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Review: New 'Evil Dead' bloody good time

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Blood, bone chilling thrills and gore all spill aplenty from "Evil Dead," the remake of director Sam Raimi's phantasmagorical original from 1981. It will undoubtedly please fans looking for some sort of "Dead" action since the last film in "The Evil Dead" trilogy -- "Army of Darkness" -- was released 22 years ago, and snag a new generation of fans thanks to its brilliant set-up and execution.

Made under the auspices of Raimi and the original's star Bruce Campbell and producer Rob Tapert, "Evil Dead" is taken in a slightly new and refreshing direction by director Fede Alvarez. Co-scripted by Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues, it's clear that these guys grew up on the works of Raimi and all the magic the filmmaker has worked to give cinema some of its most enduring horror classics.

Fans of the original film already know the drill: There's a desolate cabin in the woods where an unseen evil lurks, and a group of friends are all but doomed in their attempts to stop it.

The difference in Alvarez's re-imagined story line, however, is that the square-jawed anti-hero Ash Williams (Campbell) is nowhere to be seen. Instead, it's group of college-age kids consisting of David (Shiloh Fernandez), his girlfriend, Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore), and their childhood friends Olivia (Jessica Lucas) and Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), who all gather at the remote location as a means to help David’s sister, Mia (Jane Levy), tackle her seemingly unshakeable drug addiction and confront her past demons.

Unfortunately for them, demons are exactly what they're going to get. When the group happens upon a hidden cellar of the cabin that's loaded with remnants of animal sacrifice and an ancient book, naturally one of them cracks the book open and brings out all the hell that comes with it.

See a TV spot from "Evil Dead" below.

Not surprisingly, you can't have a remake of "Evil Dead" without tipping your hat to the original, and Alvarez playfully weaves some clever homages in throughout the film. The most obvious is the tracking shot through the woods that resembles Raimi's "shaky cam" technique, which was essentially achieved by nailing a camera down in the middle of a 2x4 and having a pair people run with it through the woods (you have to remember, the original was budgeted at about $350,000).

Other familiar moments creep in, but aren't as obvious -- more than one hand goes missing this time, as both chainsaws and electric knives come into play -- and that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to depictions of gore and demonic possession.

Yes, Alvarez's direction is purposefully over-the-top and so the results are so bloody and disgusting sometimes that you can't help but laugh because of the absurdity of it all. But at the same time, it's the difference in tone that separates this from the original. While the movie isn't overtly sinister, it clearly is short on the camp factor that made the original trilogy such a hoot.

Interview: 'Evil Dead' producer Bruce Campbell

The great part about "Evil Dead" is, after its unnerving 10-minute prologue, how much restraint Alvarez shows for good 20-25 minutes while the story about Mia's addiction builds. Much like Raimi has done in the past, Alvarez slowly marinates the storyline before its firepower is unleashed. In this instance, it comes in the form of Mia's brother and friends believing that the woman's strange behavior is being caused by drug withdrawal symptoms rather the otherworldly forces of terror that possess her body.

Of course, once the doomed inhabitants of the cabin find out what's really going on, the floodgates have already opened and there is no turning back.

And while the story plays out the way you would expect it to from that point, Alvarez takes enough slight detours to keep you on the edge of your seat. He's an exciting filmmaker and clearly was the right choice to revive the franchise. It's movie that's "Dead" on arrival -- and that's exactly what we want.

"Evil Dead," rated R, 3 1/2 stars out of 4.

What other local critics are saying …

Chris Hewitt of the Pioneer Press finds says the film "delivers on its simple premise" 3 star review, but says "for blood thirsty movie fans, it's the equivalent of a kegger."

Colin Covert of the Star Tribune gives the film 2 stars, saying fans of the original "probably won't" enjoy the remake, and added that, If you yearn to see the movie equivalent of an explosion in a tomato-soup factory," this film is for you.

Bring Me The News film critic Tim Lammers is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and annually votes on the Critics Choice Movie Awards. Locally, he reviews films on “KARE 11 News at 11” and WCCO Radio. As a feature writer, Tim has interviewed well over 1,000 major actors and filmmakers throughout his career and his work is syndicated nationwide.

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