Remaking beloved movies is always a risky proposition, and few films are as beloved as Sam Raimi's 1981 low-budget horror classic "The Evil Dead," which tells the story of five college kids stuck in a cabin with an ancient tome and murderous demons. Made for $350,000, the film spawned one of horror's most enduring franchises and has been blessed by critics. (On the review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes, it boasts a 98% "fresh" rating.)
That means the new "Evil Dead" remake, directed by Fede Alvarez in his feature debut, has its work cut out for it, even with Raimi and original star Bruce Campbell on board as producers. This time around, critics are divided on whether the new version stakes its own claim to the "Evil Dead" mantle.
The Times' Mark Olsen says it does, writing that the remake "has a gleeful exuberance of its own analogous to the mad invention of the original" and adding that it "nimbly walks the fine line of tribute, update and doing its own thing." Alvarez nails the tone — "scary without being downbeat, fun without being too jokey" — and delivers "plenty of over-the-top gore, great gushing geysers of it."
The New York Times' Manohla Dargis, however, finds the film a bit lacking. Specifically, she says, it "doesn’t have the original's wooden performances, puffy clothes and hairdos or its amusingly crude special effects," and as such it "has none of the first movie's handmade charm or hilarity, intentional or otherwise." What the remake does share with its predecessor is a lust for blood, as Alvarez "gets his gore on" and "makes handy sport with an electric meat knife and a nail gun, among other convenient and preposterous household items." Dargis ends with an endorsement of supporting actor Lou Taylor Pucci, who "deserves a boost."