Given the price of movies today, the saturation of advertising and the wide selection of modern multiplexes, it’s highly unlikely that anyone just saunters into a local “movie house” anymore, buys a ticket to whatever’s showing and settles in without any idea of what they’re about to see.
And that’s a good thing, because I’d hate to think of that happening with “Evil Dead.” Anyone who stumbles across this devilishly disturbing movie unaware would certainly be in for shock, revulsion, maybe some nightmares, and possibly a few other nasty, lingering, long-term aftereffects.
To say it’s not for the faint of heart is a whopping understatement.
On the other hand, this is a film that, for some viewers, couldn’t get here soon enough.
“Evil Dead” is a long-awaited remake of one of the most iconic and successful horror movies of the modern era. Its schlocky predecessor of the same name, made on a shoestring budget and released in 1981, created a template that other fright flicks followed so closely it became a cliché: Put a group of young people into a remote, isolated location (like a cabin in the woods), then create a situation in which all hell (quite literally) breaks loose.
The original “The Evil Dead” spawned two sequels and multiple pop-culture spin-offs, made a cult figure of its star, Bruce Campbell (who’d go on to play Sam Axe on TV’s “Burn Notice”), and launched the career of its director, Sam Raimi, who’d later steer the “Spider-Man” trilogy and the recent “Oz The Great and Powerful.” Both Campbell and Raimi were producers of this resurrection of the Dead.
The perpetual life of “The Evil Dead” franchise also created a cross-generational fan base, and that’s who’ll likely be lining up to see just how the new movie stacks up against the first. The distributors are also hoping, of course, that horror fans, curiosity seekers and gore hounds with little or no link to the previous film will be lured by the promise of seeing, as the poster’s tag line promises, “The Most Terrifying Film You Will Ever Experience.”
Is it terrifying? Well, it’s got some passably scary moments as it recreates the original recipe with two guys, three girls, a woodland cabin, and their discovery in the basement of an ancient book of rituals bound in barbed wire and scrawled with the words “LEAVE THIS BOOK ALONE” — a suggestion that they, of course, ignore.
But beyond scary, what most people who see “Evil Dead” will be buzzing about will be its over-the-top, gross-out globs of blood ’n’ guts, and its nasty new spin on the old devil-inside shocks of “The Exorcist” 40 years ago. Characters are attacked in various ways, with various implements, and some of the most gruesome moments are when demonically possessed bodies do awful things to themselves with electric carving knives, shards of broken glass, box cutters and nail guns. One of the most disturbing scenes involves a rape by a tree — yes, you read that correctly.
And there’s battle featuring a chain saw that has to set a new high — or a new low, depending on how you score such things — for cinematic use of that particular piece of unconventional weaponry.
It’s an extreme cocktail of carnage and dark, horror-slasher humor that’s clearly not for everyone. But it takes the very clichés its own franchise helped create and it runs hard with them, pushing them boldly into inventively grosser, wickedly wild places for audiences who’ve become complacent with the violence on TV shows like “The Walking Dead” and films like “Hostel” and “Saw.”
And in an age when most films rely on computers for special effects, it’s almost an homage to more “authentic,” old-school moviemaking, relying entirely on makeup, prosthetics and good ol’ goop, instead of cheaper, faster, digitized FX.
And so, director Fede Alvarez, making his long-form debut after several short films, has created a big, spewing slab of gory, red meat entertainment, carved out with all the delicacy of a sputtering chainsaw, for fans a horror movie classic that just refuses to die.
But for anyone else, be aware of what you’re about to see before you settle in with your popcorn — or you’ll be in for one very unsettling surprise.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: “Evil Dead”
STARRING: Jane Levy, Shiloh Hernandez and Lou Taylor Pucci
DIRECTED BY: Fede Alvarez
RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes