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EVIL DEAD is as evil as original, not as cool…

Posted on April 30th, 2013
Posted on April 30th, 2013

by Coop Cooper

The original “The Evil Dead” (1981) was a little horror picture that could. Despite its ultra low budget and goofy acting, it earned rave reviews from Stephen King and achieved cult status for its relentless carnage, groundbreaking camerawork and sly comedic touches. It’s official sequel “Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn” (1987) – which was actually more of a remake – topped the original in every way and is considered one of the greatest horror comedies ever made. Its final sequel “Army of Darkness” (1992) eclipsed the cult status of the first two as a fantasy action comedy that owed just as much to “The Three Stooges” as it did to the horror genre.

This inevitable modern remake attempts to go back to the gritty roots of the franchise to reinvent itself as a serious, gory horror film that escalates to a frenzied, cringe-worthy climax. While it doesn’t top any of the original films, it succeeds in capturing most of the qualities of the franchise and adds some welcome new elements despite the weak acting and sloppy plotting.

Mia (Jane Levy) has hit rock bottom in her battle against heroin addiction. Her two friends, Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) and Olivia (Jessica Lucas) convince her brother David (Shiloh Hernandez) and his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmoore) to meet them at an old family cabin deep in the woods for a few days to help Mia go cold turkey. At the cabin they find some grisly evidence of foul play and a book bound in human skin, filled with disturbing images and mysterious incantations. When Eric reads aloud from the book, he unleashes a force that possesses Mia and plunges them all into an ever-worsening onslaught of demonic assaults.

While this sounds like the most clichéd setup ever, understand that the original “The Evil Dead” practically invented this ‘cabin in the woods’ subgenre of horror film. It was so influential, and inspired so many rip-offs and spoofs, filmmakers Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon attempted to put the subgenre to rest with their 2012 film “Cabin in the Woods.” While that film cleverly topped any cabin/woods plot ever written, it lacked the visceral horror and scares that this “Evil Dead” remake has legitimately tapped into.

Although the acting here was squarely bland, it is an improvement over the original… minus one iconic actor. Bruce Campbell, star of the original made an entire B-movie career out of playing the caddish anti-hero, Ash, in the original trilogy. Because of it, he is one of the most idolized and beloved character actors of all time. Jane Levy holds her own as this film’s version of Ash but she has a long way to go if she wants to fill Bruce Campbell’s shoes. If Sam Raimi has any say, she might have a chance to.

Sam Raimi (“Spider-Man,” “Oz the Great and Powerful”) directed the original trilogy and produced the remake along with Bruce Campbell. He has recently announced plans to eventually merge the original franchise with the new one. Specifically, he wants to make an “Army of Darkness 2” (essentially “Evil Dead 4”) starring Campbell then also a sequel to the remake starring Levy. Then he plans on teaming up Ash (Campbell) with Mia (Levy) to fight the evil together in a final “Evil Dead” film. Such a thing has never been done before and movie nerds across the world are either cheering this idea as genius or jeering it as idiotic.

While I look forward to seeing them try it, I still would have liked to have seen this current remake go seriously dark and stay there since the funny “Evil Dead” films have already been done. It was still tongue-in-cheek, lapsing into unclever and jarring bouts of cheese that worked in the original but didn’t here. Pretty lame after establishing itself as pure horror in the first two-thirds.

Remember in the “Scream” films where they point out that any character separating themselves from the group always dies? That’s how EVERY character dies in this film. I like my horror movie characters smarter than that. Plus it starts with a random prologue involving hillbillies using witchcraft that never pays off in any meaningful way. I’d like to see a directors cut where that scene is omitted altogether.

One big aspect this film got right is the orchestral score which both pays homage to the music in the previous films, and surpasses them in quality and intensity. The mood is gloomy, the gore is copious, most of the scenes were as intense as anything you’ll see this year and the climax was a jaw-dropping hoot. Although its flaws are glaring, this is a must-see for horror fans.

Rating: 3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

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