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‘Evil Dead’ reanimated: Power tools trump cast in remake

Apr. 5, 2013 - 08:23AM   |  
Actress Jane Levy is seen in a scene from "Evil Dead."
Actress Jane Levy is seen in a scene from "Evil Dead." (Sony-TriStar Pictures via AP)
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‘Evil Dead’

Rated R for intensely splatterific violence and gore.

Other than the fact that modern technology allows horror filmmakers to create far more realistic special effects than were possible 30 years ago, there’s no real reason we need a remake of “Evil Dead.”

After all, the original 1981 film and its sequels, “Evil Dead II” (1987) and “Army of Darkness” (1992) — which brought writer-director Sam Raimi to fanboy attention and made a cult hero of Bruce Campbell — are still beloved today.

But pointless sequels are a major Hollywood cash cow, and it’s not difficult to fathom why Raimi, who co-produced this film with Campbell, would jump at the chance to do it up again with a far beefier budget than the threadbare shoestring on which he made his original.

There’s no Ash this time around, but the basic trappings remain the same: Five friends staying in a remote cabin in the woods find an ancient book of incantations that, when spoken aloud, summon up a nasty, skanky demon that sets about killing them in creatively gruesome ways.

In the original, the five were simply looking to party during college spring break. Here, a graver purpose is at hand: Four of the friends are staging a middle-of-nowhere intervention for the fifth in an effort to help her kick a stubborn heroin habit.

Mia (Jane Levy) is the addict. The others are her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez), his girl Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) and their friends, geeky Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) and bossy Olivia (Jessica Lucas).

Not an A-lister in the bunch; their résumés brim with bit parts in TV series. No matter. The real stars turn out to be an electric meat carver, a nail gun and a chainsaw, in that order. (A box cutter, a huge hypodermic needle, a hammer and a shotgun also put in excellent cameos.)

The touchstone, of course, is that darn book. They find it soon after their arrival when they go down into the dark basement to investigate a funky smell that turns out to be many small, rotting animal carcasses strung up in ritualistic style.

As if that weren’t enough warning to high-tail it out of there, they find the book wrapped in barbed wire, a pretty good sign that someone considered it really bad juju.

But Eric’s nerdy curiosity gets the best of him. He busts it open, then speaks some of the verbiage aloud. Before you can say “Linda Blair,” a demon is flying through the woods and up Mia’s dress. You read that right.

And so the carnage begins, with the demon possessing and spurring them on to acts of bizarre mayhem. I won’t spill details … oh, all right, just a taste: One character slices [gender pronoun redacted] own face off.

For a good while, the film actually holds back on the blatant gore, as writer-director Fede Alvarez — making his feature-film debut after being handpicked by Raimi — piles on effectively spooky touches that riff off the intense creepiness of the demon.

But in the final half-hour, those power tools come into play, as they must, and the deliriously over-the-top frenzy of bloodletting begins in earnest.

Alvarez lovingly photographs these scenes, and the gut-churning results simultaneously pay homage to, send up and push the boundaries of Raimi’s vision.

It always feels weird to praise such twisted fare, but the splatter genre either speaks to you or doesn’t. If you’re one of the legions who hears those strange voices, the new “Evil Dead” will not disappoint.

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