Now, I went into Evil Dead with such high hopes, which is actually quite out of character for me especially since I really don’t regard a lot of recent horror as anything to write home about. Most films are trying to rely on gore and cheap scares to wow the audience, moving away from the 70s’ and 80s’ use of strong characters and plot. However, with Evil Dead being amped up as “the scariest film you’ll see,” and having pulled in quite the positive reception, I allowed myself to get excited. Damn it, I did it again. Hello, disappointment.
The movie bills itself as having the “female Ash” but that’s misleading. For those of you who have seen the original, The Evil Dead, you know that Ash is not only the main character but he is the big hero of the piece. Mia (Jane Levy), however, is not only NOT the main character but she is also the first character to become possessed by the evil entity from the woods. She has no time for any actual character development aside from going from junkie to possessed and then possessed to horrified. The main character instead is Mia’s brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) who up until the end of the film is the hero of this piece.
Like the original, this incarnation lacks female strength and focuses instead on how vulnerable and weak women are, while holding up its male characters, focusing on their strength, determination and selflessness (even though it’s one of the male character’s fault that all of the horror comes to pass. But that’s not important, obviously.)
And, for the record, just because you allow one of your female characters to “find strength” and be the lone survivor doesn’t make your film feminist or empowering to women, especially when it happens abruptly in the last five minutes of the film.
I’ll give the movie this much: it sure was pretty, visually. However, as a feminist critic I have to wonder: Is horror slowly becoming a straight white man’s genre?[subscribe2]
A little backstory to begin here: I am an Evil Dead f-a-n-a-t-I-c. Ever since I saw the trailer for this weird-looking movie with skeletons, and demony things, and a guy with a chainsaw for a hand on some random VHS way back in 1993, and BEGGED my mother incessantly for weeks to let me to see it, I have been hooked on this film series. Like most people of my era, I didn’t get a chance to see them in chronological order, but instead had to track them down from video rental store to video rental store, like an extremely morbid treasure hunt. The original film, 1981′s The Evil Dead, being the holy grail in said treasure hunt, seeing as how it was released in such limited print. To be perfectly honest, I think that’s why this series has engrained itself as the “Holy Trilogy” in so many of our hearts, we had to work just that much harder in order to see them.
Then came the t-shirts, the lunchboxes, the toys, the comic books, the video games. Bruce Campbell’s Ash plastered on virtually anything that they could sell. It went from “the little horror series that could” to a full blown pop culture goldmine. So why anyone was surprised when they announced that a remake was happening, I have no idea. But we were. And quite a few of us were p*ssed. How dare they? After all these years of waiting to see Ash return in the consistantly-rumored Evil Dead 4, they were going back to the cabin with some new snot-nosed kids, and most importantly, without Ash?! BLASPHEMY! SELL-OUTS!!! (To see why that last statement, that I’d heard so very often, was absolutely rediculous, please see the extensive list of merchandising I’d previously mentioned.) But then came the news that the original team of Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and Rob Tapert would be overseeing the project, and still we cried “BULLSH*T!” THEN, Bruce Campbell, Ash himself, assured us that the film would not suck, and we were given pause, but remained terribly pessismistic.
But then came that red band trailer… *shudders*
Alright, in regards to this film, DO NOT believe the absolutely BRILLIANTLY executed hype (Seriously, that red band trailer made grown men to a helluva lot more than just cringe). This flick is neither scary or even in the ballpark of being as gory as I would have been led to believe. But, with that being said… it was still probably the goriest film I’ve ever seen in any mainstream movie theater. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, I’m more than aware that I’m desensitized and more than a little biased, ok? But they still made executive producer Sam Raimi proud, I can assure you of that. The gore tops the buckets of blood from the original by substituting a 50 gallon tanker truck.
Now what DOES set this little film apart from the rest of the pack of johnny-come-lately remakes, are the FANTASTIC makeup and visual effects, made all the more “real” by the fact that it was all done with practical effects and in camera. I mean there are some scenes in there that I have no idea how they managed to pull off without CGI, and the producers assure us there is none in this film (meaning that, if there is, they hid it remarkably well). And another little tidbit, now maybe it’s just the sick sense of humor that myself and the group of people I saw this with possess, but this film is not as dead-serious as I was led to believe. Sure, it’s not Three Stooges-esque slapstick, a la Army of Darkness, but this film has more than it’s share of laugh out loud moments.
Sam, Bruce, and Rob made a damn fine choice in First time director Fedé Alvarez, he knocks this one out of the park. The backstory, the reasons and logic of why they’re at the cabin, why they can’t leave, and why they initially dismiss the flashing neon signs saying “B*TCH’S POSSESSED!!!” are brilliant, and only serve to enhance the story. And then came the biggest kicker, the one that we didn’t expect. The fact that even in 2013, when the internet spoils virtually every piece of entertainment’s plot imaginable, they still somehow managed to pull the wool over our eyes. It’s a remake, a reboot, or anything like that at all. It’s a damn sequel! Well, maybe not in the traditional sense, but it’s a film that takes place within the same universe that we’ve come to know and love. Its a re-quel! And for the love of all that is unholy, watch this one all the way through the credits. If you don’t, you’ll regret missing out on what I’ve deemed the best eight seconds of my adult film-going experience.
If the amount of blood, sweat, blood, tears, blood, and MORE blood shed behind the scenes was even a third of what we saw splattered on the big screen, then this is quite possibly the most passionate film ever made. Two gore-soaked chainsaws up, and a resounding “hail to the king” for the triumphant return of the Evil Dead franchise. Groovy.