Published April 05. 2013 4:00AM
More than 30 years after its release, there remains something delightfully transgressive about "The Evil Dead," the low-budget horror flick that launched one of horror cinema's most oddball franchises and the directing career of Sam Raimi.
The movie centers on what happens when a group of friends in a remote cabin discovers an ancient book that contains demon resurrection passages - once someone reads from the Necronomicon, hell breaks loose in the woods, and before long, limbs are flying, and Bruce Campbell, the beleaguered hero Ash, is taking the beating of a lifetime.
With off-the-wall antics and no-holds-barred gore, Raimi's trilogy has inspired the same kind of devotion typically found at "Star Trek" conventions. Fans have snapped up "Evil Dead" video games, toys and collectibles and countless digital iterations of the films.
Still, the idea of an "Evil Dead" movie without Raimi directing or Campbell in the starring role left the fan base more than a little anxious.
"First, there's the 'Noooooos,'" said Campbell, seated beside director Fede Alvarez, of the reaction to the project on Twitter. "Lots of O's, lots of exclamation points. But I'm like, 'Hey, man, don't complain until it's time to complain. See it and decide for yourself.'"
The reality is that many of the people who buy tickets for "Evil Dead" won't know that anything came before, so Alvarez started from scratch, taking a new approach to the same central story.
He invested the premise with real-world drama: four friends (Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas and Elizabeth Blackmore) head to a cabin to help one of their own (Jane Levy) kick her heroin addiction.
Things aren't going well even before the book is discovered; by the time the group realizes that Levy's withdrawal-addled Mia is right in her insistence to flee, there's little hope of escape.
Alvarez wrote the "Evil Dead" screenplay with his longtime friend Rodo Sayagues, with Diablo Cody, the Oscar-winning "Juno" scribe, fine-tuning the dialogue. He shot the movie outside of Auckland, New Zealand, over about 70 days.
"You can't place what time they are," Alvarez said. "There's no cellphones. People know there's no signal in the woods, so why bother?"
And none of the actors is playing Ash.
"We're actually glad that Fede took the approach that there's no Ash character," Campbell said. "There's none of the original characters. We want this movie to be its own version. I wouldn't want to do that to some fellow actor, 'Come reprise this role I did 30 years ago.'"