MRR Review: "Evil Dead"

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In the much anticipated remake of the 1981 cult-hit horror film, five twenty-something friends become holed up in a remote cabin. When they discover a Book of the Dead, they unwittingly summon up dormant demons living in the nearby woods, which possess the youngsters in succession until only one is left intact to fight for survival.
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MRR Review: "Evil Dead"

-- Rating: R
Length: 91 minutes
Release Date: Apr. 5, 2013
Directed by: Fede Alvarez
Genre: Horror

There are some movies that people think can't be touched. At one point, the original "Evil Dead" might have been considered one of them. When a remake was announced, many people were skeptical, but in the end, the new film really came through to provide a great moviegoing experience for both fans of the original and fans of the horror genre in general.

This version of "Evil Dead" opens with a backwoods family preparing to burn a young girl alive while reading from an ancient book. At first, it seems like the sort of human sacrifice that you'd expect to bring some new evil into the world, but it quickly becomes clear that the girl is possessed, and they're actually trying to banish the demon. The family sets the girl on fire and shoots her in the head, at which point the story jumps to the present day.

From there, the film follows the familiar story of the first "Evil Dead" with a few changes. A group of friends meet in an empty cabin in the middle of the woods, though this time they aren't there to party; the group has come together to help Mia (played by Jane Levy) to detox off an opiate addiction. Upon arriving they find that the cabin has been broken into, and during a brief inspection, Mia's friend Eric (played by Lou Taylor Pucci) finds the book known as the "Naturom Demonto" hidden in the cellar.

Reading from the book, Eric manages to awaken the demons that had possessed the girl in the beginning of the movie. Mia begins hallucinating and tries to escape; unfortunately she manages to wreck her car and is attacked by the demons. She makes her way back to the cabin only to begin attacking her friends. The friends try to subdue her but wind up becoming possessed themselves one by one as the demon tries to claim the five souls it needs to enter our world.

The film has a much stronger horror vibe than most people associate with the "Evil Dead" franchise these days, especially after the amount of comedy that was included in "Army of Darkness." Much of the film is very dark with blood and gore to spare. Despite this, the movie doesn't rely solely on blood and guts to make it scary and is very well written for a horror remake. While it would have been easy for the director to have either followed the comedic trend of the previous film or cash in on the name with buckets of blood, it's obvious that a lot of care went into making the movie as genuinely scary as possible.

Don't think that the focus on straight horror makes "Evil Dead" a weaker film than the original movies, though. Between the demonic possessions and bloody mutilations, there's actually a plot to the film that's probably a bit deeper than any of the previous movies in the franchise. The characters' actions make sense, there's a reason for them all to be there, and the way that they overcome the demons in the end shows that some serious thought was put into making the movie smart and believable despite the amount of blood that shows up on the screen.

One thing that's very interesting about "Evil Dead" is that it is actually only a partial remake of the original film; while there was speculation and rumors early on that Bruce Campbell's character Ash from the original was being reimagined as a girl named Ashley, the final film didn't actually take that direction. The producers, who include both original director Sam Raimi and original star Bruce Campbell, hope to eventually create a film that incorporates both Ash and Mia into a single continuity. That film would theoretically be made after a sequel to this movie as well as a sequel to "Army of Darkness," and, if it comes to pass, will result in this film being not only a remake of the original but also a continuation of the existing franchise.

In the end, if you're looking for a solid horror movie then "Evil Dead" is a must-see. It isn't perfect, but it's a better horror film than a lot of the horror movies being released today. Just don't go into the movie expecting a campy movie like you'd get with "Army of Darkness" or the original "Evil Dead II" because that's not what this remake is offering; while there are definite references to the original films, this one takes itself very seriously and will do its best to scare you out of your seat.

Rated 4 out of 5 stars