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Evil Dead

Evil Dead

Rated R, 91 min. Directed by Fede Alvarez. Starring Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., April 5, 2013

Fans of the original horror trilogy of The Evil Dead films have nothing to fear from this new reworking: Evil Dead (version 2013) has the blessing of the cult horror series’ holy trinity of progenitors. On board as producers of the new Evil Dead are the original’s director Sam Raimi, producer Robert G. Tapert, and star Bruce Campbell. Their blessing will help make the new film safe for those wary of tampering with the sacred text. Yet, gorehounds will likely welcome this new film on its own merits, with or without its kosher labeling. Evil Dead smartly retools the original outline and delivers more bloody mayhem than what is usually considered acceptable in an R-rated film. Only the devil knows how some of what transpires passed muster with the MPAA evaluators.

The template is familiar: Five attractive young adults are holed up in a remote cabin in the woods when they discover a trap door that leads to a hidden chamber of unimaginable horrors. Instead of taking flight while they still can, they naively unleash the evil forces contained within, and most will lose their lives battling the entity. Evil Dead offers a novel – and noble – reason for this party of five to have come to the woods: They are there to help Mia (Levy) kick her heroin habit, cold turkey. Thus, when Mia starts behaving oddly and insists they must get out there, her companions chalk it up to withdrawal symptoms. How can she possibly convince them that while running away from the evil presence in the cabin she was raped by a tree in the woods?

All this is unleashed, of course, when Eric (Pucci) goes into the cabin’s concealed basement and opens a book that’s been secured shut with barbed wire and flesh – a tome that followers of Raimi’s original will recognize as the Necronomicon. In his first feature film, Uruguayan director and co-scriptwriter Fede Alvarez demonstrates a fertile imagination and talent for delivering squirm-inducing images of body mutilations and other atrocities. A nail gun, an electric carving knife from the kitchen counter, even a chainsaw all have their moments in the spotlight as automatic weapons. What this new entry lacks, which the original films had in spades, is tongue-in-cheek humor – despite the fact that Diablo Cody (Juno) has a screenwriting credit on this and was presumably brought in to punch up the dialogue. Evil Dead, however, accomplishes what it sets out to do: scare viewers silly and uphold a tradition.

For an interview with Fede Alvarez, see "Evil Dead Rises Again," April 5.

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