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“Evil Dead” brings cult classic scares to a new generation

Actress Jane Levy plays the female lead Mia in "Evil Dead," the remake of the 1981 cult classic of the same name. (MCT CAMPUS)
Actress Jane Levy plays the female lead Mia in “Evil Dead,” the remake of the 1981 cult classic of the same name. (MCT CAMPUS)

In 1981, writer/director Sam Raimi came up with the horror story of five friends locked in a cabin in the woods. With that plot, a rumored $375,000 and gallons of red corn syrup, Raimi created a film that would not only be adored but also mirrored in other horror hits for over 30 years. Its cult audience has praised it for being funny for its corny acting and laughable plot holes, but shuddered at its scary visuals and shock value. It spawned two equally classic sequels (“Evil Dead 2” and “Army Of Darkness”) along with the careers of Raimi and actor Bruce Campbell. Whether the proud cult audience cheered or cried out in agony over the fact that Hollywood was remaking the film is irrelevant, because a modern “Evil Dead” seems appropriate now more than ever. The horror movie business has gone through the rise and fall of ‘torture porn’ in the likes of “Saw”, “Hostel” and “The Collector.” From there came the rise of handheld-camera scares like “[Rec]”, “Paranormal Activity” and “The Blair Witch Project” that brought back the scare of what’s lurking in the dark waiting behind your back. So where does “Evil Dead” fit into all of this? Right in the middle since the remake is an enjoyable hybrid of the two.

Relatively new writer/director Fede Alvarez teams with his writing partner Rodo Sayagues, and Oscar-winning screenwriter, Diablo Cody to bring us five new kids on a getaway from the world. This time, it is to help former cocaine addict Mia (Jane Levy) kick her addiction. Mia’s brother David (Shiloh Fernandez), his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore), his friends Olivia (Jessica Lucas) and Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) bring Mia out to Mia and David’s family cabin for the first time since their mother died. The group agrees to not let Mia leave the cabin until her detox is over even though she is not in the best mood. When the group discovers a basement it has never seen before, Eric notices a book wrapped in wire and is tempted to open it. He reads a passage from the book thinking nothing will come of it. Little does he know that he summons something in the woods that is looking for a soul to latch on. Whatever great evil moves in the woods,  sees Mia and finds its calling. From there, the possessed Mia tests her human counterparts to survive the night or die in the woods, where there is no escape.

Now it is pretty safe to assume that most of this movie’s budget was spent on gross-looking corn syrup, just as it was in the original film. However, this blood fest will creep you out in more ways than one. Big credit is due to Levy, going from sitcom star (ABC’s “Suburgatory”) to demonic creeper. She is possessed for most of the movie, and she is truly terrifying. Partial credit is due to the makeup department for creating a truly gruesome version of Mia, but Levy herself sells her role as demon-looking to torture the mind and body of these mortals. The things that come out of her mouth (both in speech and in grotesque liquid substance) will make you shiver. Fernandez’s David is clearly Bruce Campbell’s Ash; the logical but still scared-as-hell male lead who can’t make heads or tails of the situation. Pucci’s Eric, the whole cause of this scenario, is the nerd of the movie and the only one who accepts that what they are dealing with is paranormal. Lucas and Blackmore only play typical victims in the film, but what they do to themselves during their possession is downright disturbing. The script is casual horror fare; screams, random cries of “OH MY GOD,” moments of emotional breakdown and moments the audience is sure to shout “Don’t go in there!” What sticks in your memory in this “Evil Dead” is the same thing that stuck with audiences in the original; the perfect balance of scares that make you jump and the ones that make your stomach churn (see what possessed Mia does with a box cutter and her tongue to test your nerves).

Raimi and Campbell produced this remake, and, since they were with “Evil Dead” since the beginning, they know exactly what the fans will want. Fede Alvarez really sells this picture with the right amount of dark imagery from the very first scene to the film’s “closing” scene (you’ll find that pun funny after you see the movie). What made the original “Evil Dead” was how it was not afraid of overkill, especially when it came to killing characters. The more body parts are damaged, the more blood spewing out of them, the more quakes and creaks in the cabin, the scarier it can be. The remake follows this formula, and, thanks to new technology and a $14,000,000 budget, explores new ways to frighten the audience. Both versions are a loving tribute to the lack of limitations of a B-movie and revels in the fact that it does not let up. There are plenty of references to the original film, but it is not required to see it if you want a real scare. Just wrap your vines around the best horror remake since 2004’s “Dawn of the Dead” even 1986’s “The Fly.” Just see it in daylight; trust me, it helps.

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