Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci
Directed by: Fede Alvarez (debut)
Written by: Fede Alvarez (debut)
If you walk out of the remake of “Evil Dead” and actual think Sam Raimi’s original film was better, there is a cult-classic bias in you that can never be exorcised. Simply put: Raimi’s “Evil Dead” is so 1981. First-time feature director Fede Alvarez’s take is fresh and fiendishly entertaining.
Okay, we jest…to a point. Raimi’s original film, of course, will forever be considered a cult favorite by fans of the horror genre and deservingly so. The campy feel of it – even more today – is ridiculously amusing. But Alvarez, who has never made a feature-length film before in his life, takes Raimi’s framework and builds something even more gruesome and throws in a nastier streak that would never have made it past the censors 30 years ago. If you liked the sometimes unintentional humor of the first one, there’s not much of that in its successor. There’s no room for laughter, anyway, when so much blood is spewing all over.
That’s not to say graphic horror remakes these days have an impressive track record when it comes to impaling body parts in excess. Things like “Black Christmas” in 2006, “My Blood Valentine” in 2009, and Rob Zombie’s version of the “Halloween” franchise are a very small handful of horror movies that didn’t get it right. Despite it not being very scary at all, Alvarez’s “Evil Dead,” however, gets fewer things wrong and has a blast doing it.
Like the 1981 movie, the reincarnated “Evil Dead” follows a group of young friends into the wood where they shack up in a remote cabin. Instead of camping, however, the characters in the new flick are having a rehab session for Mia (Jane Levy), a friend who has decided she wants to kick her drug habit cold turkey. But when her friends run across a barbwire-bounded Book of the Dead in the cellar, left over from some satanic ritual, Mia and her cohorts, including her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez), his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore), and their friends Eric (Lou Tatylor Pucci) and Olivia (Jessica Lucas), have a lot more to worry about than Mia’s manic withdrawals. She’s not vomiting blood because she needs a fix. She’s got a demon inside her.
Relying more on good old-fashioned special effects than those of the CGI brand, the new “Evil Dead” never feels fake (although a creepy female victim from the book’s past shows up in the first half and almost ruins it). With Raimi and actor Bruce Campbell, who we all know as Ash in the franchise, on board as producers, the re-visioning of “Evil Dead” is about as much fun as watching someone get shot in the face with a nail gun. Gauge your threshold for gore on your reaction to that last sentence and you should know whether or not you have the stomach for it.
“Evil Dead” was screened at the 2013 South by Southwest Film Festival.