When three buddies from Michigan — director Sam Raimi, actor Bruce Campbell and producer Robert Tapert — made their first movie together, the 1981 cult classic “The Evil Dead,” they brazenly billed it as “the ultimate experience in grueling horror.”
Now we have a new “Evil Dead” — which can be read either as a remake or a sequel — that comes disturbingly close to its predecessor. It delivers a blood-drenched horror show that honors the spirit of Raimi’s original while mixing up the formula enough to surprise the most die-hard fan.
Five friends gather in a remote Michigan cabin at the behest of Mia (Jane Levy, from “Suburgatory”), a junkie who’s vowed to go cold turkey. She’s got her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) there for moral support, as is her friend Olivia (Jessica Lucas), a nurse who has seen Mia make a vow of sobriety only to overdose later. Also on this trip is nerdy Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) and David’s girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore).
As Mia starts suffering withdrawal pains, she notices a rank odor in the cabin. A quick investigation finds a hidden trap door, a trail of blood, and a basement filled with decomposing animal carcasses. Oh, and a strange book wrapped in plastic and barbed wire, a subtle hint that one maybe shouldn’t mess with what’s inside. Eric forges ahead, finding that the book’s human-skin binding hides ancient runes describing Satanic rituals. Eric recites one incantation from the book, and all hell literally breaks out in the cabin.
Soon Mia is caught up in the trees around the cabin, raped by a wood demon and possessed by the devil. She then unleashes a bloody fury on the others — causing the unhappy campers to mutilate themselves and attempt murder on someone else.
Rookie director Fede Alvarez and his co-writer, Rodo Sayagues (with an uncredited assist from “Juno” scribe Diablo Cody) amp up the blood and guts exponentially, as they put clever spins on the original film’s iconography. (When the trademark chainsaw appeared, the dedicated horror fans in the audience cheered wildly.) They also reimagine the overly familiar horror tropes — the ones that inspired the satire of “The Cabin in the Woods” — in ways that remind you how primally terrifying they can be.
“Evil Dead” is not for most audiences, so abundant and intense is the gory content. But for hardcore horror fans, it’s a cleverly constructed bloodbath.
A remake (or sequel?) of the 1981 cult classic serves up buckets of blood in an intense, well-made package.
Where • Theaters everywhere.
When • Opens today.
Rating • R for strong bloody violence and gore, some sexual content and language.
Running time • 91 minutes.