Tonight I'm going to a preview screening to review the new Evil Dead movie that comes out this Friday, having been preceded by predictable controversy. Loyalists to the original The Evil Dead—which came out in 1981, propelling first-time feature director Sam Raimi and then-struggling lead actor Bruce Campbell into cult-status royalty—say don't mess with perfection, and are further incensed that the re-make eschews with Campbell's character, and hero of the entire franchise, Ash.
While any remake by definition connotes less of a cultural contribution than a brand-new ass-kicking and/or revolutionary concept, the new Evil Dead has some impressive things going for it: It was Raimi's idea to select first-time feature director Fede Alvarez, who was originally summoned to Los Angeles from his native Uruguay in order to flesh out an internet-released sci-fi short. If this goes well he'll be jumping toward the top of a lot of people's "new directors to watch" lists, not to mention drum up support for a full-length version of his short Panic Attack!, assuming that ever gets finished.
Again, not having Raimi in the director's chair has been cause for alarm among those who fear their beloved horror classic's name be sullied, despite the fact that Campbell joins Raimi as co-producer, and they're presumably not going to be quick to damage the foundation of their legacy—they've gone to great lengths to stress that. Furthermore, Alvarez, a DIY-er himself, has purposefully avoided use of digital effects, ensuring that when characters cut off their own arms with cooking tools it'll be a more visceral sight than one of Daenerys' dragons grilling up a fish before he eats it (puh-leeze).
Really, the plot points where the reboot diverges aren't what make and break a good horror film. In Alvarez's version, the protagonist is female (yay), and instead of an ill-conceived vacation with friends, she ventures into that proverbial cabin in the woods to detox from heroin, which is actually a clever (using that term loosely) way of setting up her companions to attribute her initial warning bells to junk sickness (related and sort of weird: Diablo Cody did a punch-up of the script). Moreover, Evil Dead II was essentially also a remake of its predecessor plus a whole lot more ridiculous Raimi/Campbell styling, and everyone loved it.
If there's one thing that last year's awesome Cabin in the Woods made clear, it's that Evil Dead's situational set-up(s), rather like porn, are secondary to the film's payload. What's going to make or break it are the number and quality of scares, the shock value of the gore, and the grace with which homages to tree rape are handled. Early buzz on those aspects is overwhelmingly positive, with Alvarez swearing up in down that he was swinging for the fences to gross us out, so I'm going into this optimistically. (Even if I hope they can translate that buzz into box office success and catapult into a completely fresh project, since I still think it kinda sucks that the first horror flick that's looked good for a while is a retread.)
But I'm a glass-full kind of person. Do you think we should be worried?