'Evil Dead' a blood-soaked, worthy remake

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Entertainment,Movies,Brian Hughes

Part of me wants to feel guilty for recommending this bloodbath, a film so brutal and gory you'll feel at least somewhat sadistic for enjoying the endless depravity.

But unlike most remakes, "Evil Dead" is a worthy reboot, albeit one that will alienate even slightly squeamish filmgoers sure to dismiss this as yet another piece of torture porn.

That would be a mistake -- at least for horror-genre purists.

With an avalanche of bodily fluids and an endless repertoire of weapons, director Fede Alvarez squeezes every bloody bit out of the hard-R rating. Though it lacks the cheesy humor of the 1981 original, it more than makes up for such deficiencies with gritty scares; it's one of the few cabin-in-the-woods tales that could make you rethink a camping trip.

On screen
'Evil Dead'
» Rating: 3 out of 4 stars
» Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas and Elizabeth Blackmore
» Director: Fede Alvarez
» Rated: R for strong bloody violence and gore, some sexual content and language
» Running time: 91 minutes

The story is familiar: Five 20-somethings descend on a run-down home, smelling of death, in the middle of nowhere. They discover a cryptic book loaded with demonic pictures, and of course, one of them fails to heed its warnings. Naturally, mayhem ensues.

There's a thin allegory for drug addiction, in this case personified by "Suburgatory" star Jane Levy. She's got that demon-possessed look down. The rest of the performances are forgettable. But hey, it's a horror remake, not a chamber drama. This installment lacks a character in the vein of Bruce Campbell, but the film's creators deserve credit for not trying to duplicate the iconic figure from the cult classic.

The movie's tag line -- "the most terrifying film you will ever experience" -- is obviously hyperbole. But it's easily one of the more unsettling 90 minutes I've experienced in recent years.

Alvarez builds continual tension through distinct but not overly distracting sound editing and effective close-ups, enhancing an unshakable feeling of claustrophobia. And the film's final moments don't disappoint, punctuating a thoroughly draining experience.

One of the frequent shortcomings of horror flicks is that the CGI violence feels so inconsequential, not only muting the impact of the carnage but also trivializing it altogether. The bloodshed on display here seems real. Whether it's the licking of a box cutter or skin falling to the ground during a scalding shower, you won't soon forget the sickening images.

For some, this no doubt sounds revolting. And your reviewer certainly understands such sentiment. But after a string of boring, blood-soaked entries in the "Saw" and "Hostel" franchises, "Evil Dead" feels both fresh and nostalgic at the same time.

bhughes@washingtonexaminer.com

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