Back in 1981, Sam Raimi's low-budget horror film "The Evil Dead" introduced us to five college students in a remote cabin who discover a book containing a malevolent spirit. There wasn't much more to the story, because Raimi was too busy inventing cheap ways to jolt his audience, and his clever camerawork helped a little ketchup and oatmeal go a long way. It was Raimi's visuals, and certainly not his script ("Gaah! Yaargh!"), that made the movie so memorable.
After more than 30 years of sequels, comics and video games based on Raimi's movie, you might expect the first remake, "Evil Dead," to gorge itself on the splashier effects that a bigger budget can buy. It does, but it also pointlessly fancies up the story with elaborate character histories, interpersonal dramas and expositional flashbacks. As a result, "Evil Dead" turns Raimi's homemade horror treat into a professional-looking, overscripted bore.
Our new heroes are David (Shiloh Fernandez); his girlfriend, Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore); Olivia (Jessica Lucas), a nurse; and schoolteacher Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci). They're estranged friends who have convened at the cabin to help David's younger sister, Mia (Jane Levy), kick her drug habit. It's scholarly Eric who discovers the book, which possesses Mia first, and everyone initially chalks up her hysteria to withdrawal. Soon, however, her googly-eyed, murderous behavior starts to spread.
Debut director Fede Alvarez and his co-writer, Rodo Sayagues, repeat some of Raimi's wiggier ideas (the scantily clad Mia discovers a plant species that's startlingly invasive) and they try to match his go-for-broke spirit with numerous gougings, puncturings and dismemberments. But the moments of pathos and symbolism, not to mention an overcomplicated, "MacGyver"-esque climax, add nothing to the movie and only spoil the fun. "Evil Dead" has a recognizable Hollywood polish, but it could have used some oatmeal.
PLOT Five friends on vacation in a remote cabin discover an awful secret.
RATING R (extreme violence and gore)
CAST Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci
BOTTOM LINE More backstory and better effects, but none of the homemade creativity that made the low-budget original such a delight.