There will only ever be one true incarnation of The Evil Dead. What 21 year-old Sam Raimi and his largely inexperienced but highly eager cast and crew created in those Tennessee woods in 1980 was more than just an atmospheric little comic book horror flick with some outrageous gore effects and inventive camera work. The Evil Dead was the first horror film which became a bonafide classic thanks to the burgeoning home video market, where the movie found the bulk of its enduring audience after limited cinema and drive-in runs. In those early days of home video in Australia, we hired movies like I Spit on your Grave, Zombie Flesh Eaters and Bloodsucking Freaks to revel in their notoriety and outrageousness. But we hired The Evil Dead because we wanted to be scared shitless.
The Evil Dead gave me literal nightmares before I had even seen the film, just based on what my older brother-in-law had told me about it after he had seen it at the drive-in. And my first actual viewing of the film wasn’t in the most ideal or atmospheric of settings – a couple of friends and I, none of whom were lucky enough to have VCRs in the family as yet, had hired the movie from a video store in Bentleigh and booked one of the media rooms at Caulfield Institute of Technology, where we were studying (‘studying’ being a very loose term). There in that little room, with the glass walls around which we pulled all the curtains tight, we savoured every moment of the film, jumped when we were supposed to jump, laughed when we were supposed to laugh, and as soon as the end credits had finished, we rewound the tape and watched it again before our three-hour booking was up. Suddenly, a VCR became a necessity in my life, and this was the first of many occasions that The Evil Dead was hired from that Bentleigh store, the picture quality becoming notably fuzzier over time, as the film got played at parties, sleep overs, bong sessions and late nights spent all alone.
Up against such a strong lineage, Fede Alverez’s remake of The Evil Dead could never hope to have the same visceral, personal or pop-cultural impact, and it would probably be very unfair for anyone to expect it to. Despite this, I think it ranks as one of the more successful of the recent spate of horror reboots/remakes. It’s largely unnecessary of course, but it’s a commendable attempt at capturing the vibe of 1980s (pre-CGI/camcorder) horror and is fairly respective of Raimi’s original (no doubt the involvement of Raimi and original star Bruce Campbell as producers helps here). Having the group of characters visiting the isolated cabin in the woods in order to help their friend Mia (Jane Levy) overcome her drug addiction adds a bit more gravitas to the plot, and provides a more believable explanation for why the group didn’t just haul ass out of the woods as soon as she started behaving strangely.
It’s one of the few recent horror movies that I will probably watch again (on disc) and I would recommend it to any genre fans who are able to go into it with an open mind and no lofty expectations.