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Film Review: Evil Dead

Hope Madden Hope Madden Film Review: Evil Dead
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Back in ’81, tenderhearted Ash and his beloved Linda – both Michigan State fans – hopped in the old Oldsmobile Delta and headed into the Tennessee woods for a relaxing weekend with buddies Scott and Shelly, and Ash’s bitchy sister Cheryl. Oh, the fun they had…

Flash forward, and a new set of vacationers young enough to be Ash and Linda’s own kids (I mean, had Linda survived the weekend) take up the mantle and chainsaw in Evil Dead, director Fede Alvarez’s update on Sam Raimi’s cult favorite.

What Raimi accomplished on a budget of half a shoestring can’t be understated, but Three Stooges-inspired splatter is not what Alvarez is after. His reboot lovingly reworks Raimi’s tale, eliminating nearly all the humor but absolutely none of the bloodletting.

The film throws a bit more story and character development at us. Still we find two couples and one sister holed up in an old cabin, but this time David (Shiloh Fernandez, cute but disappointing), his girlfriend and his buddies are there to help his sister Mia (Jane Levy, exceptional) quit her drug habit.

Though it’s impossible to pick out the contributions of each of the screenwriters updating Raimi’s script, certain elements – like this back story – scream of Diablo Cody, who ingeniously introduces a concept that gives the film potential subtext by way of an unreliable narrator. (Did it all happen this way, or is Mia just insane and detoxing?)

Solid writing and Alvarez’s gleefully indulgent direction allow the film – not only a remake, but a remake of a film that tread the overworn ground of “cabin in the woods horror” – to remain shockingly fresh. This is thanks in part to a handful of inspired tweaks, another handful of very solid performances, and a fearless but never contemptuous eye for carnage.

From the super-creepy opening sequence, Alverez’s update announces its fondness for the source material and his joyous aspiration to stretch that tale to its fullest, nastiest potential. He also shows a real skill for putting nail guns, machetes, hammers, electric meat slicers, hypodermics, even your standard bathroom mirror to fascinating new uses.

Expect a lot of blood.

It’s a quick ride followed by some brief credits, so, you know, don’t be in a rush to leave the theater. For fans of the series, there’s a little gift at the end.

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