Evil Dead (2013)
Rated R for strong bloody violence and gore, some sexual content and language. One hour, 31 minutes.
Publication date: Apr. 5, 2013
Review by Peter Canavese
Based on Sam Raimi's charmingly raggedy 1981 debut film "The Evil Dead" (infamously funded by Detroit dentists and doctors), Fede Alvarez's cover version is a different beast. Whereas Raimi's initial "Evil Dead" gave off a sense of its filmmaker's irrepressible fun in making it, Alvarez's version gives off a vibe of ruthless efficiency, establishing its cred with the grimy grottiness modern viewers expect from remade '70s and '80s horror films, before moving on to gonzo horror with astonishingly disgusting imagery.
The new "Evil Dead" also lays out its bona fides for Raimi fans, both onscreen and off. (Raimi, longtime confederate Rob Tapert and "The Evil Dead" star Bruce Campbell produced the remake.) The basic plot remains the same: Five friends abscond to a cabin in the woods, where a book of the dead unleashes demons determined to possess their souls and thereby unleash apocalypse. And Alvarez crams the movie with reverential references to the original (from Raimi's "flying" camera move to a post-credits stinger that fans had better stick around for).
The script by Uruguayans Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues, with an American polish by Diablo Cody ("Juno"), adds a layer of psychodrama by making two of the characters siblings. Mia (Jane Levy) needs a getaway to recover her sobriety after a recent near-fatal overdose, which keeps her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) and friends Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), Olivia (Jessica Lucas) and Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) worrisomely watchful. When high school teacher Eric curiously reads aloud from the skin-bound book he finds in the cabin, a "taker of souls" comes out to bring fresh hell.
As newly plotted, the story looks at the fine line between heroism and stupidity, while suggesting an allegorical conflation of actual demons and the "demons" of addiction, and how easy it can be to innocently open the door to agents of evil. Mostly, though, this movie is about ruptured flesh and raining blood.
Alvarez's approach evokes not only "The Evil Dead," but the freaky-deakiness of "The Exorcist" and the outré "buckets of blood" stylization of pictures like "Suspriria" and "Carrie." Obviously, what Alvarez's "Evil Dead" inevitably lacks is originality, though it does announce the arrival of a highly competent artiste of gore, for those who like that sort of thing.
Gore fans and "Evil Dead" fans are likely to agree that, in an age where "PG-13" rules the multiplex, this horror picture delivers the goods. It easily qualifies as one of the most audaciously revolting movies ever made, one that keeps daring you not to look away. It may not be my idea of fun, but if it leads to a rumored return for Campbell in a Raimi-led follow-up, then we can talk.