Sam Raimi once described his original The Evil Dead as The Three Stooges but with gore instead of custard pies. The 1981 version is the locus classicus of a myriad of horror tropes and clichés that have since been used and abused to death.
Many horror films that have come since owe their hallmarks to The Evil Dead. The raison d’etre of Cabin Fever and The Cabin in the Woods is owed to The Evil Dead formula: a group of five college-age youngsters representing every social demographic (making you wonder if these people would be best friends in real life) becomes isolated in the woods. One of them then does something foolish to cast the demon. In the Evil Dead’s case, unlocking an evil spirit by reading passages from The Necronomicon – the H. P. Lovecraft inspired grimoire bound with human flesh. The spirit then possesses and picks off one by one the whore, the athlete, the scholar, the fool and the virgin (as the group is best described and parodied in The Cabin in the Woods).
Evil Dead continues the noble tradition of dispensing with the definite article laid down by Wild Wild West, Fast and Furious and Facebook. This is not the first remake of The Evil Dead. The Evil Dead II was arguably more a remake than a sequel and, in this reviewer’s eyes, a better fulfillment of The Evil Dead mandate- no holds barred comic book violence and creative deaths that makes you shriek and laugh in the same breath. Edgar Wright described it as ‘the best episode of Scooby Doo but with gore and shocks and tree rape’.
The director, Fede Alvarez, has decided to take Evil Dead in the direction of straight horror rather than the horror/comedy of Raimi’s films. As a result, I think it looses a lot of what was so appealing about the original two.
If you want to see the film’s one gag, stay until the end of the credits. Raimi once noted that ‘horror and comedy are very close to one another’ by which he didn’t mean that horror was funny or that comedy was frightening, but the aesthetics of the two can be very similar. Both genres also get an immediate review from an audience; you can tell if your fellow cinemagoers like a comedy or horror if you hear laughing or screaming. There weren’t many screams in this audience, but a fair few ‘eugh’s and ‘ahhh’s.
Evil Dead had quite a J-horror atmosphere with the desaturated grunge wash over the colour pallet that’s very typical of modern horror films. There’s a habit of remakes and reboots to shoehorn in backstory into the original plot. During the films opening scene I was worried we would be getting a lot of description of the evil spirit’s origin rather than the important thing, which is how it’s going to dispense of these ‘redshirts’. Thankfully, this seemed to be just an excuse for a gruesome immolation to set the tone. The film retains the infamous and controversial ‘tree-rape’ scene of the original that gave a new meaning to the phrase ‘Deep in the Hundred Acre Woods’.
To the film’s credit, the film doesn’t employ CGI for anything other than touch ups. The crew utilised every trick and illusion in the book to achieve the gaudy gore, which is very much in the ‘pencils in the Achilles tendon’ spirit of the original. Describing Evil Dead as ‘gory’ doesn’t quite cut it. The final scene could very easily rival Braindead’s “lawnmower scene” for sheer volume of blood and it did render me wanting to scream ‘How are you still standing? You should be in searing agony!’
*** (3 Stars)