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Evil Dead 2013

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edI was determined to catch this while it was still in the theatres…despite the outpouring of negative reviews.

Now, most of the negative reviews I’ve seen generally fall into two categories :

The first is people who don’t like horror. Why these people would go see a movie titled “Evil Dead” I have no idea, but there are countless IMDB reviews complaining about violence, the excessive gore, even coining the phrase “Gore Porn” I guess the term “Torture Porn” has gotten played out.

The second category is people who are devotees of the original. This is the far greater category, those who revere the original film and prize it as a Horror classic.

It’s these folks especially that I have an issue with.

IMG_2683I like the Evil Dead movies. They possibly get more attention from me than they might otherwise because of their status as cult classics.  More than once I’ve been known to marathon them, and for me an Evil Dead marathon includes not only the three films, but also “Within the Woods” (the short film made to finance Evil Dead- a sort of proof of concept), both of the musicals (not only “boomstick”, which everyone knows, but also the small production that was done without authorization in Chicago and shut down quickly) and a copy of Evil Dead along with the live commentary done at Cinema Wasteland a few years ago.

I’ve tried to get into the Army of Darkness comics from Dynamite, but really the only ones that really worked for me was the crossover with the Marvel Zombies. When I see them at Half price books though, I usually get them. On my wall is a print of Tom Sullivan’s original poster, sporting the original name “Book of the Dead”. It’s signed by a bunch of the cast. I’ve gone out of my way to meet as many as I possibly could, even Bruce Campbell was nice enough to sign the thing through the mail for me.

So now that I’ve established that I have some cred here, I’d like to point one thing out about the original Evil Dead.

It’s not a great movie.Evil Dead Autos

It’s not meant to be. This isn’t cinema, it’s not art. It’s a B-Movie classic, a VHS memory. These things are good, they should be remembered, even celebrated. That’s why there are conventions like Monster Bash, and Cinema Wasteland. But let’s not overrate their quality. The original has a paper thin plot, minimal characterization and emphasizes gore over storytelling (all criticisms I heard leveled by fans at the new movie). It overcame it’s shortcomings by putting the passion of the filmmakers on the screen, and by not taking itself too seriously, venturing into a hyper-reality with comic book level violence and the occasional slapstick. It’s even possible that it could benefit from a modern remake (or preferably a sequel) that’s faithful to the original.

I think with this new movie, I take the greatest issue with the idea of “reimagining” rather than remaking it. “Reimagining” essentially gives the director the power to remake without any connection to the source material. It’s indulgent towards the film maker, not the audience, and that’s a problem. It’s especially a problem with a movie that is already fighting an uphill battle because it’s a remake and divergent from the original. In this case, they’ve used it as an excuse to skew dark and serious. Evil Dead was never dark and serious. If you get the tone of the film wrong, it casts a shadow over the entire end product and that’s a shame.

The “Reimagineing” excuse also allows them to change the rules. The most noticeable to me was how the Book of the Dead would not burn. It was a fundamental change in the relic, separating the continuity. It also gives them leave to stick in little homages wherever they feel like it…reminding you “this isn’t a sequel! It’s a reimagining!” Yeah. Ask Bryan Singer how well that worked in Superman Returns.

That said, this isn’t a bad movie. I really want it to be a sequel instead of an alternate universe, and I will probably continue to look at it that way. There could have been more than one book of the dead. Who knows if that’s even the same woods? but I’ll tell you what, if it is the same woods, I can totally understand there being more than one cabin out there.  Maybe paranormal and archeological researchers are drawn out to that region for some reason. Perhaps it has a history. That’s enough rationalization for me anyhow. Moreover, I don’t NEED Ash for a sequal, anymore than I NEEDED Ripley for it to be an Alien movie. I’ve long disowned the third film in that series, and despite what they call her in the fourth, that’s NOT Ripley that Sigorney Weaver is playing there…and I’m cool with that. The same is true for Evil Dead. I’m good with it just being about the demons and the killings.

While they may get the tone wrong, introducing serious elements like detox and abandonment, they get the gore and the creature effects VERY right. These kind of practical effects in this sort of movie always hold up better than CG, and when CG is used, it’s used right – that is, it’s used to enhance the practical. The book of the dead looks shockingly good. The redesign was really well thought out, though I have one tiny little beef with it. There are a great many interior illustrations that are pretty straightforward. it’s dark art, but still very comic book figure looking. It’s close enough in style that they really should have given this job to Tom Sullivan (the man who created the original book of the dead. Here he is pictured with me – he’s the guy holding the book!). Tom could have created these nightmarish images just as well as whatever artist took the job, and the producers could have really played up the connection to the original movie. A real missed opportunity here.   The Tree assault is done with more taste (marginally) and logic – there’s a point to it. The dialogue is chilling when we hear the demon declare “your girlfriend is being raped in Hell!” or “your mother hates you. She waits for you in Hell”. Even in the original, confidant lines like  “you are all going to die tonight” was scary. It still works here.

I’m not going to lie here. I liked this movie. It’s not better than the original, but it’s not any worse either, and that’s something a lot of sequels can’t say. It’s got it’s flaws but if we can get past both that and our (somewhat unwarranted) reverence for the original, there’s a fun and scary movie here. I’ll definitely be buying this when it comes out and am looking forward to some commentaries. I’ll pop this at the end of my next marathon (something I wouldn’t do with the Nightmare on Elm Street remake) and I look forward to seeing where this goes next.

 

By the way, Simply Film is also doing a review today, check out the podcast here :

http://simplyfilm.org/2013/04/11/as-of-yet-unnamed-simply-film-podcast-evil-dead/

One response

  1. A great, thorough review here. I reviewed Evil Dead myself and feel pretty similarly to you; I didn’t like the overly serious characters mixed with the excessive gore since it just didn’t work – there was too much contrast and it wasn’t complimentary. I have never been a huge fan of the original either but I like it for what it is.

    April 13, 2013 at 7:31 AM

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