I’m a huge fan of the original Evil Dead series.  My dad introduced my brother and myself to them back when he owned a video store, and I have very fond memories of him bringing the movie home (and us later owning part 2 on VHS), and have seen that one, and of course Army of Darkness, more times than I can even remember.  But, at some point, I just kind of stopped watching them repeatedly.  I don’t know if I just got older, or they lost their luster, or the way that the career of Sam Raimi went just kinda soured me on them.  Regardless, it’s been years since I’ve seen any Evil Dead film, and the constant talk of sequels that went nowhere seemed like they were just cementing this as a dead franchise.

When a remake was announced, I met it with a “meh.”  I mean, the original Evil Dead is a fantastic technical achievement given its low budget, but it’s hardly a good film.  Not only that, the “cabin in the woods” formula has been done to death since its release in 1979, to the point that its practically a parody of itself.  How would a remake of a trope (at this point) really be a good film in 2013? Especially one directed by someone I’ve never heard of and starring no one I’ve ever heard of?

Well…it does it by being a DAMN good horror film, that’s how.  More after the jump.

If you’re reading IoM, you probably don’t need a storyline summary, but Evil Dead is about a group of five friends who go to a cabin in the woods for a vacation.  Right off the bat, the new flick sets itself apart by making this an intervention.  The lead female, Mia, is brought there by her friends and family to detox after going through an OD.  No sooner than they get to the cabin do things start going wrong – the cabin looks like hell, Mia starts freaking out, and they find some freaky dead animals in the basements, along with….the book.

The movie actually begins before all this, with a scene that, honestly, did nothing for me.  It’s meant to be a quick gut punch right at the beginning, but it’s not very effective, and it had me rolling my eyes before the title crawl.  Thank goodness the rest of the film makes up for it.

Once things start going back, Evil Dead qualifies as probably one of the most intense, gory films I’ve seen in years.  I found myself gripping the seat like I haven’t in a long time because the movie has you tensed up the entire time.  Now, that’s not to say it’s ultimately scary, per se, but it is damn exciting and suspenseful.  And the gore…oh man, there’s so much gore in this film, I’m shocked it’s rated R.  They don’t pull punches – nothing gets cut off cleanly.  Body parts are ripped off, sliced sloppily, nails jabbed into body parts in gruesome detail.

And through it all, fans of the originals will just find themselves grinning ear to ear.  Despite not being a sequel to the original series (though there’s been talk of a crossover film eventually), there are homages to all three of the originals (yes, even Army of Darkness) that won’t alienate new viewers, and will help remake detractors feel like it’s wrapping them in a warm, bloody blanket.

I’m not going to ruin much of the film here, but yeah, if you’ve seen the original, there’s still the tree rape.  There’s still the book.  There’s still the camera flying through the woods.  But it all feels different.  Part of this is the selection of actors who are all excellent, especially the two leads, Shiloh Fernandez and Jane Levy.  They sell their characters (brother and sister) in a way that makes you really care about what happens to them.  I mean…the characters aren’t disposable stereotypes?  In a modern horror film?  Shocker.

Evil Dead is likely to be the best theatrical American horror film you’ll see this year.  That’s probably not saying much, but it’s also probably likely to be the best horror film you’ll see this year too.  It’s quite possibly the best possible remake they could make of the beloved series.  More homage than direct remake (there’s no character named Ash in this), Evil Dead is worth seeing on the big screen, and definitely worth seeing with a crowd.  The packed crowd for the advance screening I went to seemed to love the film, and the energy in the theater is something I haven’t felt in a horror film in a long time.

Don’t wait for the DVD/Blu-Ray.  Evil Dead is a FANTASTIC horror movie, full of all the gore you’ve been missing in your horror.

Evil Dead hits theaters Friday, April 5.  Oh…and stay after the credits.

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