'Evil Dead' gets a gory remake

Going cold turkey is always rough, but for Jane Levy, this is particularly bad.
Going cold turkey is always rough, but for Jane Levy, this is particularly bad. (cold turkey is always rough, but for Jane Levy, this is particularly bad.)
Posted: April 05, 2013

THE ORIGINAL "Evil Dead" is a bit like the "Big Lebowski" of horror movies - exalted by dedicated websites and fan clubs, celebrated at festivals.

Fans love its unique blend of horror and slapstick, the latter either intentional or a product of the movie's extreme low budget - the movie was a true independent that Sam Raimi, then 20, produced, directed and financed (via friends) himself.

The 1982 movie is regarded today with a cheerful fondness, augmented by fans' love of the sequels, including the overtly comic "Army of Darkness" ten years later.

All of which brings us to the new remake of the "Evil Dead," commissioned by Raimi (who still owns all the rights), and handed to Uruguayan director Fede Alvarez, whose vision for the re-launch is more gruesome than the franchise fans now celebrate.

It's a full-on horror movie, and one that owes more to William Friedkin's "The Exorcist" than to anything Raimi has done (possible exception: "Drag Me to Hell").

It's from the "Exorcist" that Alvarez gets the idea of grounding the movie in a serious reality - the "Exorcist" played on secular/religious tensions (and every parent's understandable fear of their own moody teenager).

In the "Evil Dead" reboot, five friends go to a cabin in the woods, but they are - atypically - not there to waste time and get high. In fact, the very sober purpose of the retreat is getting clean - the remote location has been carefully chosen as the site of a cold-turkey withdrawal for a young woman (Jane Levy) whose recent closecalls with an OD have led her brother (Shiloh Fernandez) and friends to take these extreme measures.

Elements from the original remain - the cabin contains an accursed, occult book, and when it is opened and read it unleashes a spirit, that, as it happens, inhabits and possesses the girl in the throes of withdrawal.

In the confusion - is she enduring withdrawal or something else? - Alvarez has room to sustain his premise while pushing the movie into gorier regions, before accelerating to a violent bloodbath.

Again, it's not funny, in that Sam Raimi way. And there is no wild card in the cast, like Bruce Campbell. The Stooges-style laughs are few and far between (though there are in-joke visual gags for buffs), and the movie has the modern taste for clinical dismemberment and shock. I don't mind seeing a girl go on a stabbing rampage with a hypo, but must she first lose control of her bowels?

This is really not my cup of tea, but I like the way Alvarez grounds the movie, controls the tone and keeps track of his ideas from beginning to end (watch out for jumper cables!). So does Raimi, who's already hired him for the sequel.

Blog: philly.com/KeepItReel