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11 Apr 2013

Relax, 'Evil Dead' Fans: The Remake's OK

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Jane Levy in Evil Dead. Jane Levy in Evil Dead.

I’m disappointed that I didn’t see any 2 percent milk or creamed corn shooting out of zombie faces in the new Evil Dead. Sam Raimi, who directed the original schlock-fest, famously used those two foods in some of his gorier sequences—and it was gloriously disgusting.

The Evil Dead remake is a totally different animal from Raimi’s deranged original and its beloved sequels Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness. It’s a far-more-polished movie that’s prettier than any of those films, with pretty people and pretty makeup.

That said, I wasn’t completely crazy about this new take on this old story, but as a fan of the original Evil Dead, I felt this was a worthy entry, and a nice jumping-off point for a new Evil Dead series of movies. It’s the best of the Evil Dead films when considering sheer quality—but it’s the worst regarding the fun factor.

I didn’t have the kind of sick fun I had while watching Evil Dead 2, nor did I have that sense of total doom I suffered while forcing the original The Evil Dead into my eyes. Director Fede Alvarez, making his feature debut, has made a humorless film, for the most part. He also pusses out in a few key moments toward the end, which left me feeling a sense of relief … which is something I don’t want to be feeling when watching a serious Evil Dead movie.

There’s no Ash (Bruce Campbell) along for the main story this time out. The central character is Mia (Jane Levy), a heroin addict taken to a remote cabin by friends and family to detox. The group eventually finds their way into the basement, where they discover the infamous book that one shouldn’t read aloud. Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) does just that; the forest does bad, invasive things to Mia; and things go downhill fast.

I liked Eric and Mia, but wasn’t too crazy about David (Shiloh Fernandez), Mia’s brother. He’s a poorly written character, a mopey guy who failed to get me to root for him. This is where Alvarez (who co-wrote the script with a couple of folks, most notably Diablo Cody) could’ve given us just a little Ash-circa-Evil Dead II-attitude.

The other actresses (Elizabeth Blackmore and Jessica Lucas) are just there to have bad things happen to them. Blackmore has an especially harrowing sequence with an electric carving knife, while Lucas takes shaving a little too far with a broken mirror shard.

I will say this for the new Evil Dead: Its gore effects are spectacular. There are a lot of old-school, practical makeup effects, and some true freak-out moments. When CGI is employed, it’s done well, but the stuff that will stick with you is plain-old-fashioned gooey stuff.

Levy and Pucci put this one over the top. They are very good, and their characters work in the Evil Dead universe. Fernandez is the film’s biggest flaw; somebody with more charisma or likeability would’ve served the film better.

Hey … it’s rare we get a good horror film these days. I’m putting the new Evil Dead just below Mama and Sinister as mildly recommended. Like the remake of The Hills Have Eyes, this remake doesn’t necessarily damage the legacy of the original (which happened with Rob Zombie’s terrible Halloween films).

So, Evil Dead fans: Breathe a sigh of relief. It’s not great, but it’s not a disaster. And make sure to stay through the credits for a nice little treat.

Evil Dead is playing in theaters across the valley.

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