[Screen It]

"EVIL DEAD"
(2013) (Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez) (R)

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QUICK TAKE:
Horror: Five young men and women assemble at a remote cabin in the woods and inadvertently unleash demonic forces.
PLOT:
Mia (JANE LEVY) has a serious cocaine addiction that developed when she was caring for her late, mentally ill mother. She has agreed to allow her estranged brother, David (SHILOH FERNANDEZ), and three friends to stage an intervention at her remote family cabin in the woods. The three friends include Eric (LOU TAYLOR PUCCI), a young English professor; Olivia (JESSICA LUCAS), a registered nurse eager to help her through the painful withdraw effects; and Natalie (ELIZABETH BLACKMORE), David's girlfriend.

Underneath the floor of the cabin, they find a burned-out cellar where dead cats hang from the ceiling and a mysterious book sits untouched from the blaze that once engulfed the room. It's encased in plastic and bound with wire. Everything about it says, "Don't read me." Eric, curious from an academic standpoint, takes it to his room and promptly cracks it open. In doing so, he unleashes a demonic spirit that possesses Mia.

At first, they think her extreme behavior is the result of her drug addiction. Soon, though, Eric realizes that an evil has indeed been summoned - one that will kill them all if they do not do the unthinkable. And that is kill Mia.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10
So, is the "Evil Dead" remake/reboot the scariest movie ever made -- or at least one of them, as some of the commercials and marketing materials have touted? Hmmm. Well, it all depends on what scares you. If demonic possession flicks get under your skin, then this could very well be in the league of "The Exorcist" for you. All of the Devil's usual movie tricks are on display here. Those who are possessed get the freaky eyes, the ashen skin, the distorted voice. They develop a freaky cackle, start making inappropriate sexual comments, and inflict physical pain on those around them without conscience or remorse.

As for me personally, I'm sorry. This kind of thing stopped scaring me years ago. Oh sure. I still get unnerved watching little Linda Blair writhing on the bed, screaming that her skin feels aflame. When it happens to a child in the safety of her own bedroom on screen, it's just terrible. When it happens to nubile young women and strapping, twenty-something men in a remote cabin in the woods? Yeah, it's not as disturbing, especially after these dummies find a cellar with dead cats hanging from the ceiling and the scariest looking book of evil covered in plastic and wrapped in barbed wire you've ever seen that says right there on the cover "DON'T OPEN ME!"

No, if you wanna scare me, show me a movie where a dad loses his job, and he and his wife and kid are out on the streets. Show me a flick in which a child takes ill and they can't find the cure. Flicker me a film in which one person gets sick on a plane from Asia and starts a pandemic here in the States. Then you got me disturbed. Then, I'm unnerved.

But the Devil himself coming down - or, uh, rather up - seizing my soul and ordering me to kill, kill, kill? Puh-leze. I'll be honest with you, folks. From what I've seen on screen, I'd be a better man if I was possessed with a demon. I'd be more confident, more assertive. I'd have more fun at cocktail parties. I bet I could get a book deal out of it.

But I understand why the kids in the "Evil Dead" try and fight against the malevolence. These are some pretty formidable evil spirits they are dealing with. This might not be one of the scariest movies ever made. But for those who gleefully pay for blood and guts, this is certainly one of the goriest movies to hit screens in years. On its own terms, it is sensationally effective, basically structured as a three-act play whose Acts II and III are almost unrelentingly intense.

Thankfully, in that first act, there is some decent character work done to give audience members a rooting interest in the characters' fates. Jane Levy's future as a "Scream Queen" is there if she wants it. She plays the lead here. Her Mia is a cocaine addict whose slacker brother, David (Shiloh Fernandez), and three friends from childhood take her to the remote cabin in the woods to stage an intervention. When she becomes possessed by a demon unleashed from that ancient book of evil they find in the cabin's cellar, her companions simply think it's the withdrawal effects of the nose candy and decide to gut it out with her. By the time they realize her odd behavior is the result of something far more malevolent, it's too late for most of them.

The best thing about this remake/reboot of the early 1980s cult classic is that it relies very much on old-school practical effects, makeup, prosthetics, and actual stunt work in its horror and action sequences. And because the five main characters have gone to this cabin to get away from it all and focus on Mia kicking her habit, there is not a lot of modern-day technology to gum up the works here and force the screenwriters to account for cell phones and laptops and GPS systems. These five cut themselves off willingly, and that makes it all the more dire when the evil forces cut them off unwillingly.

But was I ever really scared? Nah. Not this guy. Part of the reason, of course, is that would never be me. I guarantee you right now, there is one headline you will never, ever read. And that is "Noted ScreenIt.com Reviewer T. Durgin Dies in a Remote Cabin in the Woods." That's just not how I roll, and that's not how I'm going to be taken out. Now, you might one day read "Noted ScreenIt.com Reviewer T. Durgin Dies While Choking on Room Service at the Hyatt." If that does come to pass, just know I've been one lucky devil for much of my life and that I was having a Hell of a good time when the Reaper came. Gore-hounds will have a good time with this flick. For all that it is, I give it a 6.5 out of 10. (T. Durgin)




Reviewed April 2, 2013 / Posted April 5, 2013


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