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SXSW – EVIL DEAD (review)

Review by Todd Sokolove
Evil Dead
Produced by Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Robert Tapert  
Screenplay by Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues, Diablo Cody  
Based on The Evil Dead by Sam Raimi 
Directed by Fede Alvarez 
Starring Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Jessica Lucas, 
Lou Taylor Pucci, Elizabeth Blackmore
Ghost House Pictures, FilmDistrict / Rated R

I walked into this new Evil Dead completely at peace with the whole thing, but it surely didn’t start that way.

Like so many other fans of Sam Rami’s cult classic (not to mention sequels and legacy in everything from video games to off-Broadway), I thought this remake would be very, very ungroovy.

Regardless of the participation of the original filmmakers, how can you possibly redo the original’s tone? Why would you even attempt it? Would this new Horror moviegoing audience even appreciate it, even if sticking true to the original?

While the later question is a tad early to predict, all other concerns are moot.  Evil Dead is a bloody brilliant update celebrating and sometimes exceeding its predecessor.

And if you’re still asking who the new Ash is, you’re asking the wrong questions.

This is a remake that is slick enough to go for the experience, while staying close to core plot elements, and smart enough to stay away from what could never be improved. In other words, there is only one Groovy Bruce.  Ash is in the film, but in spirit. (That said, stick around to the very, very end of the credits for the cherry on the sundae).

Like the original, friends go to a cabin in the woods, invoke ancient demon spirits and repeatedly suffer the consequences. Although there is a tad more expository set-up of the characters, the film plays out its Grand-Guignol just as gory, if not even more grotesque than the Rami film.

Practical effects are done in favor of CGI, and done with guts and gusto. Make that literally, as far as the guts are concerned.

One would think after Cabin in the Woods there’s nowhere left to take the conventions of this particular genre of Horror film. But, Evil Dead takes it to a whole other level by exploding expectations from audiences with ghoulish pleasure. Strict fans will be on their feet cheering at the intensity of it all, while more casual horror moviegoers will certainly be shocked. The movie builds to a violent crescendo that neither of them will have expected, which is all one could ask for.

Just as some of the best horror directors recognized the thin line between comedy and horror, director Fede Alvarez uses dialogue as comic relief from time to time, but never goes camp. Sam Raimi went in a more comedic direction for Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn and even more comedic with Army of Darkness. In the remake, there’s no need for camp, nor is there room for it. Just good old fashioned terror.

Evil Dead arrives in theaters on April 5th, 2013
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