“Feast on this, motherf**ker!”
by Glenn Lovell
Sam Raimi’s debut feature “The Evil Dead,” released in 1981, proved more than your run-of-the-charnel-house horror outing because, in its crude way, it successfully melded yocks and shocks. Raimi, then 21, didn’t just thumb his nose at genre conventions with this hilariously demented cult classic, he obliterated them.
The new remake — produced by Raimi and directed by Fede Alvarez from a script he wrote with Diablo Cody — arrives minus the camp humor and ghastly pratfalls. It’s an all-out, balls-to-the-wall fright fest with bonus references to “The Exorcist,” early Cronenberg, “REC” and ‒ all yell, “No, not the saw!” ‒ “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
And when they’re done raiding half the fright classics of the last 40 years, Alvarez and Cody rrr-rip into Raimi’s self-parodic “Evil Dead II,” wherein Bruce Campbell laughed maniacally as he fitted himself with a chainsaw prosthetic.
The results this time around, while, yes, predictable and repetitious, are energetic and definitely not for the squeamish. The oatmeal and cough syrup grue of the original has been replaced by the real deal ‒ shower scaldings, hypos in the eye, graphic lacerations, self-mutilations and, of course, the ever-popular projectile vomiting.
While we’re reviewing the menu … sliced tongue, anyone?
Yup, this one is gruesome beyond the call of duty ‒ back in the day, it would have been branded X for gore.
After a backstory that horror aficionados will liken to Mario Bava’s “Black Sunday,” we once again pull up at a cabin deep in the woods. Only this time we’re not here for R&R but rather an intervention. The troubled Mia (Jane Levy) has a nasty coke dependency. Maybe this time, with no dealer within a hundred miles, she’ll be able to kick the habit.
Watching over Mia are three friends and her brother, David (Shiloh Fernandez). They’re determined to see her through the cramps and hallucinations. That is, until she runs off into the woods and returns battered and bloody, muttering something about being raped by the trees as a drooling witch stood by. As with the original, the creepy doings that follow are tied to a flesh-bound book retrieved from the cellar. What do you bet the “Do not touch this book!” warning goes unheeded.
You know the drill. The secluded cabin is a portal to the netherworld and Beelzebub is plotting his return. The price of a ticket to the mainland isn’t what it used to be. It’s only five souls now.
All you really want to know about “Evil Dead” is: Is it scary? Yes, it is, thanks to Alvarez, who amps up the screams and buzzing-fly score and keeps things moving at a ferocious pace. There’s little time to yell, “Don’t go back in the basement, stupid!” or to chastise Mia’s cabin-mates for their gullibility. I lost count of the number of times David and the others are suckered into believing the thing beneath the trapdoor has been rehabilitated. We can’t be too hard on them, however. Being laughably naive comes with the territory. Remember Marion Crane in “Psycho”?
Check out Alvarez’s award-winning short “Panic Attack!” here. It’s an ambitious variation on “War of the Worlds” and explains why Raimi entrusted the newcomer with this can’t-miss franchise kickoff.
EVIL DEAD With Shiloh Fernandez, Jane Levy, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore. Directed by Fede Alvarez; scripted by Alvarez, Diablo Cody. 91 min. Rated R (for nonstop violence, gruesome makeup effects)