MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Evil Dead’ vulgar, gruesome fun

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First Posted: 4/8/2013

Ever since it was announced about a decade ago, I’ve been dreading the arrival of the “Evil Dead” remake. Not because I thought it would be a desecration or a travesty or whatever word looks more powerful on a message board when the caps button is violently abused, but because I knew the indignant, pig-like shrieks from the fan community would be deafening.

I wasn’t looking forward to having my face covered in angry nerd spittle as I was yet again pointlessly reminded that an “Evil Dead” remake is unnecessary because “The Evil Dead 2” was already a remake of the Sam Raimi original or that you can’t make an “Evil Dead” movie without Bruce Campbell or his Ash character. But like all angry nerds who get upset over films they have yet to see, they really should have kept their spittle to themselves because the new “Evil Dead” isn’t bad. In fact, it’s pretty good. Is it as good as the original? Not really. But it isn’t an insult, and nowadays, that’s good enough.

Basically playing like “Cabin in the Woods” without the post-modern elements or Joss Whedon’s annoying tendency to make all of his characters sound like Joss Whedon, “Evil Dead” takes place, not surprisingly, in an abandoned cabin in the woods where Shiloh Fernandez, along with three of his friends, stage an intervention for his junkie sister (played, almost incredibly, by “Suburgatory’s” Jane Levy). As Levy detoxes, a barbed wire-bound copy of “The Book of the Dead” is uncovered and read aloud because that’s what people do when they find a book that’s bound in barbed wire, filled with illustrations of flayed corpses and carrying a handwritten warning on every other page that basically commands you to not read any of this aloud or otherwise. At any rate, an ancient evil is unleashed, Levy is possessed, and her friends are either horribly murdered or covered in mounds of bloody vomit. You know how it goes.

As beloved as the original “Evil Dead” was and will forever remain, the film wasn’t much more than an elaborate show reel: a directorial calling card that was basically Raimi’s way of saying, “Hey, look what I can do.” It was a triumph of style over substance. And for that reason alone, it’s understandable why the remake’s director Fede Alvarez wanted to flesh out the story beyond “five people get murdered to pieces by demons in the middle of the woods.” Unfortunately, he failed.

Even though Alvarez ratchets up the familial tensions between Fernandez and Levy, the characters are just as empty and personality deficient as the ones found in the original “Evil Dead” (the exception being Ash, but that had more to do with Campbell’s natural charisma).

But then, people aren’t going to see this for subtle character development or one woman’s courageous battle against addiction. People are going to see this for the gore, and “Evil Dead” really delivers on that count. In fact, “Evil Dead” has to be one of the most intensely gory horror films that’s ever been given a widespread release. There are loving close-up shots of tongues being split in two by box cutters, needles jabbed into eyes and of a veritable Rainbow Coalition of vomit going hither, thither, and yon. It’s intense and not for everybody.

But if you are one of those people who can’t stand the sight of blood and guts, take heart – you still get to watch TV’s sweet, snarky Tessa Altman shriek, “Your little sister is being raped in Hell,” and other vulgarities. If you don’t think that’s not a good enough reason to watch this movie, you might as well lay down because you’re already dead.

Rating: W W W