Thursday, April 18, 2013

Manufacturing A Cult

Evil Dead is a fun but not great studio remake of a fun but not great cult classic indie flick produced by some of the principals of said indie flick. In spite of a very verbose ad campaign that promised "the most terrifying film you will ever experience" it seems unlikely that anybody has walked of the theater particularly terrified. Grossed out, sure, but there is no primal fear getting tapped by Fede Alvarez. That's fine, as far as the film goes, but hardly lives up to advanced billing. Neither does it live down to the horrible advanced billing that SXSW viewers spouted off. Evil Dead is a bit of grotesquerie that likely does original series progenitor, Sam Raimi, proud. And it's entertaining in its own way. The Evil Dead by Sam Raimi is a beloved piece of pulp that was really outshone by its successors but is a fun way to spend a dark and stormy night. It edges on black comedy but a lot of the credit for that goes to star Bruce Campbell, as the bare bones edge more towards dark than comedy. In Fede Alvarez's hands and with a much bigger financial safety net underneath it, Evil Dead (no The this time for purposes of differentiation in case Raimi does go ahead and restart his version of the series) has a little bit of a CW look. The acting and the story are mercifully overshadowed by a splatterfest that ups the raunch and dials way back on the smirks. Mia (Jane Levy) is a junkie of some sort that is brought out unwittingly to the middle of a boggy forest for an intervention. Two of her friends, her brother and the brother's girlfriend are all there too ostensibly help but also to model jeans or something. The dialogue is forced and the story is forced and it starts out rather badly except for the mise en scene which never strays from dark and damp. We know the cabin in the woods that these youngsters are staying at has a bad history because the first scene of the movie takes place in the basement and it involves a witch being set ablaze. Also, Mia and her brother make obtuse references to their dead mother that was left alone to die by the brotherbot, and cared for by the podsister. It's a letdown when it's revealed that she was dying in a mental institute and the broeth only stayed away because he had packed up and found a job a few towns over. Oh, well, if you came to this film for a great story or interesting characters you aren't in the right place. Once intervening friend and, uh, intellectual character? Eric cuts open and reads an incantation from the charred and wire-bound book that was in the basement the gore starts to pile up. Mia trips in the woods, gets attacked by the erstwhile Rape Tree (not sure it has that name in the remake, I don't recall it being referenced as such) and is from then on possessed by a demon that needs to take 3 souls. There isn't a clear demonstration of the mystical logic at work but there doesn't really need to be. People bleed, limbs get cut off, a tongue is sliced down the middle, and it's all more gruesome than it sounds. That's the actual point of the movie, even if there is some semblance of an anti-drug message wrapped inside it all. The reality is that it's a post-Tarantino bigger budget excuse to pile on the blood as a means of transgressive humor. Thank god for that because, if that sounds like a reasonable entertainment, then there is an audience for this type of thing. The camp and humor of the original are mostly gone and they're missed but not catastrophically. I wouldn't go so far as to say I liked Evil Dead but I didn't hate it. If you can adjust your expectations following a recent rough patch for smaller studio budget horror then there's at least enough of a reason for a movie like this to exist. Maybe Alvarez will come out sharper in his second feature. Maybe there will be a second Evil Dead 2. Not hating Evil Dead counts as a success.

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