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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Evil Dead

Another year, another horror remake. Only this time, I am something of a fan of the original...

I suppose we should be celebrating the fact that Evil Dead is one horror remake that is actually rather well made and generally watchable, but it's still a pointless retreading of something that has been done far better already and, at this point, do we really need to be rewarding this kind of bad behaviour.

Taking a step back, the original The Evil Dead (note the definitive article) was a micro-budget, little horror film released in 1981 by a then-unknown filmmaker named Sam Raimi about a group of friends whose trip to a cabin in the woods is violently interrupted by the forces of the undead that they unwittingly unleash. Since then, it's director has become one of the most sought after names in Hollywood, its star has become the most beloved b-movie star to come along since the heyday of Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee and the film itself, along with its two sequels, have become the very definition of cult classics.

Personally, I actually enjoy the original film the least of the original trilogy as the second film did much the same thing but better in every way, while the third film took the series in an utterly bonkers but endlessly entertaining direction. Still, taken together the Evil Dead trilogy represents everything great about super-cheap, hands-on comedy horror.

Now, it has to be said, Evil Dead may lay claim to being the first Evil Dead remake (though it's also kind of a sequel/ reboot) but effectively, it's actually at least the third. The first remake, of course, was The Evil Dead 2, which took the same plot of the first film and upped the inventiveness and the comedy, while also placing its attention squarely on the only character from the first film that was actually interesting, Bruce Campbell's Ash. It wasn't just a great film on its own but it was a remake (albeit one disguised as a sequel) that was infinitely better than the original.  

The latest remake of The Evil Dead, prior to this, had nothing to do with the series in any official capacity but considering just how much last year's Cabin in the Woods drew from Raimi's original, it's hard not to see Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon's instant cult favourite as an Evil Dead "reimagining". And again, rather than being a mere rip-off, Cabin in the Woods adds a brilliant and utterly nuts post-modern twist to the familiar Evil Dead formula and came up with the freshest, if not necessarily the scariest, horror flick to come out in quite some time.

With all this in mind, this current Evil Dead remake can't help but disappoint. Yes, it is pleasantly stripped down with very welcome physical effects (CGI is the bane of modern horror) and a newcomer director who clearly knows how to put together a solid horror film, but so what? Aside for upping the gore and violence to almost unimaginably graphic levels (there's no way in hell this film would have been allowed to be released back when the first Evil Dead came out), the film has nothing to make it stand out in terms of ingenuity, inventiveness, personality and adequately drawn characterization. And for all its gore, it's not even remotely scary either.

There is perhaps something to be said for the film's attempts to draw a metaphorical connection between the drug addiction of its main character and its supernatural elements but it's a theme that's so under developed that it might as well not even be there in the first place. Nothing is as underdeveloped though, as the film's cast of characters who are, with the possible exception of Jane Levy's Mia, uniformly bland and serve no other purpose than being eviscerated in the most gruesome manner imaginable. Even Mia is only interesting in the sense that she gets to do some kicking ass later on in the film but Ash she certainly ain't. And, seriously, what an Evil Dead film without Bruce Campbell?  

Some might be comforted by Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell's roles as producers of this remake but I can't imagine any fans of the originals not being disappointed by the film's lack of personality, lack of humour, lack of scares and, even if its not a shot for shot remake, its general pointlessness. Director Fede Alverez is clearly talented enough that I'm sure he'll do something worthwhile in the future but this one is for gore hounds only.

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