Remake stays true to the gory original
There are few genre films as beloved by horror fanatics as Sam Raimi's ultralow-budget 1981 demonic gorefest, Evil Dead, and its two sequels, Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness.
Cult favorites all three, they launched Raimi's career - he ascended to blockbuster status with Spider-Man - and that of his leading man, that most un-Method of actors, B-film hero Bruce Campbell.
The influence of Raimi's films on the genre can't be exaggerated - as recently as 2011, they were reinvoked and saluted in Drew Goddard's masterful, gory love letter to H.P. Lovecraft, The Cabin in the Woods.
Raimi has wanted to update and remake Evil Dead for years. But his fan base went into a collective panic when that possibility became a reality in 2009 when Raimi signed Uruguayan TV commercial director Fede Alvarez to write and direct the picture.
It was blasphemy pure and simple. And we knew, every one of us, that it would be a disaster.
Happily, Raimi, who co-produced the film with Campbell, was right to trust his instincts. Alvarez, who was discovered after posting his brilliant 2009 self-produced YouTube short, Panic Attack!, was the right man for the job.
While it's impossible to surpass the original - so much of its fame is a function of its time - Alvarez's version still manages to measure up.
Alvarez's Evil Dead is about a young woman named Mia (Jane Levy) who is desperate to kick her drug addiction. She asks her estranged brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) and three of their closest friends, Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), Olivia (Jessica Lucas) and Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) to make her go cold turkey by keeping her in her family's remote vacation home, a little cabin in the woods.
Things go very, very wrong when Eric discovers an old, creepy-looking book - it's bound in human skin and wrapped with barbed wire - opens it and begins reading its strange incantations out loud. (I mean, who wouldn't?)
He awakens a demon, and it begins possessing our heroes one by one, tearing them apart in many novel ways. Much blood and gore is generated (even more than you'll anticipate). Like Raimi's original, some of the violence is so over-the-top, you'll find yourself laughing - if you recover from the initial shock.
Alvarez triumphs because he made one crucial decision: Avoid digital animation and use only practical in-camera special effects. He uses every trick from classic Hollywood and invents a few of his own.
It pays off, allowing the actors to react to physical phenomena - of the bone-crunching, arm-sawing sort - which, in turn, makes the audience cringe in horror.
Alvarez is a great new talent to watch.
His Evil Dead will delight Raimi fans, while also giving them a renewed appreciation for the original.
Contact Tirdad Derakhshani at 215-854-2736 or firstname.lastname@example.org.