A teenage girl is wandering through a misty forest, anxiously casting her gaze around to see if she is being followed. It is then she catches sight of a shadowy figure looming in the trees some distance away and begins to worry even more, with good reason as someone grabs her and pulls a sack over her head, then knocks her out with the butt of a shotgun. When she awakens, she is in the cellar of a cabin somewhere in the woods, and an old woman is reading from an antique book - but her father is there, not to help her but to tell her he has to kill her to save her soul...
It was only a matter of time before director Sam Raimi's groundbreaking eighties horror The Evil Dead, the archetypal cabin of doomed victims flick, was remade, what with the climate of chiller cinema fostering a habit of going over old ground again and again until every idea from the past had been run dry. But there was something to offer some comfort to fans of the original, and that was Raimi, star Bruce Campbell and producer Robert Tapert onboard for production duties, as if to indicate they knew this property was going to be remade sooner or later, so they may as well get their effort in first. The directorial reins this time were handed to Fede Alvarez.
He was a Uruguayan who had impressed with his viral videos, an indication that helming pop videos was no longer the breeding ground for such talent that it used to be in this internet age. But whether he was right for a very serious take on the material was very much up for debate among the adherents of the original series of three movies, for the impression with many seemed to be that every one of that trilogy had been a comedy to some extent or another, so could have Alvarez failed in opting for the grim and sober tone? Actually, what a lot of those naysayers were forgetting was the first Evil Dead movie wasn't a laugh riot at all; the second and third, yes, but the source was pretty much played straight.
Sure, straight if you took into account the outrageous lengths Raimi's imagination went to in regard to shocking the audience, but Ash's trials and tribulations were initially no barrel of laughs. Alvarez, in a heartening fashion, tried to make the effects as physical as possible, so there was plenty of latex and fake gore on display, a point which connected it to the work of Raimi and his team, very welcome as you could see the difference between actual, physical fake blood and CGI fake blood, so in that respect this Evil Dead was a winner. It was also different enough in plot from the original to keep the audience on their toes, though not every alteration and diversion was embraced.
The Book of the Dead here has a number of crude annotations scribbled onto its pages, which was pretty much the effect of watching the remake, more a refurbishment of the model Raimi and co provided. That meant a chainsaw figured, someone got locked in the cellar, and there was a tree rape again, though oddly this took the approach of a female character violated by a supernatural female character, which seemed dishonest somehow, but also emphasised this was pure fantasy and little to do with what happens in real life. That sense of evil as a disease infecting each of the characters in turn was very much to the fore, as they begin to fall victim to the curse of the book which one of them reads from, stupid behaviour being a staple of such efforts. All the way through you're wondering who the Ash will be, who the ultimate survivor will be, and the movie pulled a trick there which denied a criticism horror was often open to, but the answer to that pertinent question comes along... well, let's just say keep watching the credits, not least because of Roque Baños' excellent music.