April 4, 2013
Oh, It’s More Than Just a Flesh Wound
By MANOHLA DARGIS
The remake of “The Evil Dead,” Sam Raimi’s 1981 horror film about a cabin of cult curiosities, doesn’t have the original’s wooden performances, puffy clothes and hairdos or its amusingly crude special effects, but it does share its blood lust. Torrential and somewhat rust colored, the blood in the remake splish-splashes across the screen, spurts out of bodies, soaks into floors and falls from the sky like a biblical portent. If the rivers of red in Mr. Raimi’s movie flowed more like molasses than water, it’s because they were created with food dye and Karo syrup.
The new “Evil Dead” has none of the first movie’s handmade charm or hilarity, intentional or otherwise. (It also lost its “The.”) The director, Fede Alvarez, approaches the creaky material with a surprisingly straight face and a fair amount of throat clearing. Unlike Mr. Raimi, who scarcely bothered with preliminaries, Mr. Alvarez sets the creepy mood with a sacrificial immolation and a basement strung with desiccated cats. When his five souls roll up to their cabin, he continues to keep his foot on the brake with some back story involving Mia (Jane Levy), her drug addiction and issues with her brother, David (Shiloh Fernandez.)
Finally something wicked does come, racing and smashing through the surrounding forest, and Mr. Alvarez, making his feature directing debut, gets his gore on. Taking his cues as much from the Abstract Expressionists as from Mr. Raimi, Mr. Alvarez opens up the book of the dead (bound in human flesh and tied with barbed wire) and makes handy sport with an electric meat knife and a nail gun, among other convenient and preposterous household items. As the plot thickens and the viscera and limbs fly, his mood appreciably lightens, and at least one scene approaches the macabre comedy of the black knight scene in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”
“The Evil Dead” enjoys the reputation of a cult classic, but its more lasting significance is as a cheapie do-it-yourself production that achieved indie success. (New Line Cinema picked it up and squeezed it dry.) The movie made Mr. Raimi’s reputation and set him down a path that led to two “Dead” sequels and eventual blockbuster fame. His star, Bruce Campbell, a puckish presence with a chin as big as an Easter ham, can be seen on the USA Network show “Burn Notice” as well as in an eye-blink fast cameo here. It’s too early to tell if Mr. Alvarez will be able similarly to translate this movie into a lasting career, but one of his stars, Lou Taylor Pucci, deserves a boost.
“Evil Dead” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). Slice and dice, baby.
Opens on Friday nationwide.
Directed by Fede Alvarez; written by Mr. Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues, based on the motion picture written by Sam Raimi; director of photography, Aaron Morton; edited by Bryan Shaw; music by Roque Baños; production design by Robert Gillies; costumes by Sarah Voon; produced by Rob Tapert, Mr. Raimi and Bruce Campbell; released by TriStar Pictures. Running time: 1 hour 31 minutes.
WITH: Jane Levy (Mia), Shiloh Fernandez (David), Lou Taylor Pucci (Eric), Jessica Lucas (Olivia) and Elizabeth Blackmore (Natalie).