*1/2 (out of four)
When a secret door in the floor leads to a musty room filled with rotting cats, the situation doesn’t really scream, “Hey, if you find an elaborately wrapped book nearby, take it and read it out loud!”
Well, you know what they say about curiosity—though curiosity ain't what hung those cats from the ceiling—and that’s just what gets the best of a teacher (Lou Taylor Pucci) in “Evil Dead,” a remake that's not much smarter. Like Sam Raimi's far lower-budget and rather overrated 1981 flick that spawned the horror-comedy classic “Evil Dead II” and made a hero of Bruce Campbell, the new “Evil Dead” spouts blood and not a lot of personality when a bland group of 20-somethings unleash evil forces during a getaway at a remote cabin in the Midwest.
Oddly, no one identifies the book as the Necronomicon, perhaps out of fear viewers new to the franchise would think that's a convention for those who see dead people exclusively at night.
Foolishly, director/co-writer Fede Alvarez frames the excursion to the woods as an effort to help Mia (Jane Levy of “Suburgatory”) get sober, mostly so her friends and older brother (Shiloh Fernandez) can force her to stay put even when her withdrawal suggests something closer to possession. Levy's very good, whether she's shivering with barely controlled panic or letting loose in a bent finale that's a case of too little, too late.
Every other performance in this gruesome, unnecessary effort is awful. Alvarez, often playing things too seriously to be any fun, botches the original's few memorable images. (Spoiler alert: The raped-by-a-tree incident now involves a furry-tongued thing that emerges from a spirit's mouth and then violates Mia.) Very simply, the new “Evil Dead” brings nothing to the table but more money and more gore.
A sequel's already in the works, which is nice because of the aforementioned original sequel's excellence, but not nice because, really, can't we leave well-enough alone?
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