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'Evil Dead' review: Groovy reboot fuses brutal gore with tense twists

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Released on Monday, Apr 15 2013

Director: Fede Alvarez; Screenwriters: Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues; Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci; Running time: 91 mins; Certificate: 18


After Joss Whedon's superb Cabin in the Woods mercilessly satirised the horror genre's outmoded conventions, the omens were not good for Fede Alvarez's reboot/remake of Sam Raimi's acclaimed 1981 shocker. Yet the results are very impressive, providing a bold, brilliant and blood-splattered twist on the gory original - albeit without the same groovy level of macabre fun permeating the foggy woodland air.

The basic premise remains the same, as a group of five friends discover the Book of the Dead in a remote cabin and inadvertently summon a demonic force to terrorise them. The focus is on Mia (the terrific Jane Levy), a drug addict forced to go cold turkey by her friends, with this cleverly executed plot addition causing folks to believe her 'possession' is withdrawal symptoms. Plenty of visually inventive dismemberments follow, as the evil spreads and the cabin-dwellers battle for survival as the gripping tale unfolds. Yes, a chainsaw is involved.

Shiloh Fernandez, Jessica Lucas in Evil Dead
The infamous 'tree rape' scene has been given an update, with poor Mia the recipient of the most gruesome vaginal insertion since Big Brother housemate Kinga picked up a wine bottle in 2005. This sequence, along with the other stunning shocks, hugely benefit from the decision to spurn CGI in favour of physical, on-set effects.

In combination with the sturdy cast's solemn performances and credible dialogue, reportedly rewritten by an uncredited Diablo Cody, this helps to sell the peril and immerse viewers into the grisly scenario.

Evil Dead delicately balances paying homage to the movie's low-budget roots and reworking the 1981 movie's plot to ensure fans of the franchise are kept guessing about who will make it out alive. Preserving the legacy, as opposed to the usual horror remake policy of destroying it, was undoubtedly helped by the producers being Sam Raimi, Bruce 'Ash' Campbell and Robert G Tapert - the creative forces behind the original franchise.

Alvarez shows enough flair to suggest a successful directorial career awaits, often channelling Raimi's ethereal POV zooms from the original and bringing out the earthy texture of the woodland environment to fine effect. There are also several nods to Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho within the shot selection, with Bernard Herrmann's celebrated score also being evoked on occasion.

A must-see for horror fans, Evil Dead is great fun from start to finish and establishes the basis for a rejuvenated franchise that could fuse with past demon defiance rather than overwrite the predecessors. Make sure you don't leave until after the end credits for a hint of what might lie ahead...

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