Evil Dead is a ninety-one-minute vomitorium consisting of some the most disgusting gore effects ever to pollute the silver screen. A strong stomach may not be enough in order to watch it; you could need a dose of Tigan, and, should the Tigan fail, a barf bag. It has been reviewed as a film that will please diehards of the Sam Raimi film that inspired it. What about the rest of us, and by that, I mean those of us that prefer to be scared by horror movies rather than nauseated? If there’s one thing I detest, it’s a film of such narrow scope that a frothing fanbase was obviously the only thing being considered during production. For the sake of director Fede Alvarez, I hope there is a large fanbase, because God knows this movie will thoroughly alienate just about every other audience.
Raimi’s original film, which is awful in its own right, had no real plot to speak of; there were simply five college-age kids in an abandoned cabin in the woods, and one by one, they fell victim to demonic supernatural forces. Part of the reason this remake goes spectacularly wrong is not that it actually has a plot, but rather that the plot was conceived with the ludicrous conceit of being a twisted metaphor for overcoming drug addiction. The central character, a young woman named Mia (Jane Levy), is a dope addict brought to her family’s cabin by her friends and estranged brother (Shiloh Fernandez) in the hopes of finally getting her clean; the implication is that the horrible events that befall this group of kids, brought on by the discovery of an occult book in the cellar and the unwise reading aloud of an incantation, are symbolic of her withdrawal, and by the end of the film, she has literally and figuratively battled her demons.
It will be interesting to see who amongst the film’s target audience will genuinely care about Mia’s plight or even believe it; I haven’t been a drug addict, but I think I understand enough about addiction to know that secluding someone in a dilapidated cabin without the aid of medical or psychological professionals, save for a newly registered nurse with a convenient supply of Methadone, is probably the most ill-conceived intervention idea ever. No, I believe all that any potential audience is likely to notice are the scenes of relentless gore. In the course of this movie, we will see a woman cutting off her arm with an electric knife (which wouldn’t be powerful enough for such a job), a possessed woman licking a blade and slicing her tongue in half, people getting nails from a nail gun fired into their hands and faces, a hand getting pinned under a car and pulled off, a woman’s head being smashed into pulp with a broken piece of toilet, and another woman’s head being sliced in half with a chainsaw.
We also see someone getting burned at the stake, someone else getting beaten with a crowbar, a hypodermic needle getting pulled out from just below the eye, and yes, even gratuitous animal cruelty is thrown into the mix. The filmmakers also perpetuate the misogyny of the original film by having the women outnumber the men and seeing to it that the female characters have worse things happen to them. The men experience their share of pain and suffering, but the disparity is noticeable and disturbing. Neither Fernandez nor Lou Taylor Pucci, for example, get violated by entwined twigs that slither through the woods after being vomited up by a demon, nor do they have to resort to some grotesque act of physical deformity after getting possessed. And to think that this will likely be a date-night film for many couples.
This is one of the filthiest-looking films I’ve seen in quite some time. The color palette is dingy, and when he isn’t dousing them in gallons upon gallons of stage blood (just wait until the final scene, in which blood literally falls from the sky), Alvarez has his actors wallow in mud, rain, and rot. Their characters are a little like mistreated pigs awaiting their turn to be slaughtered – and then, for added amusement, they actually are slaughtered. Looking at the cabin, every part of which appears to have been caked with dank soil, one wonders how something family-owned could have fallen into such disrepair. For that matter, one wonders why it was built in a location so remote and so overrun with ugly overgrowth. The reason, of course, is that this is a horror movie, and in horror movies, cabins are never tidy or in view of civilization. An exception to the latter rule includes eccentric locals, who in this case engage in witchcraft.
Watching Evil Dead, I couldn’t help but question how Alvarez could make something so utterly tasteless yet take it so seriously. You’d think he’d take this opportunity, his feature-length directorial debut, to have a little fun with his incessant gore effects, perhaps even to make his audiences laugh. But no; the work that went into the effects are at the mercy of a story so somber and unpleasant that they inspire nothing but bad feelings. The only real comedy relief is reserved for a shot shown after the end credits, and even then, it’s unlikely to be appreciated or understood by anyone unfamiliar with Sam Raimi’s filmography. It doesn’t serve the story. It was included only to generate cheers and applause. What a cheap gimmick for a movie that deserves to be booed.