Movie review: New “Evil Dead” skips catchphrases and camp and goes for the gut

By Columbus Alive
From the April 4, 2013 edition

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the dark, creepy woods …

There will be three camps on the new “Evil Dead” movie. 1) Fans of the original who think it shouldn’t be touched 2) Fans of the original who are excited because of the involvement of Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell as producers 3) “What’s an ‘Evil Dead’?”

Place this writer in Camp No. 2. And for a movie that seemed doomed to disappoint, this new incarnation of “Evil Dead” does not … provided you have the right expectations.

For starters, don’t expect a remake. Got it? Same creepy woods, same Necronomicon, new plot, new characters. Repeat after me: There is no Ash.

The familiar setup — whether you’ve seen Raimi’s 1981 “The Evil Dead” or just horror movies in general — features five young friends traveling to a remote cabin. The first twist on the original? One of the characters (Mia, played by Jane Levy of TV’s “Suburgatory”) is cold-turkey kicking a drug habit.

Of course, one of the fivesome finds the flesh-bound Book of the Dead, aka the Necronomicon. Of course, he reads some passages from it. Of course, things take a turn for the worse.

Raimi’s original was a wildly inventive, low-budget creeper, heavy on the gore, but many fans of the series are more partial to “Evil Dead II” — itself a partial remake of the original. The sequel upped the horror-comedy and elevated Bruce Campbell’s Ash to cult legend. Yes, it even inspired a musical.

But forget all that because, remember? There is no Ash.

With Raimi’s blessing, Uruguayan director Fede Alvarez took the helm, and he took things dark, creepy, and oh-my-god gory. Forget “Saw” (please). This is some visceral, stomach-churning goodness, assuming you’re into that sort of thing.

“Evil Dead” takes a while to get going, but when it goes, it goes hard. It rarely plays for laughs, but it manages to both be inventive and packed with subtle nods to the original and surprises. (P.S. Stay through the credits, fans.)

Yes, there is no Ash. But overall? Still groovy.