Running Time: 91 mins.
Premise: A group of friends gather in a cabin in the woods to help their drug-dependent friend go through detox, but all hell breaks loose when they unleash an ancient demon by reading from the Book of the Dead.
Behind-the-Scenes: One of the few remakes that actually has the blessing of the original's creators - Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell are credited as producers. Director Fede Alvarez shot to instant fame by shooting a remarkable 5-minute short called Panic Attack for about $100. Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody did some work on the script.
The Good: You want your horror films bloody? It doesn't get much bloodier than this. The practical gore effects give horror movie junkies their money's worth. The original Evil Dead was shot in 1981 on a shoestring budget, so it's nifty to see this story get the big studio-financed treatment. Alvarez, who also co-wrote the screenplay, knows how to ratchet up the tension in scare scenes and manages to make his version different enough so it can stand apart from Raimi's film. Suburgatory's Jane Levy gives an impressive, dedicated performance as the possessed Mia. She's the only cast member who really makes much of an impression. At 91 minutes, the movie is lean and mean, without a minute wasted.
The Bad: Despite the online geek love showered on the film after some initial screenings, I walked out disappointed. It lacks the humor of Raimi's original, which would become more pronounced in Evil Dead II, as well as Raimi's go-for-broke visual inventiveness. The presence of Campbell's Ash character is sorely missing - this Evil Dead needed someone, anyone to step up and command the screen. I'm not sure who you get to replace Campbell, or if there's even anyone who could fit the bill (Ryan Reynolds about 10 years ago, maybe?), but they should have at least tried. There is a difference between crazy gory (Raimi's Evil Dead, Peter Jackson's Dead Alive) and sadistic gory (Hostel), and, unfortunately, too much of this new film falls on the sadistic gory side, which is typical for most modern horror movies. I think you lose some of the "fun" if the mayhem on screen has that ick factor. I can't believe this actually got by the MPAA with an R-rating intact.
Should You See It?: For Dead-ites only. If you're not already a fan of Raimi's Evil Dead films, you can avoid. If you go though, stick around for the end credits. I just hope the sequel, if there is one, amps up the comedy.
Rating: **1/2 out of 5 stars.