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‘Evil Dead’

by Giovanni Fazio

When Sam Raimi’s low-budget splatter flick “The Evil Dead” emerged in 1983, it had the same sort of queasy impact you get when you hear a thud and feel something dragging under your tires. “The Evil Dead” was a terrifying and ghoulish film like no other, a signpost of sorts, marking new territory on horror’s fringe. Whatever you thought was possible with gruesome special effects at that point — a boundary delineated by some combination of “The Exorcist,” “Dawn of the Dead,” “Alien” and “Suspiria” — Raimi surpassed it with a fiendish glee.

The film originally received an “X” rating in the States and was banned in several countries due to its squirm-inducing gore, which included eye-gouging, brain explosion and a possessed woman biting off her own hand. But what was once fringe is now the norm, and the remake, “Evil Dead,” is if anything more extreme, but with only an “R” rating to show for it. Of course, the ratings board tends to be more indulgent of major-studio product than it is with indies, but the reality is that gore is all-too common nowadays: The splatter here is probably equaled by TV series “The Walking Dead,” although the sheer amount of it and the use of close-ups make “Evil Dead” a much tougher watch.

Director Fede Alvarez’s version hews pretty close to the original: Five friends gather for a weekend in a remote cabin in a dark forest. One dude (Lou Taylor Pucci) finds a witchy looking book with all sorts of blood-red warnings scrawled over it, and like so many characters in horror films, displays zero common sense and reads out loud an incantation that some previous reader has quite clearly warned will summon demons. (And perhaps the Darwin Award aspect of horror films is why we don’t mind seeing such stupidity punished.)

Evil Dead (Shiyo no Harawata)
Rating
Director Fede Alvarez
Run Time 91 minutes
Language English

The demon arrives, possessing one girl (Jane Levy) and moving on to control the others when they are bitten or killed. The only way to stop the possessed is to burn, dismember or bury them alive. Let the fun begin.

Alvarez adds some back-story to the mysterious cabin and why the friends are gathering there, and he throws one or two curveballs near the end, but for the most part it’s the same movie, right down to the zooming demon-cam and controversial rape-by-foliage scene. Whether it’s scary or not is hard to say, since the suspense factor is zero if you are familiar with the original and know what’s coming next.

What I can say is that I’m glad I didn’t have lunch first. When a demon-possessed girl licks a box cutter and cleaves her tongue in half, or when another starts using a nail gun on her boyfriend’s arm, it’s relentlessly graphic. The filmmakers seem to revel in showing you every stomach-churning detail, and it’s likely you won’t want to use an electric carving knife anytime soon. This sort of stuff is scary as hell the first few times you encounter it; after that it’s either just nauseating, or you come out the other side and find it amusingly absurd.

When one demon-woman appears nude, it’s interesting to note that her nipples have been airbrushed out; apparently showing a woman’s breasts will corrupt young minds, while showing her legs getting hacked off with a chainsaw is just fine. Words fail me.