Saturday, 20 April 2013

EVIL DEAD 2013: The Horrorface Verdict

The time is upon us, folks. Evil Dead 2013 is now with us! 

A remake of Sam Raimi's 1981 horror classic, Fede Alvarez takes a lot of cues from its source material, isolating a group of college-age kids in a cabin in the woods, this time under the guise of them trying to help one addict friend go cold turkey off drugs. Exploring a rancid odour in the cabin, they come across a book wrapped in barbed wire, bound in human flesh, and etched with warnings about reading the words from it. Of course, one of the people does read the words, unleashing an evil demon who possesses the most vulnerable of the group, and kicks off a chain of events that the book tells us will lead to the return of the demon, but not before inflicting many horrors, both psychological and immensely physical, on the people.

Let me clear this up from the outset, in my one word review, I stated the Evil Dead remake was 'average', and I have had a lot of people take issue with that with me. Average, though not spectacular or mind-blowing, is better than disappointing or shit. We all knew this film would have an uphill battle from the get go, and luckily it is no Nightmare on Elm Street remake, or Friday The 13th or whatever. It is a good film. It is well shot with an effective score, and Jane Levy and Lou Taylor Pucci give great performances as the drug addict and cowardly teacher, respectively. Someone who has never seen an Evil Dead movie before will lap this up. Once it gets going, it keeps a pace, and has a wry humour in its proceedings. It is not a poorly done film by any stretch of the imagination, and it doesn't crap all over what has come before.

You may even experience the occasional deja vu.

However, it might be its reverence for what has come before that is its downfall. Watching the film, there was so many times I wondered if someone who hasn't seen Evil Dead before would get some of these gags, or what is going on. Everything felt disjointed. As a remake, they seemed to know there were certain beats they felt had to hit for fans of the original, but they went to hit them regardless of if it worked for the film or not. The infamous tree rape, for example (and I'm only going to briefly touch on it) is here, but in a castrated form, though granted it serves a bit more of a function here than the original. A lot of the scares were based on a familiarity with how things played out in the original, and again, if you hadn't seen it, you could be forgiven for being confused as to why everyone around you was getting giddy with anticipation. 

Speaking of scares, there are none. Well, there are a couple, but nothing in any way worthwhile of the films 'Most Terrifying Film You Will Ever Experience' tagline. The only jump I had was from a cheap scare of someone looking up. That's it. I wrote just the other day about how the original caught me off guard with just how much it scared me, but this one had the exact opposite problem. Heck, I figured the scares might be dulled for me in my 'old' age, but I judged by the trailers and thought it might replace the actual terror with intensity, like how the first 15 minutes of Rob Zombie's The Lords of Salems plays out. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. The film has some fantastic gore, and a lot of the effects are practical (not 100% practical, let's put that rumour to rest), but I am surprised so many people are bringing that up as the 'controversial' or selling point of the movie. Sure, it is well done, but it really doesn't feel like it is that intense or over-the-top. In fact, just by watching the red band trailer, I think I spoiled pretty much every good gore gag in the film for myself. Even if I hadn't, this film might as well be The Muppets Movie when compared to films like Evil Dead 2 and Brain Dead. In a post-Hostel world, you really have to do a lot more than what this film does to shock with its gore, and there is the old knowledge that good effects don't make a good story.


Aaaand speaking of story (man, I'm getting better at segueways), this one is all over the shop. I'm not sure if it is badly directed, but the actors always felt like they were reading from script, with awkward, unrealistic pauses in pretty much every scene. Then there are the massive leaps of faith we are asked to make, sure as the protagonists continuously separating  even though they know something spooky is happening (with a prime example being the blonde who has just had an unpleasant basement encounter being unceremoniously left to go to the kitchen while the men talk business in the bedroom). There is also an annoying procedure to the film, where the Book of the Dead describes events that have to happen to bring the demon to this plane, making it seems less and less likely that there is any actual threat. The personifications of the demon also made me cringe, trying to come off as vulgar, but instead being clones of Linda Blair in the Exorcist spoof, Repossessed.

People still find creepy girls with long black hair scary, right?

The biggest let down of the script was just how unimpressive it was. I spent most of the film waiting for it to really get into gear, and once it did, it ended minutes later. One of the most defining traits of the original Evil Dead films (and they cannot be discredited here, since the film relies on our knowledge of them, including part 2) is just how insane they are. The first film is 20 minutes of setup, and then an hour of intensity. Every time you think it is about to end, it doesn't. Just when you think there is about to be a quiet moment, it gets even louder. The 2013 film adheres more to traditional horror rules of peaks and valleys in its action. Maybe because of this, there is never any real threat in the film. In Raimi's film, there is a massive apprehension with the possessed person locked in the basement, and the demons are in control every step of the way, messing with the kids, like a cat with a mouse, but here, the basement locking-up seems to be throwaway, more in reference to the original than anything, and the demons roam around like incompetent zombies. This left me scratching my head all the way through wondering what the hell the big deal is? 

I'm sorry, I didn't mean to rant. I wanted to write a short, concise, and possibly positive rambling of Evil Dead 2013. And if you are a horror fan, I definitely think you should see it. However, it is not only open to, but invites, comparison to the original, and this ends up being its biggest letdown. The film feels neutered, not taking any risks, and actually playing it safer than it's 30+ year old source.

The hype around this film has been great for getting attention of the original Evil Dead, but otherwise, this film will fade from memory, being placed behind Drag Me To Hell in my list of favourite Evil Dead films (DMTH is Evil Dead 4 in my book, by the by). 

What say you? What do you think of my film word on the film; 'average'? 

PS. Stay till the end of the closing credits. You'll thank me.

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