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SXSW 2013 Movie Review: Fede Alvarez’s ‘Evil Dead’
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Adam Frazier   |  @   |  
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Geeks of Doom SXSW 2013: Evil Dead

Evil Dead
Director: Fede Alvarez
Screenwriter: Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues, Diablo Cody
Cast: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Jessica Lucas, Lou Taylor Pucci

Synopsis: In the much anticipated remake of the 1981 cult-hit horror film, five twenty-something friends become holed up in a remote cabin. When they discover a Book of the Dead, they unwittingly summon up dormant demons living in the nearby woods, which possess the youngsters in succession until only one is left intact to fight for survival. — Ghost House Pictures

Directed by 29-year-old newcomer Fede Alvarez, Evil Dead is based upon Sam Raimi‘s classic 1981 film – but is it a remake? In an interview with Ain’t It Cool News, Alvarez commented on the film’s relationship to the original: “Now, the way I personally like to see Evil Dead (2013), it’s a story that takes place 30 years after The Evil Dead ended. The car is there, the cabin is there… and the book has found its way back to the cabin… New kids will encounter it and suffer its wrath.”

So a sequel then? Maybe. Maybe not. After all, Raimi’s Evil Dead II is more of a reboot than an actual sequel – so this kind of ambiguity is nothing new to the series. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide where Alvarez’s film falls within the cannon, but rest assured – this is one bad-ass horror flick worthy of the Evil Dead name.

The film centers around Mia (Jane Levy), a heroin addict unable to shake her crippling drug dependency. In an effort to help her, Mia’s friends plan a vacation/intervention of sorts at a remote cabin in the woods, where they end up unleashing evil instead.

Evil Dead had its world premiere last night at the Paramount Theater as part of SXSW, with an introduction by Fede Alvarez and a Q&A afterward with the cast and producers Rob Tapert and Bruce Campbell. As I watched this balls-out horror flick, I found three words bouncing around my skull: Holy. Fucking. Shit.

The film delivers on its promise to feast upon your filthy soul, and it does so with such rigor and passion that you have to admire it. There are plenty of homages to the original films, including a cameo by Sam Raimi’s 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88.

By now you’ve heard the pre-release buzz regarding the film’s disregard for computer-generated imagery in favor of old-school practical effects. The benefits of having the horror captured in-camera are easy to see – not only are the performances better, but the audience responds to the blood and guts in a very visceral way – the terror is palpable.

SXSW 2013: Evil Dead

You will see evil unleashed in the form of nail guns, electric knives, box cutters, shotguns, and chainsaws. Yes you read that correctly, this new Evil Dead features boomsticks and chainsaws – so no worries there. Victims are raped by trees, burned and buried alive, and dismembered – and according to Alvarez, more than 100,000 gallons of blood was used in making the movie – in fact, that’s probably a rather safe estimate.

Brutal. Intense. Fucking crazy. I can’t believe Alvarez got away with HALF of the violence in this movie. The film initially received an NC-17 rating and was edited to obtain an R rating, and even still… this might the hardest R I’ve seen. This is a no-holds-barred horror movie – a demonic dark ride that descends into madness, simultaneously scaring and entertaining you. Alvarez’s Evil Dead is a genuine crowd-pleaser, with an audience of 1200 bloodthirsty, die-hard fans in the Paramount Theater screaming, laughing, and applauding throughout the film’s 91-minute duration.

Jane Levy and Lou Taylor Pucci turn in the film’s strongest performances as Mia and Eric, who makes the mistake of opening a book bound in flesh and inked in blood and reading the secret texts inside. Ash (Bruce Campbell) isn’t in the film, and honestly I like this less-groovy, more-tense take on Evil Dead.

During the post-screening Q&A, Campbell pointed out that this isn’t sacrilege – that the original Evil Dead films are still there – on your shelf – and you can watch them whenever you want. “It’s time for something new,” he said. Campbell hopes that one day fans will be able to sit down and watch the three original films, and three new ones. On that note, Alvarez and producers Tapert and Campbell (Raimi couldn’t attend as he’s busy with press for Oz: The Great and Powerful) confirmed they’re already working on Evil Dead 2 – and I can’t begin to imagine how that film will top the level of intensity and gore on display in this rebirth of the franchise.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Evil Dead and I would argue it’s one of the better horror films in the past two decades. Alvarez’s Evil Dead is the pissed off, bile-spewing B-side to Drew Goddard’s Cabin in the Woods. If you’re a horror fan, this is a must-see – a reclamation of the genre and a celebration of makeup and practical effects to bring the scares to life.

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[Marquee photo by Tim Grant for Geeks of Doom.]

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