Thursday, July 25, 2013
I'm going to be fair right now, I did not rent "Evil Dead" thinking it was going to be bad. Well... actually I did, I have almost no faith in remakes, especially a remake of one of my favorite horror movies of all time. But the trailers for "Evil Dead" were promising, the reviews were mediocre for a regular film but not bad for a horror movie, and at least this remake had the express blessing of director Sam Raimi and star Bruce Campbell, who both were producers on this project. I knew this movie was going to suck, but I wasn't renting this movie with the same jackhammer of critical murdersauce that I carry when I review utter hateful shit like "Jack and Jill". Remember, just last week a legitimately good horror movie came out with "The Conjuring", which was basically a remake of "Amityville Horror". Only that movie had sympathetic characters, and mood, and tension, and style... while "Evil Dead" has buckets of gore.
What else does it have besides whole fuel tankers full of bodily fluids? Absolutely nothing. It was obvious to first time director, Fede Alvarez, that nobody could ever replace the sheer iconic star power of Bruce Campbell's Ash. So rather than trying to make a new protagonist that could be fascinating in his own way, Alvarez surrendered, and created a cast of characters out of spare plywood and corkboard. Then he dipped those pieces of plywood into buckets of red paint, and called it a day. He hopes that he can have a character lop off her left hand her feet, then juggle them while catching the squirting blood with her tongue, and we'll be impressed immediately by the grisly abandon of it all. Of course, ultimately forgetting that gore and horror needs to have mood. Are we going for all-out fun, dancing in sprinklers of red blood cells? Or is this a disgusting nightmare? You really can't have both when your characters are so boring, when your new plot is so slow yet utterly bland, and when the movie is so boring it feels like its ninety minutes are like an eternity in hell.
But then again, an eternity in hell would actually be scary, wouldn't it? Or at the very least, the Devil would probably be able to present some level of personality to his torture. I can appreciate getting my bowels ironed out if its being done with some showmanship. Otherwise, I think I'm just going to yawn. "Evil Dead" is not entertaining. It just doesn't understand what made the original film scary, and does not even try to replicate any of the humor of the sequels. It is simply awful.
So first of all, I guess I should explain why "The Evil Dead", Sam Raimi's movie, is one of the greatest horror films ever made. "The Evil Dead" was initially a super Indie horror B-movie created on a shoestring budget. But it was made with a sense of crazy fun, with demonic-possessed characters not so much eating the heroes but laughing in their face. The special effects were built out leftovers from the dinners the filmmakers had the previous night. Its so obviously fake half the time that modern audiences would probably laugh right at it, thinking their CG blood sprays are so fucking superior. But here's the thing: "The Evil Dead" is clownish and preposterous and utterly terrifying. Real evil doesn't just eat you or shock you, it mocks you. It transforms your loved ones into grotesque harlequins just to giggle at your disbelief, proving again and again how horribly helpless you are in these woods. And its raw, its cheap, its like chewing through a half-cooked steak, letting the juices drip onto your cloths and you tear away at the muscle with every tearing bite. That's horror, not this sterile manufactured crap. "The Evil Dead" is a masterpiece - this was the film that defined Cabins in the Woods as the corporate headquarters for pure malevolence.
With such a classic pedigree behind it, what on Earth is the point of "Evil Remake"'s existence? Obviously its there to make money, the movies are a business like anything else. But why even bother? Hollywood, obviously, enjoys no meal better than its own vomited classics. Sam Raimi, however, wants to make a proper Evil Dead sequel, and to prove that Evil Dead still is a series that matters, he's had to allow this film to get made. All in the long term plan to make a new "Evil Dead 2", then combine the remakes and the original series into one big two-headed monstrosity in "Evil Dead 3 and 5". That noise you hear is the audience clapping at the Dumbest Goddamn Franchise Plan Ever Awards, because Evil Dead just won.
As for thematic meaning for this new "Evil Dead", I really don't know what they were trying to do here. Besides, of course, just make a really really bloody movie. They definitely respray a few walls with organic material. But does it amount to anything? Not really. Horror, as a genre, only seems to be getting worse as the years go by. A few years ago, I saw a remake of "Halloween" and was largely annoyed by the new direction it went on. But that seems like Tolstoy-esque ambition now compared to most horror films, which you'd struggle to even remember. I cannot recall a single thing about the remake of "Friday the Thirteenth". I feel asleep when I saw the new "Nightmare on Elm Street", and when Robert Englund's Freddie came to torment me in my slumber, I was honestly euphoric as he carved a Halloween pumpkin out of my abdomen. This new "Evil Dead" is precisely the kind of utterly forgettable nonsense that passes for horror these days.
The first half hour crawls by as bland and disposable characters are introduced, fitting exactly into the same horror archetypes that "Cabin in the Woods" did such a great job lampooning. Honestly, I was hoping that after "Cabin in the Woods" that filmmakers would simply slink by and try to create new kinds of horror. Their tricks are all out in the open, we know the plays now, at least give it a year or two before you try to shamelessly use that formula again! Especially when "Evil Dead" happens to feature one of the dumbest and most horribly wooden main protagonists ever put to film. This is a guy who cannot emote, always picks the dumbest solution to every problem, and could have ended the film at the forty minute mark, but kept it going out of cowardice. Much like "Cabin", the nerdy Shaggy-from-Scooby-Doo guy is the most intelligent character, but also by far the most effective and heroic. But instead, let's follow McMoron.
Oh sorry, "Evil Dead" does have its own twist to offer to the horror formula. While you'll spend the film trying to guess who is going to be the Replacement Ash - there's even a massive red-herring at one point - the new movie thinks its the most clever goddamn kid in the class by saving one girl from possession and making her the New Ash. Sorry, by that point I don't even care anymore. In fact, I stopped caring around the point that the Tree Rape scene wasn't nearly as erotic or terrifying as the original.
I didn't want to go point by point and compare how every element of the original Evil Dead was better than the new one, but you can't help it. Its a remake, you're gonna do it. For a moment, I thought I was being unfair to this new movie by comparing it to its father, but then I realize: this is a damn knock-off, a rip-off, a copy, a clone, afterbirth. I can damn any element I want! Remakes have no artistic integrity! They're the self-cannibalization of film history. Massacring our memories and our beloved films to create half-cooked shit for teenagers who don't know any better. So here go: the POV chase scenes are all wrong, the Deadites have no personality, the gore has no context because the cast is so damn boring, the color scheme is all blue and orange, the film doesn't even establish much of a sense of isolation or being surrounded by evil at all sides.
So there you go. "Evil Remake" is crap. Watch the original. Or "Cabin in the Woods". I'm really not looking forward to "Evil Dead 7" (or whatever they're gonna call it) because at this point seeing Ash hang around with any of the pieces of plywood that make up this movie's cast is gonna be as much of a cosmic betrayal as seeing Mark Hamill and Jar Jar together in a Star Wars film.