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Thursday, April 11, 2013 11:04 am

Violent Dead for true horror fans only

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The poster for the reboot of Sam Raimi’s cult horror movie The Evil Dead (1981) promises that it is “the most terrifying film you will ever experience.” Of course, there’s more than a bit of hyperbole at play here but there’s no doubt that it’s likely the goriest film you’ll ever see as first-time director Fede Alvarez pulls no punches in delivering a visceral, viscous movie that stays true to its bloody agenda, for good or ill.

It becomes immediately apparent that this is a different animal than Raimi’s original, which was made on a shoestring and the change found in the director’s couch. Slick production values are obvious from the start as is a no-holds-barred aesthetic. In the movie’s prologue we see a young woman burned to death by her father in some unnamed location. Seems she was possessed by an evil spirit that had sent her on a murderous rampage and the manner in which she’s dispatched gives one a sense of what it must been like to have a front row seat at Joan of Arc’s farewell appearance.

Wouldn’t you know it, the location of this gruesome event just happens to be the cellar of a remote cabin in the woods where five young adults convene for an intervention. Brainy Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) and his nurse girlfriend Olivia (Jessica Lucas) along with the beautiful Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) and their friend David (Shiloh Fernandez) are there to try and get his sister Mia (Jane Levy) to give up the drug habit that nearly killed her. They make her go cold turkey, an approach that makes her flee the cabin in a mad dash. Unfortunately, Eric just happens to be reading from a mysterious book he’s found while this is going on which sets loose a malevolent demon that possesses Mia. Her friends find her despondent and drag her back to the cabin, thinking that her mad ravings, drooling at the mouth and inexplicable behavior are just symptoms of withdrawal. They couldn’t be more wrong.

This twist is inspired and helps to justify why Mia’s faithful friends stick by her as long as they do. Credit must also be given to co-writer Diablo Cody, an Oscar winner for her work on Juno, for providing the unvarnished and at times clever dialogue. Together, these two are able to put a fresh spin on genre conventions and have us eager to see just how far they’re going to push their characters.

It could be argued that anyone who continues to read a book in which is scrawled “Leave this book alone!” after having cut off strands of barb wire to open it deserves what they get. However, these five are put through the grinder. Each suffers extreme injuries, the least being taking shots from a nail gun to the face. No, this is not for the squeamish. Alvarez takes each violent act to the extreme. Obviously, each viewer has his or her own tolerance level but I thought that the level of violence at play was fitting to the tale and ultimately becomes so extreme that it can’t be taken seriously. In the end, it’s better to sit back and be drenched in the movie’s audacious approach rather than try to find any socially redeeming qualities in it.

Special mention must be made of Jane Levy (Suburgatory), as she throws herself into her role with abandon and is forced to endure all sorts of hardship in the process. She’s game for everything Alvarez throws at her, having obviously endured hours to have her extensive make-up job applied as well as many physically demanding scenes she’s required to perform in. She comes out eager for more and while this won’t be the reaction of every one who sees this film, for true horror aficionados, all I can say is that this is the one you’ve been waiting for. Alvarez has created what some are saying is a new classic of the genre. I’d have to say they’re not far from wrong.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org

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