Not only is the needless “reboot” a disgrace to the original, it stands out as one of the WORST remakes in horror history.
Well, this is it; the moment we’ve been dreading for a good fifteen years now.
The first time I heard rumblings of an “Evil Dead” remake was in 2000. I immediately sent an e-mail to the most pertinent source I could think of at the time -- that being, of course, legendary drive-in critic Joe Bob Briggs -- who responded by saying, and I am afraid I have to paraphrase here, that every time he heard someone use the term “re-imagining” or “re-envisioning,” all he wanted to do was yell “write a goddamn original script!” as a high-pitched rebuttal.
Of course, I never really thought that such a project would ever get off the ground. Then again, this was well before the era of rampant horror remakes, and even as we progressed through the PG-13 Shymalan era to there being a “My Bloody Valentine 3D” playing in actual chain theaters, I still thought this would never, ever happen. First, they came for “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” then they came for “Halloween,” and then “Friday the 13th.” Yet, still, I remained optimistic. “The Evil Dead is our holiest of holies,” I would placate myself. “There’s no way a just god would allow such a blasphemy to ever come to fruition.”
Even as legendary flicks like “Night of the Demons,” “Black Christmas” and “Silent Night Deadly Night” got the “re-do treatment,” I felt safe. It just can’t happen, I kept thinking. And then, the trailer hit, and I realized it: “The Evil Dead” had just been defiled, and there was seemingly nothing I could do about it.
I promised to not watch the “new” movie. As a kid, I actually promised myself that if this day arrived, I would organize a national boycott to picket theaters playing the atrocity. But over the last couple of weeks, something utterly unexpected happened; as if by the divine right hand of God himself, fate had chosen me…via a New York Times article shoutout…to be the individual that gave this crime against celluloid the literary thrashing to end all literary thrashings.
If someone was going to piss upon the eternal monument known as “The Evil Dead,” than I believe it is my celestially appointed duty to chug a 57-ounce XL QuikTrip cup of Mountain Dew Code Red with vanilla flavoring and piss back with all the fury my bladder can muster.
And so, I grabbed my girl, a couple of tofu dogs, and headed to the drive-in. Fede Alvarez and what’s left of Sam Raimi’s reputation called me out to a fistfight, and you better believe I was ready to scrap like a motherfucker.
You may be wondering if there’s some bias at play here. Granted, I revere the original “The Evil Dead” with the sort of sacrosanct respect normally reserved for war heroes and religious figureheads, but even if I didn’t necessarily have an appreciation for the 1983 (or is it 1981?) original, I still would have hated the ever-loving shit out of Fede Alvarez’s absolute on-screen abortion. If this is supposed to be the Uruguayan wunderkind’s grand Hollywood debut, a much-touted prospect hasn’t had a failed first impression of such a magnitude since the legendary “Shockmaster” made his first appearance on WCW television.
Of course, I didn’t want the “remake” to be good. Then again, I also knew that it would’ve been impossible for a remake to recapture ANY of the magic of the first movie, and I sure as hell knew that it wasn’t going to be on par with the original when an unproven (now proven to be an unskilled douche bag, though) wannabe auteur and Diablo Cody was behind the screenplay process.
The fact of the matter is that “Evil Dead” (2013) -- henceforth referred to as either “Evil Dead ‘13” or “this/that worthless piece of shit” -- is not only as bad as I imagined, it’s actually far, far worse than I would’ve predicted. Not only is this a film that fails to reproduce any of the charm or atmosphere or shock of the original, it’s a film that fails to generate charm, atmosphere or shock of virtually any kind. Unlike its’ inspiration, “Evil Dead ‘13” is a lifeless, plastic film, with acting so wooden, dialogue so clunky, and pacing so stilted that it feels like you’re more or less watching a SyFy made-for-cable original. This is a film with absolutely zero understanding of what made “The Evil Dead” an American independent cinema classic -- unable to detect the low-budget, anti-establishment creativity and against-the-grain structuring of the ‘83 flick, apparently Alvarez thinks that it’s just blood and guts that gave the film its vaunted reputation. There’s plenty of plasma and severed limbs to be found in “ED ‘13,” but none of the suspense, originality, or ingenious camera shots that “ED ‘83” had. And even the gore quotient is relatively ineffective; after 32 years of higher-budget imitators, all of the by-the-numbers, tongue-in-cheek disemboweling and dismemberment doesn’t seem anywhere near as “Grand” or “Guignol” as it used to.
So, where did this remake go wrong? Well, in a lot of places, to start off.
One of the really great things about the original “Evil Dead” was that it didn’t really have an exposition to explain who, how or why all of the freaky shit started happening to the kids in the movie. Granted, the sequels cleared all of that stuff up, but that enigmatic plot point -- you know, the same reasonless device that never explained why zombies were running around in the first “Night of the Living Dead” or why Michael Myers wanted to kill people in the first “Halloween” movie -- gave the film this ultra-spooky, mysterious quality that added to the suspense of the picture. In the remake, a needless prologue -- featuring a bunch of country rubes setting a teenage girl on fire -- serves as something of an explanation to the films’ happenings, and takes out virtually all of the suspense regarding the vacationers subsequent exploration of the cabin, finding of the demonic relic, and unleashing the forces of hell due to their willy-nilly behaviors.
As with the original, we have ourselves a cast of five kids -- two males, three females -- who were all childhood friends. Now, whereas in the first film, the cast were just a bunch of Michigan State students hightailing it to Tennessee for your typical 1980s weekend of doin’ drugs and doin’ it, the kids in the remake actually have an agenda. You see, one of the kids has a really bad heroin habit, and the weekend retreat is more or less an intervention to help her quit smack, cold turkey. The fact that this plot point completely rips off last year’s “Resolution” is something you probably shouldn’t look into, though.
While nobody’s going to call the acting in the original “Evil Dead” commendable by any stretch, at least there was a certain sense of sincerity to both the dialogue and delivery of said dialogue. Listening to people speak in the remake, however, is like chewing on an eight pound block of Styrofoam; nothing anybody in the movie says sounds anything even remotely resembling honest or serious; in other words, the characters in the film seem to be playing self-aware characterizations themselves. Corny -- yet attempting to be serious -- dialogue is one thing, but the phoniness and laziness of the acting and scriptwriting here is almost “Twilight”-levels of plastic awfulness.
There are a lot of odes to the original film -- the necklace medallion (which doesn’t really have the same function that it had in the first flick), the chainsawing, and even a split-second cameo by Bruce Campbell in a post-credits sequence -- but none of them have even a fraction of the impact that those same devices had in the original flick. Especially disappointing is Alvarez’s “update” of the iconic tree-rape sequence; when you can make an entire crowd of theater-goers laugh as a woman has a tree limb jammed up her hoo-ha, you know you’ve royally screwed up as a filmmaker.
There’s a lot of gore, guts and gunge in the movie, but without the suspense, pacing and creativity that the first film had, the on-screen violence in the remake becomes both self-parodying and unrealistic to the point of viewer disengagement. It’s clear that Alvarez is aiming for the gross out in several sequences -- a chick pukes blood in another girl’s mouth, people get pegged by semi-automatic nail guns, and one character gets turned into a living Venus de Milo statuette via nonconsensual shotgun surgery --but none of it is really shocking or effective, to any degree. Even now, the scene in the first film where what’s her name gets a pencil jammed through her ankle is more disturbing -- and stomach churning -- than anything you’ll see in the remake, times twenty.
As both a remake and film on its own merits, “ED ‘13” is an absolute disaster. It’s worse than 2009’s “Friday the 13th,” and it’s worse than 2010’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street” -- as a standalone horror flick, it’s easily the worst I’ve seen in a theater since “Red Riding Hood” -- aka, that goddamn movie where Gary Oldman wears aluminum foil nail polish and Amanda Seyfried just stares doe-eyed at the camera for 90 minutes. It’s a film that’s not just structurally stupid, it’s clear that the filmmakers set out to make as stupid a motion picture as they could; all in all, had Alvarez taken a dump on the original negatives of the film, it would’ve been a more loving tribute to the source material then what the no-talent hack shat out on the screen here. Remember the scene in the original where Ash buried his girlfriend alive, only to bring her back to life with a motorized defibrillator he just McGuyvered out of a car battery and a couple of conveniently-packed syringes of adrenaline? If Alvarez directed a remake of “Psycho,” he’d probably have Norman Bates turn into an eight foot tall eagle creature that’s warded off by a bazooka lugging bounty hunter.
As both a standalone offering and a remake, the film certainly owes quite a bit to the original “The Evil Dead.” And if you ask me, “an apology” would be the best place to start.