|Fun with Bruce Campbell|
In 1981, director Sam Raimi produced, or maybe better put, birthed a film that balanced the razor sharp edge between campy humor and blood-drenched gore, sparking a devoted cult following amongst horror fans. That movie was The Evil Dead. With a budget of only $150,000, Raimi embraced the grimy aesthetics of many low-budget horror films of the 1960’s and 70’s, but added a wink to the gore that elevated the material from the grindhouse to the art house. The story is so simple it should be outlawed and even back in 1981 it was hardly what one might call new. Yet it has spawned so many “evil dead” children that ABC News’ David Blaustein could opine that it is the mother to one of the most abused horror movie clichés of all time: “naïve college or high school kids, alone in a cabin or other secluded area, making predictably dumb decisions that will only make their situation worse.” These limitations didn’t stop Raimi and Bruce Campbell, his star and high school buddy, from transforming The Evil Dead into a three-part epic trilogy whose most complicated special effect was cream corn dyed green for zombie guts.
Fast-forwarding to 2013, where the horror genre has been mutilated, sewn back together and set on fire once more, The Evil Dead has been subjected, like one of Eli Roth’s captives in Hostel, to the murderous hands of the remake, reboot, let’s re and make a lot of money frenzy. Produced by Raimi and Campbell—it’s somehow appropriate that they’re ruining the spirit of their own work—the reboot version adopts the same title, but drops the definite article ‘the,’ leaving us with just Evil Dead. The feature debut of Uruguayan director Fede Alvarez, Evil Dead falls short of Raimi’s original triumph of gleeful gore; however, Alvarez does bring more to the table than just another sleek 70’s horror movie revamp.
|Stupid people in danger|
Where Raimi’s original Dead lacked what one might call a complex narrative structure, Alvarez’s remake elaborates and stretches the simple “teens in a creepy cabin” plotline. The new version’s ostensible hero is David. I wish there was some super smart significance to his name, but I’m afraid that it’s just David. Anyway, David and his generic group of friends bring David’s sister Mia to a secluded cabin in the middle of nowhere—so that she can face her drug problem. Yes, they took her to a secluded cabin in the middle of nowhere for an intervention. Things get complicated, at least for a horror film, when they read a few Latin passages from the Book of the Dead. As we all know, this will cause evil spirits to start possessing anyone around and that, of course, is exactly what happens. So, and this part is kind of good in a goofy desperate way, Mia is faced with the problem of convincing her brother and friends that she is not simply experiencing the hurdles of going cold turkey, but actually being tormented by ancient evil spirits.
|What's worse? Evil spirits or detox?|
Raimi’s original film caused quite a stir in the early 80’s with its corn chowder gore and moments of plant-based rape, and so by the eternal rules of all remakes Alvarez is philosophically and technologically obligated to up the stakes. And let’s give it to him, his version excels in gore, but, and this is the but of disappointment, it lacks the complicated integration of disturbing carnage and belly laughs that made the original such icky fun. Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune does a pretty good job of explaining the problem, so take it away Michael: “the new one is better acted, more carefully composed. But it feels like a lot of other remakes of '70s and '80s horror titles. Competent craftsmanship, vacuous slickness.” Yes, Alvarez is definitely a better technician then 70’s Raimi, but he doesn’t seem to understand the abject attraction of the original’s crazed aesthetic.
SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!
|Here we go again|
Although the remake glosses up elements of the original until they are hardly recognizable, there are still many moments that pay loyal homage to the original and even some new intriguing twists. Early on in the film, it is clear that Mia won’t make it through alive and David is taking on the role of the Bruce Campbell-esque hero. But then, Mia returns to her normal human state and David is killed, leaving us with a gender reversal and a new hero who is actually a heroine, which, if you have an ear for puns, is what got us into the woods in the first place. The last one alive, Mia single-handedly fights off the evil corpses rising from the earth—a metaphor for drug addicts? At one point Mia is panicking in the basement of the cabin, searching for a weapon to defend herself. The camera cuts to the dingy tool shelf and zooms in on the chainsaw! Every fan of the original squeals with joy, knowing the last fifteen minutes of this ultra-flashy update is about to pay its bloody tribute to the lofty sickness of a true original, The Evil Dead.
|Bruce Campbell, best performance with a chain saw|
©CCA Arts Review and Megan Cerminaro