissected the cabin in the woods sub-genre of horror films, I wasn't sure "Evil Dead" could pull off a new fresh horror film within those confines, but much of the film is not only terrifying but completely unforgiving. Not to mention it's filled with gore and splatter. In a year where the most profitable horror efforts have been watered down PG-13 dreck, "Evil Dead" is that shot in the arm I was hoping for. Fede Alvarez's treatment of the original film not only plays around with our expectation, but actually gives a face to the menace in the woods.
While the original demons were more a band of monsters sharing one mind, this demonic entity garners its own unique presence, and never lets the characters off the hook for a second. Admittedly, while "Evil Dead" is mainly just a splatter film first and foremost, it does focus on some rather excellent character interaction and back story, exploring various characters in small bits and centering on the love between a brother and a sister. Jane Levy is fantastic as Mia, a young drug user who has been brought to the cabin in the middle of the woods to completely recuperate and get over her drug abuse.
Her brother David and his friends have brought her there to ensure she gets clean and not attempt escape. Alvarez and the writers don't so much glance at the romance element so much as the deep almost incestuous love Mia and David have for one another. Though David has a girlfriend, his main focus is always Mia, and he admits that she has something of a hold on him. When Mia finds it impossible to cope without her drug use, she grabs her bags and orders David to drive her home almost like a domineering wife. And David is reluctant to turn her down.
From there she feels betrayed almost like her husband has completely denied her the submissiveness she craves. This allows for the demon to enter, and completely prey on Mia's total weakness. From the minute we see her, she's vulnerable, weak and broken. The demon uses that to enter in to her, and destroy the entire support system around her as a means of sacrifice to unearth the unholy monster from under the cabin. When counselor Eric discovers the book of dead, he accidentally summons the demon that was long destroyed, and soon the body count, and the torn limbs begin to rise. Director Fede Alvarez adds a rather incredible visual gloss to "Evil Dead" embracing its grindhouse indie roots, while also adding an emphasis on the sheer morbid circumstances that begin invoking this monstrous being.
Some of the scenes in this remake are absolutely breathtaking, while the story isn't so much focused on a group trying to overcome a supernatural monster, as it is ultimately about Mia overcoming her own demon. While "Evil Dead" garners subtle visual cues to the original film, the horror centers mainly around Mia and how she grows to embrace the monster she once was, and then has to stare it down and destroy it. I didn't think it was possible, but "Evil Dead" works as an incredible character dissection that treats the demons as a metaphor for the monsters Mia and her friends have fought all of their lives. I had my doubts about what this remake could accomplish, but in the end, it's a masterful new version that adds even more value to Sam Raimi's masterpiece than ever.