Movie review: 'Evil Dead' remake pure overkill

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Sam Raimi's 1981 cult indie-horror classic "The Evil Dead" and its smarter, cooler follow-up, "Evil Dead II" from 1987, are the Rosetta Stone for the hack-and-splatter crowd.

If you want to know how to make a movie about a bunch of young idiots who think it's a good idea to camp out in a creepy cabin in an even creepier part of the woods and release some soul-swallowing spirit -- and do it all with a biting (pun intended) sense of humor -- these are your go-to guides.

But, except for those just looking at the bottom line, there was no need for a remake.


'Evil Dead'

2.5 stars = Average
Ratings explained

  • Starring:

    Shiloh Fernandez, Jane Levy, Lou Taylor Pucci.

  • Rating:

    R for strong bloody violence, gore, some sexual content, strong language.


Yet that's exactly what we get in "Evil Dead," a bigger-budget "re-imagining" with Mr. Raimi as producer and upstart Uruguayan filmmaker Fede Alvarez (whose short "Panic Attack" became something of an underground sensation) directing and co-writing. Diablo Cody, of "Juno" fame, also is listed as a writer.

"Evil Dead" is an efficient, exceedingly grisly horror film that goes places that Mr. Raimi could only dream of in the '80s when he was working with $5 and a bottle of ketchup. And there are some clever nods to the original thrown in that probably will sail right over the heads of anyone not familiar with it.

Yet, without the low-rent cheesiness and the hint of horseplay that made the originals so enjoyable, "Evil Dead" becomes a numbing exercise in overkill. Literally.

The setup this time is that five friends have gotten together in this remote location to help one of them -- Mia (Jane Levy) -- kick her substance-abuse problem.

She's doing it cold turkey and what better way than in a place with no distractions? The friends include her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) and even someone with medical training, Olivia (Jessica Lucas).

But it's Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) who finds the dusty Book of the Dead in the cabin and, despite the explicit warnings that nothing from it should be read aloud without dire consequences, proceeds to read from it.

Faster than you can say "Have you guys never seen a horror movie before?" a demon is unleashed that initially takes possession of Mia before moving on to others.

It's all delivered with the requisite scares as Mr. Alvarez often effectively ramps up the tension.

Yet, after awhile, it's hard to care too much about what's going on as the bloodletting escalates into bloodbath and "Evil Dead" becomes less a film and more of an exercise in shock tactics.

No doubt, "Evil Dead" will please the hard-core gore fans. But anyone who prefers their jolts with tongues firmly in cheek instead of bloodily on the outside should stick with "Evil Dead 1.0."

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