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The Independent Critic

STARRING
Lou Taylor Pucci, Elizabeth Blackmore, Jane Levy, Jessica Lucas, Shiloh Fernandez
DIRECTED BY
Fede Alvarez
SCREENPLAY
Fede Alvarez, Diablo Cody, Rodo Sayagues, Sam Raimi
MPAA RATING
Rated R
RUNNING TIME
91 Mins.
DISTRIBUTED BY
TriStar Pictures
DVD EXTRAS
behind-the-scenes featurette; "Being Mia" (the physical and psychological transformation into Evil Mia) and "Directing the Dead." Also, on Blu-ray: commentary with Alvarez, writer Rodo Sayagues and actors Jane Levy, Lou Taylor Pucci and Jessica Lucas; "Unleashing The Evil Force" featurette; "Evil Dead the Reboot" that includes cast rehearsals, Bruce Campbell and Deadites.

 "Evil Dead (2013)" a Less Fun, Far Gorier Concoction 
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I have a confession.

I avoided Evil Dead. Oh sure, I eventually got myself to the theater to catch the film for review purposes. Earlier this week, the film had a promo screening in Indianapolis for a select audience and Indy film critics. I was all scheduled to go with my pass in hand, but after a day of feeling completely rotten and feeling particularly beat up I just couldn't quite get myself to go experience what I knew would be 90+ minutes of relentless gore and violence.

Good decision.

When I finally calmed down my life a bit and got myself to the theater, I was greeted with exactly the film I expected from a film being marketed as "The most terrifying film you will ever experience."

For the record, it's not. Terrifying, I mean. It's scary in spots. It's certainly one of the gorier films I've ever seen. I'll even be honest and say that I hid my eyes in places. But, terrifying? Um. I don't think so.

It's hard to be terrified when director Fede Alvarez has crafted some of the dumber characters in recent horror film history and dropped them smack dab in the middle of this redo of Sam Raimi's lower budgeted, more tongue-in-cheek original Evil Dead. This isn't really a sequel, nor is it actually a traditional remake. Instead, it's along the lines of a re-imagining of Raimi's creation taking quite a few of the original film's familiar elements and setting them within a different yet similar story.

Oh, and upping the gore a LOT.

To his credit, Alvarez actually gives us just a tiny bit more of a story. Raimi didn't really bother with much of a set up in the 1981 original, a film that isn't a classic because it's a great film but because it's such a fun awful one. That might be a crucial thing to remember while watching this film, a film that isn't particularly awful nor is it destined to become a classic anytime soon. The simple story involves the drug addicted Mia (Jane Levy) heading off to an isolated cabin with her brother (Shiloh Fernandez) and friends (Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas and Elizabeth Blackmore) to end her addiction cold turkey.

As far as set-ups go for potential horror, I've certainly heard of worse. On the flip side, as a critic who pays a lot of attention to indie horror I've also seen two other indie horror films recently with the exact same set-up.

Before long, we have Lou Taylor Pucci wrecklessly opening the human flesh-bound "Book of the Dead" and even more wrecklessly reading its passages despite ample warnings not to do so. This ain't gonna' be pretty.

Evil Dead certainly isn't the first horror film to set a group of young adults inside a cabin of horrors, but it's certainly one of the goriest. It's easy to understand why Raimi supported this Alvarez concoction, reportedly birthed out of Raimi's having seen an Alvarez short film and contacting the up-and-coming filmmaker. While Evil Dead isn't targeted at folks like me, I am a pacifist after all, the folks it is targeting (gorehounds) will find much to enjoy here.

While the gore is excessive, it's also at times quite inventively done and meant to shock. Read that again. It's meant to shock. There's a difference between "meant to shock" and "exploitation," and Alvarez seems to get that difference. There's an intentionally in Evil Dead that will still be mind-numbing for those averse to violent films, but it's sort of easier to detach from a film like this one because it's pretty apparent early on in the film that Alvarez is out to simply invent new and creative ways to show violence rather than to exploit the characters in the film.

While Evil Dead doesn't quite have the wooden performances from Raimi's original, they're nothing to write home about with the potential exception of a quite good Lou Taylor Pucci. It feels a bit odd to see the young actor in this film, having primarily witnessed him in more indie fare like The Music Never Stopped, but it's sort of like when Elizabeth Olsen did a horror flick last year - it took an average horror flick and made it better.

A certain familiar actor also makes a "blink and you'll miss it" cameo in this film, and Alvarez does a terrific job of tossing in enough references to the relatively beloved original that fans of that film will likely guffaw while those non-familiar with that film will look at them irritatingly because they're disrupting the violence.

I didn't hate Evil Dead, mostly because I think the film is accomplishing exactly, or close to exactly, what it sets out to accomplish. This film is good enough that it's likely to get most folks who watch it and are unfamiliar with the original film rushing home to watch Raimi's version.

That's a good thing. It's a better film. Nah, that's not right. It's a worse film, but it's a more entertaining film.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic
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