GORE! SLASH. CRIMSON ARC OF ARTERIAL SPRAY! KAPOW! LOUD NOISES! INCESSANT FUCKING LOUD NOISES! Break it down, it’s HORROR time.
I’m not sure if I had expectations of Evil Dead, because most Hollywood remakes are all the same,( i.e. shit) but whatever they were, they were dashed pretty much straight away. After a brief, expository piece on the genesis of the titular evil, we’re introduced to that most boring of protagonists, a scatting, cursing demon, and a grimoire of nefarious powers. There’s your stall, pretty much set out. All we need now is for five young, vacant, beautiful people to turn up. And guess what?
Old pals David, Eric and Olivia, along with David’s new squeeze, Natalie, turn up at a remote cottage in the woods to help David’s almost estranged sister, Mia, get off the drugs. The actors are all shiny faced youngsters who I’ve never heard of before. That’s okay, it’s not as if they’re ever called upon to do anything than grimace occasionally. I’ll reserve judgement on their ability until they make that edgy indie film where they get their tits/cock out during a lull in their teen-movie output or once the wrinkles start appearing with an alacrity that the surgery can’t keep up with.
So Mia is dealing with her drug addiction, and her withdrawal is tough, of course. Luckily she has friends who are medical professionals, and her brother, on hand to make awful decisions on her behalf. Her over sensitive sense of smell leads our chums to discover a gory scene in the basement, streaks of blood, murdered cats and an evil spellbook. Eric, a high school teacher, reads aloud from the forbidden book, despite the multiple exhortations scrawled within. Don’t read this, they say, and so forth. Mind you, this is Eric, has already said stuff like “Your sister was legally dead” and “Voodoo is about dolls” so it’s hardly surprising that this act of selfish stupidity should come from his gob. Maybe it’s a statement on the state of public schools in America. That, you know, the teachers are morons so what chance have the children? After all, there’s SO MANY levels to this film.
The demon is loosed. Mia, cold turkeying like a motherfucker, freaks out, steals some car keys and hops out a window, despite her four friends vowing to be like super-vigilant. They’re all idiots, you see. She crashes her car and is pursued through the forest by the entity, getting trapped among the brambles. The Demon, manifested as a tree, enters her via the vagina, presumably taking the path of least resistance to the seat of the purest evil. It’s one of the few scenes they’ve kept almost-verbatim from the original, and it was nasty and cheap in the first place. Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead may have gotten away with it, what with the entire movie being a entirely tongue in cheek, but there’s no doubt it was there just to shock. That was thirty years ago. Now it just seems tasteless, vaguely repulsive. The world, and the entertainment industry, should probably have moved beyond tree rape for shocks, rather than taking a creepy glee in taking Raimi’s tasteless joke and waving the magic wand of Monied Production Values at it. But that’s probably reading way too much into this. After all, the remake culture that pervades horror movies nowadays has adroitly missed the point in practically everything that they’ve sullied (Have you seen the Texas Chainsaw Massacre…ugh), so why not here.
Once possession occurs, the film unfolds with a tedious predictability. It becomes an ordeal. This is the only way we have to sympathise with the characters, because whatever they’re going through, by god, we’re suffering just as bad. While we’re on the subject of characters, let’s talk about development. Okay then that was quick. How about plot? Yeah, okay. How about the effects? WOW THERE’S CLARET EVERYWHERE. Oh, I see. Blood is a story now, is it? Yes, and it has been for many years. Isn’t that just shit?
What it misses is the humour of the original, or worse still, it tries for it and fails, miserably. There’s scenes where I think we’re supposed to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all, but, as with the plotting and characters, they missed the target by a good bit. It’s mean and horrible and violent. Once upon a time the horror genre used to allegorically reflect what was happening in society, from communism to racial tensions, the Vietnam war to fear of infectious diseases. I’m not saying this is no longer the case, but if Evil Dead is reflecting modern society, what the fuck is up? Is it because if you really wanted to see a living breathing person get beheaded, you can do so online, therefore our entertainment has to go even further? Or is excessive use of gore and violence and murder cathartic in some way, disconnecting the horror of seeing a body being ripped apart from the reality of seeing actual real people falling to their deaths from a great height as New York strains its neck and gawps in what is actual horror.
But then, this isn’t horror. This is gore-porn for its own sake. The senses are pounded with LOUD NOISES that punctuate every scene where something frightening might be happening. Just in case you missed it KAPOW! It’s like canned laughter. As your senses are assailed, you become uneasy. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is because the story and the frights have you on the edge of your seat. It’s just the darkness and noise are programmed to make you jump, because, let’s face it, the plot isn’t going to do it. This is film making by some awful committee, some besuited money janglers sitting around a table telling us how modern ‘horror’ works (without being original enough to come up with a new name, rather than befoul the original). Beautiful young uns. Punches of loud noise and creepy music. Anatomical detail in the dismemberment scenes. References to much better movies, from the Exorcist to Carrie to Silence of the Lambs, even The Evil Deads, believe it or not. There’s nothing original in this, nothing interesting, just an hour and a half of being pummelled by a focus a group’s gory cash register.
And as a postscript, there’s the irritating feeling that just below the surface of every mainstream Hollywood movie, there’s some right wing, Christian fundamentalist manifesto itching to get out. If the entire movie and its flimsy, hackneyed premise of possession is just some overblown allegory for drug addiction (in a young, beautiful white girl who comes from a family that has a holiday home in the woods), and that addiction literally violates us and we must literally fight our demons and that the addiction literally hurts those around us, to the point of claret streaked gore festival, then isn’t that literally horrifying? This is uneasy viewing, but for all the wrong reasons.