Monday, April 8, 2013

Evil Dead (1981) + Bloody Gore - Humor = Evil Dead (2013)

     The original Evil Dead film, the one directed by Sam Raimi (before he resorted to the Spiderman films and this year's Oz, The Great and Powerful), is rightly considered a cult classic--it also spawned dozens of knockoffs and homages. Just think of how many films deal with decrepit and dangerous cabins far out in the wilderness away from civilization. It has basically reached a breaking point, where horror films (like last year's Cabin in the Woods) are dismantling the genre conventions, not unlike the Scream films did for slasher flicks in the late 1990's. And now comes the inevitable Hollywood remake of a coveted horror film, a seems-like-cash-grab with a new director and new actors and no trace of the crazy humor and low-budget special effects of the original film. Somehow, it sort of works with this trip to the cursed cabin: every laugh from the original Evil Dead has been switched with a brutal geyser of blood, a nail shot through soft flesh, a chainsaw directly to the open mouth. The poster to the right states that it's "The most terrifying film you will ever experience." It's not remotely close. But no doubt it's one of the goriest and most brutally violent mainstream films in a long time.
     The studios were smart to release this film at festivals before the actual wide release: it built up a word of mouth about the no-holds-barred barf-worthy moments so horror geeks around the country were well aware  and were willing to shell out the inflating price of a movie ticket (the shocking red-band trailer helped, too). But I can't help from feeling disappointed when expecting something shocking when it comes to American horror films. They never match their French counterparts (check out Martyrs or Inside if you want some real terrifying and cringe-worthy moments). But this film definitely tries its best. Huge needles in scenes with eyeballs, electric meat cutters slicing into forearms, projectile bloody puke coming out of many orifices--these are the tools that first-time director Fede Alvarez uses to create this disturbing world.
     The plot is similar to the original in the sense that five friends (two of them are siblings) travel to a remote cabin, where they discover an old book in the basement underneath the carcasses of dead and rotten house animals. I could go through the names of the characters, but it's not particularly necessary: most of the time, they are strictly the meat to be thrown into this movie's grinder. A few words of this ancient, human-skin bound book are uttered by one of five, and demonic forces begin to gather around the cabin, starting with a forest-vine rape that mimics the original.
     One of the problems with this Evil Dead is its seriousness. Sure, some lines could be classified as funny (though not to me) and other situations are so over-the-top and disgusting that it's tough not to chuckle. But the overall weirdness and laugh out loud funny moments are gone here, evaporated like the mists of blood. However, everything looks really damn good, so the film's humor might be on the back of your mind. Previously a commercial director, Alvarez has a clear eye for setting up sketchy and scary situations. There are not many "jump" scares in Evil Dead (like there are in most successful PG-13 horror films), but its filled with plenty of shocking moments that make you rethink that three-bean chili that you had for lunch. And Sam Raimi was one of the producers of this incarnation, so it's clear that Alvarez had the original director's blessing.
      After watching the red-band preview that was circulating the web for weeks in advance, I knew that Evil Dead would be pretty gruesome. But watching that two minute clip was a mistake: it gave away some of the more hideous set-ups of the film (for instance, the one in the picture above). I wish that I had never watched it. But there lies the problem with certain horror films, ones that are produced mainly to try and give you an upset stomach: once you're desensitized to its graphic depictions of a group of friends in a shanty-like cabin getting sliced and diced, you're left with bad acting and a story that was told better back in 1981.     (B-)    

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