So, right up front, I’m a huge fan of this franchise. I would even go so far as to consider them precious to me. They played a rather large part of my child hood, and marked the first instance of my personal sensibilities aligning with the sensiblities of the people behind the scenes. I actually saw the original trilogy in reverse. Army of Darkness was one of the first DVD purchases I ever made( I still own that copy, actually.), and I pretty much watched it obsessively for the next few years of my life. I don’t know why I was attracted to it in the store, the box art is really terrible on that edition, but for some reason it caught my eye. It was a blind purchase, it just so happened to be a good one. From “moment one” I was set off on a lifetime love affair with these movies, and the all the folks behind the scenes. I’ve seen some really terrible schlock just because Bruce Campbell’s name was on the box. The series found me just as I was becoming a “serious” movie nerd, and made me feel like I could do this stuff too. I wanted to be a film maker in a big bad way when I was younger(Still do. Working on it…), and to see the kind of movie that I felt like I would have made, actually being a real tangible thing, was pretty validating in a weird way.
The original films will always be special to me. Nothing is ever going to change that. Not even…. wait for it….. A REMAKE!(DUN-DUN-DUNNNN) A re-make doesn’t retro-actively make the originals bad. So many people just lose their minds when it comes to this whole remake business. I get it to a degree. Nobody likes having the things they hold near and dear fucked with. As fans we’re a protective bunch, and that’s fine. It’s good to care. Just don’t let that caring turn into entitlement. “How dare they?!” , you may say, but at the end of the day, it’s pretty easy to see why. Money. Names have a certain amount of cache that come with them, and a potentially built in audience. It seems like just the safe route. Over the years, as more and more remakes have failed commercially and critically, you would think that they would have learned that nothing is ever guaranteed. Anyways, I’m a big fan of context. I pay attention to those involved behind the scenes, and that will either make me excited for a re-make or not, and that’s if I even really care. I really love the original Total Recall, but as soon as I heard that Len Wiseman was involved with the re-make, I immediately stopped really caring. I knew better. I wasn’t going to go into that movie with high expectations, or any really(Well, I thought it would be really vanilla. Oh, I was right, by the way.).
The new Evil Dead seemed like it was going to be pretty promising. Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert, and Bruce Campbell were all pretty heavily involved all the way through both pre-production and post-production, and they being the original creators(And the fact that Sam Raimi is still putting out quality movies.) left me with an at ease feeling about it. If anything it gave me a reason to look forward to it. Then the trailers, and clips from festivals, started making the rounds on the internet. It was pretty great. It definitely looked like an updated version of The Evil Dead, and I mean that as a compliment. It seemed to retain the “spirit,” just covered in more blood and visceral gore. I was pretty stoked, to say the least.
So, is Evil Dead “The most terrifying film you will ever experience.” The short answer is no. No it’s not. That’s not really a dig at it either. The original film wasn’t exactly “terrifying” either. So, it wasn’t a criteria I expected the new film to fulfill. I don’t know what that says about me. Maybe, I’ve just become a jaded horror movie fan(“Become?”). You know, I’m not sure I would call this a “horror” film, per say. It’s more of a straight “gore fest.” Having said that, the movie does have a really great atmosphere. There is always an air of dread hanging about, and there are moments of actual unease, but the problem is that it’s kind of inconsistent. The tone will try to be reminiscent of the original films, taking on a more playful sense, and then moments later devolve into “deadly serious” melodrama. What makes this melodrama even worse is the pretty mediocre acting across the entirety of the cast. They are all pretty wooden, and bland. One exception, in my opinion, is the women that plays Mia, but only after she’s gone “full deadite,” before that she is also, well, pretty mediocre. For the first act of the movie I felt like I was watching a high school play.
I can’t lay the entirety of the blame at their feet, though. The dialogue in this script is really terrible. I mean, it already doesn’t have much of a plot, and forces it’s characters to do some really illogical things(Yes, even for a horror movie.), so, you’d think they’d of at least written some better dialogue. They don’t talk like real people, and combined with the acting “abilities” of the cast it makes the poor dialogue even more apparent. We never care about any of the characters, because we don’t really know much about them, and the little that is shown to us is so cliched and inconsequential that it makes you wonder why even bother have this stuff in there at all. There is the set up for some interesting sub-text that is never really explored in any real way. The reason that they’ve all come to the cabin is to help their friend detox and kick her nasty heroin habit, because that stuff is bad for you. I thought they were going to use this context for something. Anything really. It could have used “the evil” as metaphor for struggling with addiction, and how the actions of a junkie effect all those around them. Effectively, poisoning and infecting all those around them, but they don’t. It’s frustrating when a movie like this has a very blatant opportunity to do something a little more interesting, but doesn’t. Honestly though, it’s more of just a bummer than any type of real detraction. It’s a straightforward flick, and that’s fine.
The movie only resembles the original film in it’s barest concept. It’s doesn’t have much in common with the original as far as “plot,” but there is a bunch of visual cues that hearken back to the original flick. As a life long fan, the call-backs to the original are mildly amusing, but a lot of the time they feel weird and out of place. This goes back to the whole problem with the tone of the movie. There’s some camera work that is lifted straight from the original and it sticks out like a thumb gushing with purple blood. I have to wonder, though, if this will be a problem for those(Idiots) that are unfamiliar with the originals. Would these moments just go by unnoticed, and feel consistent, or would they feel the same way I did. Is it my awareness of these things that made them stick out, or does is it more of a mechanical “film making” misstep. I think the truth is probably in the middle somewhere. It feels like the movie has some sort of identity crisis going on. It never seems to be able to reconcile the “new” with the “old.”
Having said all that, I did actually enjoy this movie as a fun “wam-bam” modern horror flick. What I really loved about this flick is it’s “no holding” back, “go for broke” mentality. Like I said before, this movie is a gore fest and a half. Buckets upon buckets of blood. I mean, it literally rains blood at one point. Yeah, I know. Awesome, right. The movie is straight forward and brutal, and once it starts going it never lets up. It has some of the best practical effects work I’ve ever seen. There’s some CGI work, but you’ll hardly notice it. It works in tandem with the practical effects to enhance the effectiveness of each other. It’s so refreshing to see a movie that isn’t a plastic looking CGI fest. Usually, when I’m jonesing for practical effects I have to stay at home and watch The Thing or Evil Dead II(Which is awesome!), and it was really nice to be able to see something like this on the big screen.
There’s also some nice subversion of expectations going on for those that have seen the originals. The movie does usually manage to keep the events fresh and interesting. Sometimes zigging when you zag. The last ten minutes of the film is a great example. I don’t want to give anything away, but it was probably my favorite part of the movie. It definitely left me hungry for more, and I really hope that they get a chance to make a sequel that is consistent with the crazy over the top tone of the last act. They did some nice set up, so, the opportunity is most certainly there to make a bat-shit crazy gonzo sequel. I hope they really just embrace it and go even further that this one. I don’t know how possible that’s going to be, though. This is a really hard “R” and I’m sure they had to cut a lot to get that are too. So, I guess we’ll see.
Just as a side thing, I’ve read a lot of rumors about this movie actually being in continuity with the original films, and that if they make another The Evil Dead with Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell(Supposedly, they are writing a script this summer.) that the two series will cross over at some point into one mega movie. Minor spoiler here, but after thew credits roll there is a close up of Bruce Campbell saying “Groovy” to the camera. This has set people off into all sorts of wild theories. As far as I can tell, the only solid thing is that they may make an Evil Dead 4/Army of Darkness 2, but I haven’t heard anything more substantive than that. Sure, that would be awesome, but probably pretty unlikely. People are making some really huge leaps of logic to make this theory make sense. So, yeah, cool idea, but probably not going to happen. It’s more likely that Ash would just be in the new Evil Dead II, than have two separate franchises going at the same time that eventually merge together. Hey, you never know though…
At the end of the day, this movie is wildly inconsistent, the acting is mediocre, but there is a lot of great moments to be had here. I had a lot of fun watching the movie despite all of it’s flaws. I’m really curious to hear from people that aren’t intimately aware of the originals think, because I may not even be able to be actively subjective about this movie at all. Even with all of it’s flaws, and there is a bunch, the movie is still worth your time just because of the sheer audaciousness of what they managed to get up on screen, It reminds me of a C-grade horror flick from the 80’s, and I mean that as a compliment. It’s all “balls and no brains,” but I’m honestly okay with that. It’s a quick and fun ride. If you had any interest in the movie based on what you saw in the trailers, I’d definitely give it a go.