I don't think it is fair to compare Fede Alvarez's remake/reboot Evil Dead to the original The Evil Dead. Yes, I think there's an interesting comparison to be made between the two films, but I think I am probably too invested in Sam Raimi's original. But, my love of The Evil Dead aside, I think it might be worthwhile looking for a more modern comparison. The original's contemporaries were the Freddy and Jason movies. The big money makers were silly gorefests. These days, the biggest, most successful blood splattered dismemberment movies are much more serious, grisly affairs.
A better comparison would be the 2007 french horror movie Inside. Evil Dead and Inside both set out to shock you, to turn your stomach with visceral gore. "The most terrifying film you will ever experience!" screams the Evil Dead poster. "One of the scariest movies I have ever seen in my life." The cover of Inside promises. These are the quotes that sell movies on posters and box covers these days. But neither quote does justice to its film.
The beauty of Inside, (and of Evil Dead) is that neither abandons the idea that horror movies are supposed to be fun, that there's a maniacal glee to be found when things go from bad to worse to it's-raining-blood. That's a special kind of wonderful fun that people often don't associate with movies like the later Saw films. Or the Human Centipede.
Inside was FUN. Here was a movie where one lady spent an entire movie trying to take an unborn baby from someone's womb with a pair of scissors. This could very well have been an effective, gruesome, and bleak movie like Martyrs. And it was most of those things! It was effective, and gruesome, and often the situation for the characters was bleak, but it was never bleak for the audience. It had a pacing and a gleefulness to the direction that made it clear this was a movie made by people who loved horror movies. All horror movies. Nightmare on Elm Street movies just as much as Saw. The Exorcist as much as Night of the Living Dead.
And while Evil Dead wasn't the movie I expected it to be, the more I think about it, the more I like it. I want to watch it again, now that I think I better understand what it is trying to do. It is not as perfect as Inside, by any means. There's a really visible struggle going on between tones in the movie.
When things were going normally, Evil Dead took itself very seriously. The characters were shallow and not very well written. When everything was going right, these characters were bland. I actually think the girlfriend character didn't get a single line of dialogue until well after people started dying. It's the first time I've ever watched a movie that Diablo Cody had a hand in writing and wished her voice was MORE apparent. But complaining about the characterization at the beginning is kind of like complaining about the car commercials before the movie.
Once the weird shit started, Evil Dead began its awkward struggle toward awesomeness. It built to a rhythm, for the first 2/3 of the movie. It would be very serious and bleak and when violence happened, it would be serious and unpleasant and then slightly crazier and then A LOT crazier and the movie would be suddenly fun and ridiculous. The gore is very much in the same family as Saw, and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remakes. The movie had that yellow-green tint that has become a horror staple. Oh, yes, this is certainly a modern horror movie. But then when things get going the colors would feel brighter. The dialogue would be funnier. The blood would spray just a bit too far. The most obnoxious character (the nerdy friend who first opens the book) became unexpectedly hilarious. The most gruesome scenes had a humour that the rest of the movie didn't even try for.
And then things would quiet down, and we'd have to suffer through some more "characterization" and "inner struggles" or whatever. Until something bad would happen again and the movie would remember to be fun. This happened again and again in the first half, but as the movie progressed, the awesome and ridiculous moments came faster and more often, until the skies were pouring blood and the whole audience was laughing and cringing at the same time.
I don't think Evil Dead is a perfect movie. I'm not even sure it was that GOOD. It certainly was not on the same level as the brilliant Inside, similarities of intent aside. I was irritated and bored through long stretches at the beginning. And I don't think it had to be an Evil Dead movie. At least, I think a lot of my initial frustration with the movie came from me comparing it to the nostalgia-armoured perfection of the original. On the other hand - I also don't think as many people would have seen and gotten to enjoy it if it were just another new horror movie, and I'm glad that there's a movie in theatres proving that even modern gore can be fun.