It’s time to declare a moratorium on movies that feature a cabin, a woodsy setting, and supernatural goings-on. When Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard unleashed THE CABIN IN THE WOODS in early 2012, they made the EVIL DEAD remake obsolete a year in advance.
Talk about prophetic!
Therein lies the irony, as the original EVIL DEAD helped spawn the scenarios and clichés that CABIN so successfully skewered.
But had that film never existed, would this remake have succeeded? I doubt it. In 1981, writer-director Sam Raimi created a micro-budget horror with a bare-bones plot and a lot of technical chutzpah. In 2013, director/co-writer Fede Alvarez delivers a hatchet job in the form of a bad postmodern joke. You’ll laugh, but for the wrong reasons.
You needn’t look further than the closing credits – displayed over a seemingly endless montage of blood spatter – to see what’s really fueling this enterprise.
Alvarez’s film starts with tentative promise: a young five-some treks out to the deep woods, but not for the reason horror films typically favor. Mia (Jane Levy) is a recovering addict looking to detox with the help of her pals. David (Shiloh Fernandez) is her cowardly mechanic brother; Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) is a schoolteacher; Olivia (Jessica Lucas) is an RN; and Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) is…the obligatory blonde girlfriend. I was pulling for these paper-thin characters to anchor us for the long haul, but the film quickly becomes a competition in who can display the least common sense most often.
For as self-aware as the genre’s become, some of this stuff is totally unforgivable. Plot purposes aside, why read an incantation from a book bound in human flesh? The answer: just because! Why would you walk down rotting cellar steps to console someone who is clearly possessed? The answer: just because! Why would you not blow away an armless demon who’s shot you full of nails? The answer: because I got feelings for her! It’s shit like this that drags the genre down, and makes its fans look like buffoons with blood on the brain.
While the supporting cast spends the film begging for plausible motivation, Mia is cranky and unlikeable. This becomes more bothersome when she’s possessed by Pazuzu, vomiting tomato soup and growling variations on “your mother sucks cocks in hell.” I get it: this new EVIL DEAD is reaching for a message (addiction = possession!) amid its m.o. of pushing the limits of bodily harm. Yet any deeper meaning is lost in the rush to build a better gore film.
The much-touted practical FX are as jaw-dropping, cringe-worthy, and creatively sick as anything glimpsed in THE EXORCIST, ALIEN, or John Carpenter’s THE THING. Yes, sports fans – theyre that good. While little else lives up to expectations, people will talk about how this film brought in-camera effects back from the dead.
For as much as I’ve torn it limb from limb, EVIL DEAD contains isolated moments of stylistic brilliance (the demonic force speeding through the woods; the image of a flooded stream; a macabre live burial) placed within a classic setting that inspires fear by default. Alvarez builds some suspense amid the mayhem, and his use of light and shadow is commendable. The resistance to underlining every scare with a booming sound effect is also admirable. If any of it meant anything, EVIL DEAD’s excesses might have been cathartic or exhilarating – but in the end, you’ll probably feel just as beaten and bloodied as the characters in this mess.
And that’s pretty fucking far from “groovy.”
2 out of 5 stars
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A big THANK YOU to William D. Prystauk and CrashPalace for hosting this review!
(Photo from Twitch Films.)