POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Apr 5, 2013
Relentless, pitiless, bloody and intense — that's the remake of Sam Raimi's "The Evil Dead."
But is this "Evil Dead" (they dropped the "The" in the title) any good? Yes and no. It has genuinely hair-raising moments, and presents, for your edification and enjoyment, some of the most graphic horror violence ever presented on the screen.
But Fede Alvarez's homage lacks the offhanded goofiness, the brittle jokes of young people, in that wooded cabin, facing death at the hands of something supernatural. Sure, they're scared, and some of the cast of this new "Dead" — Jessica Lucas and Elizabeth Blackmore, in particular — get across what utter terror feels like. But the sardonic wit is lost in a sea of blood and guts.
Above all else, this "Dead" misses Bruce Campbell, who graduated from "The Evil Dead" and its sequels to become a B-movie icon.
The setup is similar. Friends and family of Mia (Jane Levy) have dragged her to a remote cabin to clean her up and get her off drugs. Her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez), who rarely sees her, is a reluctant intervener. But he's brought his new girlfriend (Blackmore) along, because nothing bonds a couple like detoxing one's sister.
The nurse Olivia (Lucas) and bookish schoolteacher Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) are there to help, though there's friction because David, a big-city mechanic, hasn't been involved in any of their lives. And here they are, caring enough to clean up a mess he should deal with himself.
There's a stench in the semi-trashed cabin. It turns out there isn't room to swing a dead cat in the basement because it's full of dead cats. We've seen the prologue. We know what's coming.
They've only seen the dead cats. But that would be enough to make a sane person leave. Which they don't.
That gives bookish Eric a chance to find the skin-covered book of witch curses and spells, and to stir up The Other Side. Mia is menaced and possessed by the forest, and the others are injured, brutalized and tested by their first encounter with the supernatural.
The makeup effects, with piercings, scalding, dismemberments and the like, are spectacular. You will believe that's a human face, peeled off with a sharp object. Characters are chased through the woods and through the cabin. They reach for the camera and are yanked back out of the frame, a favorite horror movie trick these days.
And occasionally you feel something for the dead and the doomed. None develop real empathy, and when we do mourn, we do simply because nobody deserves their fate. David, in particular, is underdeveloped and blandly played in spite of all the trauma happening around the character.
That transforms "Evil Dead" from a cut-rate romp through horror conventions into a by-the-book bloodbath, not the sort of film that invites a cult following the way Raimi and Campbell did back in 1981.
Roger Moore, McClatchy Newspapers