FILM REVIEW: Evil Dead (18)

In 1981, Sam Raimi re-invigorated the horror genre with The Evil Dead, an overtly camp, low-budget journey of terror in the company of five university students who encounter malevolent forces in the Tennessee Hills.

The film’s giddy mix of black humour and extreme violence, including an infamous scene of a girl being sexually assaulted by a tree, bestowed cult status on Raimi’s deliciously twisted vision.

British censors were divided, trimming 49 seconds of excessive gore from the theatrical release and a further 66 seconds from the 1990 home version in response to media-fuelled hysteria over so-called “video nasties”.

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More than 20 years later, Fede Alvarez’s affectionate reboot is unlikely to make a similar cultural impact, stumbling down a clearly signposted narrative path with considerably more cash in the special-effects kitty.

Evil Dead shoehorns almost its entire plot into an exposition-heavy opening 30 minutes.

Once the gratuitous mutilation begins, the bloodgates open as shrieking cast members are sliced, scorched and eviscerated by an electric carving knife, a boiling hot shower, shards of shattered glass and a pneumatic nail gun.

In the remake, co-written by Rodo Sayagues, David (Shiloh Fernandez), his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) and friends Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) and Olivia (Jessica Lucas) are cocooned in a rundown log cabin to support David’s little sister, Mia (Jane Levy), as she goes cold turkey to kick her drug habit.

Eric and Olivia doubt the intervention will succeed so they forge a secret pact with David to hold Mia hostage in the woods until the narcotics have been flushed from her system.

A strange smell in the basement leads the friends to a book bound in leathery human skin, which Eric studies in his room.

Ignoring various scrawled warnings of impending doom, Eric utters aloud an incantation from one of the pages, thereby unleashing the dark forces that possess poor Mia.

Dismissing her portentous ranting as the hallucination of a recovering addict, the friends curb their natural instinct to escape and eventually turn on each other in a brutal battle for survival.

Evil Dead isn’t played for ghoulish giggles like the 1981 version but there are still flashes of warped wit to dissipate tension during the carnage.

Levy is a spunky heroine, literally tearing herself to pieces to escape the madness, while co-stars make the most of the script’s meagre scraps.

Alvarez slathers the screen with enough entrails and freshly cleaved limbs to sate rabidly carnivorous audiences who have grown fat and weary on a diet of torture porn including the Saw and Hostel series.

A “groovy” throwaway after the end credits featuring Bruce Campbell, iconic star of the original, winks conspiratorially to fans of Raimi’s demonic dance of death.


Released: April 18 (UK & Ireland), 91 mins