Redford’s Radical Mess; Reviving ‘The Evil Dead’: Movies

As a director, Robert Redford has a somber touch; he likes his images clean and autumnal. In “The Company You Keep,” Susan Sarandon and Julie Christie join him as Vietnam-era radicals who have been living under assumed names ever since their group was involved in a botched bank robbery.

Now, thanks to an obnoxious reporter (Shia LaBeouf) at an Albany paper, their time is up.

It’s a perfectly terrible movie, full of bad dialogue, with all the major characters -- and there are quite a few -- staggering around under crises of conscience. The perfunctory attempts to explain the radicalism of the late 1960s are insulting both to the issues and to the audience.

Below the surface, though, something more interesting is going on. Viewers old enough to remember these stars in their youth will be fascinated by the different ways they’ve aged.

Sarandon is stunningly well preserved. In Christie’s almond eyes and massive lips you can still see the flabbergasting beauty that once was (though the American accent she assumes for the role plays tricks with the memory).

Redford looks awful. And with a hint of a whistle through his teeth, he sounds worse. In the scene where (implausibly) he scales a chain-link fence and vaults to the ground, you can almost see the wheelchair waiting.

Another reason the movie isn’t a total loss: Its on-the-run plot eventually boils down to the simple truth that you never let go of the people you loved when you were young -- a glowing spark within the pile of malarkey.

“The Company You Keep,” from Sony Pictures Classics, is playing in New York and Los Angeles. Rating: *1/2 (Seligman)

‘Evil Dead’

Messing with “The Evil Dead” is risky: Sam Raimi’s 1981 demon classic moves gore-loving thriller buffs to a sentimentality most of us reserve for “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

But first-time feature director Fede Alvarez shakes off any stage fright with a killer “Evil Dead” remake (sans “The”) that cuts to the original’s bone.

Keeping the cabin-in-the-woods premise, Alvarez and co-writer Rodo Sayagues mostly sideline the trend-setting camp humor that came to mark the “Dead” franchise.

Gross Effects

This “Evil Dead” -- produced (and blessed) by both Raimi and original leading man Bruce Campbell -- is straight-ahead horror, challenging itself scene by scene with gross-out effects and diminishing body parts.

Just as in ’81, five young friends played by pretty, passably skilled and mostly unknown actors, retreat to a spooky cabin, unaware that all hell is about to break loose.

This time, the screenwriters concoct a reason for the trip (and an excuse for sticking around despite rotting cats hanging in the cellar): friend Mia (Jane Levy) has gathered her pals and a prodigal brother for support while she kicks heroin.

A gruesome encounter with a snaking tree limb, replete with the original’s notorious sexual violence, soon has Mia projectile-spewing blood and obscenities.

One by one, they’re possessed, brutalized or both. They turn on each other with whatever’s handy -- an electric carving knife, a nail gun, a chainsaw.

Need I point out how graphic and eventually numbing the violence is?

Indeed, the real star is Roger Murray, the makeup effects designer responsible for the grotesque prosthetics.

How grotesque? Enough to prompt Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), the gang’s brainiac, to ponder, “What kind of virus makes a person cut off her face with a piece of glass?”

“Evil Dead,” from Sony/Tristar, is playing across the U.S. Rating: *** (Evans)

What the Stars Mean:

***** Fantastic
**** Excellent
*** Good
** So-So
* Poor
(No stars) Avoid

(Greg Evans and Craig Seligman are critics for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are their own.)

Muse highlights include Jeremy Gerard on Cyndi Lauper’s Broadway debut and New York Weekend.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.