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Entries in Evil Dead [2013] (1)

Saturday
Apr062013

Evil Dead (2013)

Narcolepticon Ex Mucus

By the way, if anyone here is in Marketing or Advertising: kill yourself. Thank you.

--Bill Hicks

Half-way into Evil Dead, Fede Alvarez's big-budget remake of Sam Raimi's couch-change horror classic, I gave up all hope of being entertained. The movie had become an endurance test, and my reward for wading through buckets of sinew and uninspired plotting would be the much-talked-about post-credits stinger--a delightful tease for fans of the original franchise that allegedly ties two cinematic universes together.

Fair warning: Turn back now if you don't wish to read about the best part of the movie.

Mia (Jane Levy) wanders dazedly down a long country road, battered and bloody from her showdown with the Kandarian demon. Following a series of time-lapse edits, she winds up in the parking lot of a sparsely patronized retail store.

Inside, a bored customer-service desk clerk (Ted Raimi) smacks his gum loudly while reading an entertainment magazine with the headline, "Are Remakes Killing Horror Movies?". His back is turned to the out-of-focus main entrance, but we can just make out Mia shambling through the automatic doors.

She collapses with a loud, wet thud. Someone shrieks off-camera. We switch focus for a moment as the clerk swivels around and considers the state of his newest customer.

Coming back into focus, he sighs heavily, picks up the phone and activates the PA system. We're looking up at him now, from the desk's point of view, and can clearly see a bright red S-Mart sign on the wall. With as little enthusiasm as the employee handbook allows, he announces, "Code Green in 1A, please. Code Green in 1A."

We track along S-Mart's main aisle as customers wander out from the clothing racks to see what all the commotion is about. The shot cross-fades and pans up on a dirty wheeled, bucket and the worn plastic mop rising from it like a retail Excalibur. In an instant, a gleaming metallic hand (which fans will recognize instantly from Army of Darkness) pops into frame and grabs the handle. Cut to black.

Pretty sweet, right?

It was, and I had a great time inventing this sequence on the drive home. I had to do something to get the actual stinger out of my head, which consisted of a two-second Bruce Campbell close-up. Standing in near total darkness, he turns to the camera and says "Groovy". Cut to black.

Some mouth-breathing cretins may think this is an awesome enough reason to not evacuate a truly awful movie, but their lack of self-respect is astonishing and should not be encouraged. It's the like waiting around after a Cars movie in anticipation of Mater saying "Git 'er done! Beep-beep!" in Larry the Cable Guy's obnoxious voice.

Yes, my intro was a cruel joke, but so is this movie. Those who are new to horror (or who are pre-disposed to like absolutely everything they see) may find lots to love in Evil Dead. For the rest of us, this tired exercise offers a painful lesson in the power of marketing and the purchasability of the nerd press.

Despite decades of fan requests for a new Evil Dead sequel, Raimi and Campbell slapped their name on a sub-par retread--all the while unscrupulously promoting it as being better than even what their supporters claimed they wanted. Sadly, the public appears to have convinced itself that this steaming pile of garbage is what it had asked for all along. It's the cinematic equivalent of Obamacare.

Worse than the fact that all the new material is unnecessary filler--from the opening attempted exorcism to the conceit that a group of friends have traveled to a secluded, wooded cabin to help one of their own kick heroin--is Alvarez and co-writer Rodo Sayagues' refusal to let Raimi's original trilogy go. Evil Dead isn't a remake or a re-imagining so much as it's a Greatest Hits mash-up of parts one and two:

The kids find the Book of the Dead; one of them reads it aloud; a forest-full of demons is unleashed.

Fine. But we also get endless call-backs to the glass necklace, three severed hand gags, multiple trips to the work shed, and, of course, a climactic showdown featuring a chainsaw. Along the way, Alvarez keeps cutting to illustrations from the book, which show gruesome things happening to people. Wouldn't you know it? Seconds later, the highlighted awful fate befalls one of the kids in the cabin.

Rinse. Repeat.

By constantly grafting elements of Evil Dead 2, which is a comedy, into an allegedly serious, dark horror movie, the filmmakers wind up with something neither humorous nor horrific. In this way--and only in this way--Evil Dead is the perfect spiritual successor to the original, which was also plagued by repetitive "Look at Me!" gore scenes and zero reason to invest emotionally.

What's worse, Alvarez doesn't at all try to improve on Raimi's films' problems--in fact, he makes them worse. I never understood how demons with the ability to possess people, levitate, warp reality, and grow into horrific multi-headed monsters were so easily defeated by chainsaws and guns. At least Raimi established a rule that reading different Book of the Dead passages could restore the cosmic order.

Alvarez just goes to town on his meat puppets (who are invincible--until they're conveniently not) and gives us more drawn-out false endings than Return of the King. None of them work, by the way, and serve only to highlight the perfect, escalating weirdness of Evil Dead 2's climax.

I was very hopeful for this remake, and even called off the hounds of skepticism a few months ago. But it turns out the naysayers were right--just not for the reasons they thought. I believe a quality update of The Evil Dead is possible, but whatever I watched yesterday doesn't qualify. Shot in a competent but wholly generic style,* and cast mostly with what I can only assume are slightly tousled Abercrombie models, Evil Dead 2013 plays like a late-afternoon test the scientists from The Cabin in the Woods would rush through ahead of a three-day weekend.

I can't help but wonder if this was Sam Raimi's plan all along: a hearty "Fuck You" to his fans for not appreciating the Evil Dead films he'd already given them. I'd like to think that's the case, even if it is a bit cruel. For my part, I'm going to violate a very strong, very personal policy and suggest that you avoid this movie at all costs. Just don't watch it. There's nothing here that wasn't done better over twenty years ago, and therefore no reason for you to waste your time, money, or gas. Contrary to all the overblown Internet chatter, Alvarez's movie won't give you nightmares--but it may just put you to sleep.

A Note About the Famous "No CGI" Controversy: Computer-generated imagery rears its unconvincing head within the first three minutes of this film. It's not as egregious as, say, the Resident Evil movies, but there's no more or less "old school, practical horror" here than was evident in Saw II. Once again, bullshit hype and manufactured drama win the day.

*Pay close attention to the specific "Raimi-isms" Alvarez tries to re-create and stand in awe of the mediocrity.