Evil Dead (TriStar Pictures, R)

evildead 75For a lot of people, the gore is enough to carry the film and make this a good experience.

 

evildead 500

Horror fans have had to come to terms with the fact that most of the movies they love either have been or are in the process of being remade. In the case of Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street, that idea is not completely terrible. Each of those franchises have many entries, and more are bad than good. There’s not much that’s distinctive about the new Friday the 13th; it’s just another subpar entry in the franchise. But The Evil Dead is different. Evil Dead is a trilogy, and each part of that trilogy is beloved by fans. More importantly, most other franchises were built by a variety of people. Different writers, directors, and actors passed through, which in some way allowed those franchises to evolve/devolve into what people think of them as today. But The Evil Dead franchise is almost entirely from the mind of Sam Raimi. His unique directorial stamp is clear throughout. The first Evil Dead doesn’t have a particularly original story; everything that was memorable about it was a direct result of its director. So the idea of an Evil Dead movie without Sam Raimi in the director’s chair sounded very risky indeed.

I’m going to do my best to avoid constant comparisons between this new Evil Dead film and the original, but I should describe my reaction the first time I saw that classic film. I was watching it with a friend who had also never seen it, and by the end we were laughing hysterically. I mean “hysterically” in the literal sense of the word. It wasn’t that it was necessarily funny; it was just so out there and insane. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing. The movie felt out of control, like anything could happen. I wouldn’t normally expect the remake to give me that same experience, but based on the trailer and early fan reactions, I kind of allowed myself to get excited.

Like the original, Evil Dead is about a group of friends who go out to a rundown cabin in the woods and unleash an evil spirit when they read from a mysterious book they find in the basement. I’ll give the remake credit for one really smart plot point: One of the girls is a heroin addict, and the point of this trip is to kick her addiction in a remote place surrounded by her friends and her brother. Not only does this provide a good reason for these kids to be here, but when she starts freaking out and screaming about evil-possessed woods, her friends have a legitimate excuse to ignore what she’s saying and force her to stay with them. Of course, that kind of goes out the window once their friends start acting like demons and carving themselves up, but for the first act, it’s a very good hook.

When it comes down to it, this movie is about one thing: gore. It’s hilarious to think that the unrated original The Evil Dead was banned in the U.K. for years, and yet this film will skate by with the same rating as The King’s Speech. They certainly don’t skimp on the gore, and it is certainly impressive. I can see that, for a lot of people, the gore is enough to carry the film and make this a good experience.

For me, the gore is not enough, and when you take it out of the equation, you aren’t left with much. None of these actors are bad, but none of them step up or have the wacky charisma of Bruce Campbell. I don’t think much about the gore in the original trilogy; I think about the creative camerawork, sound effects, and editing that mixed with the horror elements to create a uniquely thrilling and amusing experience. The new film looks slick—meaning it looks just like every other horror movie that comes out these days. The novelty of seeing a nail gun shot at someone makes me giggle for a minute, and then I want more, and in this case, there isn’t much more to be had.

Evil Dead is not a bad film. So far, most reviews and fan reactions have been very positive. My problem was that I found the film bland. Maybe I’ve seen too many horror films since seeing the original. Maybe I just can’t be affected in the same way as I could back then. It’s possible, but I don’t think so. As much as I compare films to each other, I do look at each new movie as its own thing, and I try to appreciate it on its own terms. As just a new horror movie, Evil Dead is fine but ultimately forgettable, and that’s not good enough for any movie, let alone a remake of The Evil Dead. | Sean Lass

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