Very quickly, I played hooky from work (writing) this morning and caught the 10am showing of EVIL DEAD, the remake of the Raimi classic. It’s a interesting mash-up of both EVIL DEAD and EVIL DEAD 2, with a few homages to both films. I won’t ruin any of that for you. I’m also not going to waste your time with any set up or backstory other than say, kids go to a cabin in the woods (in the original movies to party and fuck, in the remake to help a junkie get clean), they find an evil book and read it, setting loose infernal, malevolent, supernatural forces – the titular EVIL DEAD.
After seeing the trailers, I realized this EVIL DEAD was more of remake of the first movie, its serious tone, than the hammy, slapstick of the second one. But that’s cool. No worries there. It’s just that in what I’ve heard described as a post-‘The Cabin in the Woods’ world, you have to give some nod to the implausibility of a plot set in, well, a cabin in the woods. DIGRESSION: the prevalence of cabin-in-the-wood plots arise mostly due to budget. A single set is far less expensive to shoot a movie on than on multiple sets. Consequently, over the years, you get a lot of cabin in the woods movies because horror, often, is cheap. All the more reason for better writing. END DIGRESSION.
Sadly, EVIL DEAD was a cover of a great tune. A flawed tune, but a great one, nevertheless. The cover cannot match the original. And while EVIL DEAD offered lots of suspenseful scares and cringe-worthy body horror moments – there was a LOT of physical trauma in this flick – its main flaw was that it didn’t offer an intellectual reason to be scared.
Here’s the rub – when you make a movie dealing with possession by malevolent forces (gods, demons, evil spirits, ghosts) you have to allow that force enough sentience to provide the viewers with a sense of the depth of the entity’s hatred or evilness. In the originals, much of the intelligence of the infernal was conveyed through the gleeful nature of the possessed, and the recorded warnings found on the tape-deck. Neither were present in this movie.
How do you prove a demon’s sentience in film (or literature)? You give it dialogue. This is something William Peter Blatty understood, instinctively. Instead of having the baddy bellow things like “I’m going to rape your soul, motherfucker!” you have the entity bound somehow and you interrogate it in order to prove its existence. You allow it, through dialogue, to play with its intended victims and maybe even provide them with some history and/or a fatal flaw delivered as it crows. The fatal flaw revealed through pride.
EVIL DEAD had the opportunity for dialogue with the driving malevolent spirit many times – most notably when Mia, the possessed junky, was locked in the basement (pictured at the top AND bottom of this review) – but failed to punch up the intelligence and playfulness of the infernal presence, forgetting that the mind is where real terror lives, not in the buckets of blood splashed about. There was one good, creepy scene near the end but I can’t spoil it for you.
KUDOS: Big props for the setup – the junky going to the cabin to dry out – and the copious use of practical effects. I hope other filmakers take note.
It’s interesting to note that horror movies are far, far more scary when you are fourteen years old than when you’re forty-two.
All that being said, the movie was fun. They spared no expense on buckets of blood, ichor, and goo. I enjoyed it and would recommend it to people who like horror movies or are fans of the first one.