'Evil Dead' is nasty, brutish and short on laughs
05:00 AM, Apr 04, 2013
Some things should just not be tampered with.
It’s best not to mess with creepy demonic books that conjure up untold horrors. That’s the message conveyed in Evil Dead (** out of four; rated R; opening Friday nationwide). Let’s add a warning about reboots of dances with demons.
The original Evil Dead, one of director Sam Raimi’s earliest films, had almost equal parts gore and comedy. For fans of the genre, that’s hitting it out of the parkespecially since the 1981 horror classic was shot on a scant budget of $350,000.
The remake is produced by Raimi and Bruce Campbell, who co-starred in the original. But this latter-day version, as directed by Fede Alvarez, goes overboard on the gruesome and scrimps on humor. Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell was a much funnierchill-fest.
Sure, this is a higher-budget re-tread. But a remake shouldn’t exist simply to ramp up the graphic violence, even if special effects have improved immeasurably in the past 30 years. Humor should be effectively tweaked too.
And what about the fear factor? Re-making a horror flick seems pointless if it fails to frighten. It’s billed as “the most terrifying movie you’ll ever experience.” Hardly. While the grisly pandemonium is undeniable, actual scares are in short supply.
But if you must revisit the creepy cabin where a quintet of pals are terrorized by demonic forces, be prepared for unrelenting gore. The film delivers blood, guts and viscera by the gushing bucketful. Tongues are sliced, arms are severed and faces punctured by nails.
In the three decades since Raimi made Evil Dead, many have copied, adapted or borrowed from his low-budget playbook. It’s tough to pull off something ingenious and truly horrifying. What made last year’s Cabin in the Woods such a smart and entertaining film was how it injected new life into a well-worn genre by adding an ingeniously clever meta-story.
So when one of the five friends is possessed here and spouts nasty invective, why must her voice sound like Regan in The Exorcist? Do all demons take over the vocal cords of their victims and utter the same kind of profanities?
Mia (Jane Levy) is the possessed girl in question. She’s had a particularly rough go of it since arriving at her family’s remote cabin to detox after struggling with drug addiction.
Also on hand is her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) , his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) and childhood pals Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci ) and Olivia (Jessica Lucas), who also happens to be a nurse. Olivia takes over the particulars of Mia’s woodsy intervention, imposing a group staycation. She’s a tough taskmaster and also happens to be black. So guess who’s the first demonized victim?.
The rustic dwelling is the worse for wear since Mia and David last visited. But that’s the least of its problems. The basement is essentially the tunnel to hell.
The few laugh lines are delivered by Eric, who is also the guy who stumbles on the ghastly tome that unleashes all manner of torment.
Clearly scrawled across it is a dire warning: “Don’t say it, don’t write it, don’t hear it.”
An extra admonition should have been spelled out: “Don’t remake it.”