There’s something decidedly un-scary about a horror movie with a plot that eschews mystery in order to lay out a diabolical, supernatural plan. In Evil Dead, the remake of the beloved cult classic original, The Evil Dead (dropping the titular “The” is about the closest this film gets to original deviation), it’s made clear that a demonic entity known as the Abomination requires five souls in order to emerge into the world of the living. It will rain blood. No one will be spared. Old Testament type stuff.
The plot of the remake is more or less familiar to the original: Five friends stay in a cabin and discover an ancient, evil book, the Naturom Demonto or, roughly translated, the Book of the Dead. Once text from the book is read aloud, one by one, the friends are possessed by evil demons and they are killed in a spectacularly gruesome fashion. Here, in the 2013 version, more backstory is dedicated to the characters. We learn that Mia is a drug addict who plans on kicking her habit cold turkey, and her friends and her brother have come along for the emotional support that she will surely need. The hell of withdrawal is only a warm-up to the real horror that awaits them.
It stands to reason that a remake or a reboot would want to differentiate itself from the original, but adding the backstory and adding a lame prologue featuring a ritual to cleanse a young girl’s soul from the Abomination’s grasp was totally unnecessary. The original realized that fear is derived from the unknown. Removing that mystery removes the essence of fear and we’re left with a scenario in which our characters will simply have to kill each other in a case of one-upmanship, where each death is more brutal and disgusting than the last. This isn’t a viable substitution for mystery and fear; this is just cheap gimmickry with gore and blood as the main ingredient.
Putting a literal face and personification to the horror only served to take a potentially interesting plot point and make it dumb. The Abomination was supposed to be a very, very serious threat. Once it has the five souls that it requires for physical manifestation, it was to be a force to be reckoned with.
But… apparently sticking a chainsaw in its face will pretty much kill it right away. The Abomination does little more than crawl around, spit out silly lines and then finally die when Mia takes it on, face to face. It really doesn’t put up too much of a fight. Mia loses her hand when the Abomination uses its brute strength to overturn a Jeep on top of her, but that seemed more like the job of the Jeep than anything else.
Evil Dead, the 2013 version, wants to be as serious and terrifying as the original was, but seems to borrow a lot of the sillier ideas from Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn, which worked as well as a comedy as a horror movie (and it’s brilliant). Here, having the character of David pull a MacGyver is a hilarious tonal shift. The homage doesn’t work to strengthen its standing in the Wide World of Remakes because it has a love for its source material, it only works to make it unintentionally hilarious.
David, Mia’s brother, learns from the evil Book of the Dead that the Abomination will be free from his sister’s soul by doing something as simple as burying her alive. The evil entity will have no choice but to leave her be and the curse will be lifted from her and her soul will be at peace. He dresses her up in what appears to be Lydia’s dress from the Beetlejuice wedding scene and throws a CGI sandwich bag over her face and buries her alive.
Ta-da! The curse is lifted. You can tell, because a burning tree’s fire is immediately extinguished. David digs her up and stabs her in the heart with two syringes (or were they meat injectors?) rigged to a battery and jump starts her heart. She is alive and curse free. But the horror isn’t over yet! Because, apparently, they needed to pad the running time.
How many doors does this cabin have? I feel like the movie features no less than 13 doors being slammed in the viewer’s face. Even the kitchen has a door. The basement has a couple, too. I never felt a single moment of genuine tension during the movie, but I did cower a few times, concerned that yet another LOUD NOISE book-ended by moments of total silence was going to be responsible for my eardrum exploding. The very effective and well-done gore had me looking away from the screen a few times. I will give credit where it’s due: The gore was very good.
In the original, there was a long, extended sequence where our hero in that film, Ash, the last survivor, begins to lose his mind and we begin to lose ours along with him. He is alone and he is being tormented. It’s this fantastic little sequence with unforgettable camerawork and totally original sound effects done to incredible effect. It is one of the best scenes in any horror film ever made. The remake can make no such boasts. The best thing the remake has going for it is that there is a dog named Grandpa, and that is an awesome name for a dog.
If your only goal this spring is to see a movie that will satisfy your bloodlust, Evil Dead is a sure thing. It is very gross and very bloody and most of the gore effects are done practically with prosthetics and make-up and are some of the best I’ve seen in a while. If you want more than that, you should probably wait.
Guest post by Billy Russell