I need to start this with a confession. I have never seen The Evil Dead. Not the Evil Dead movie – I saw that at the weekend – but the original, which has the definite article as part of its title. I understand that in many ways The Evil Dead kickstarted the modern horror film, containing plenty of blood and guts, while also having the odd joke thrown in too. I have, however, seen Sam Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell, and I loved it. It doesn’t skimp on the violence but there’s also a healthy sense of humour present, meaning many scenes feel like a Tom & Jerry cartoon come to life. I’m sure, if he could have found a way to make it relevant to the story, Raimi would have had someone diced by running through a tennis racquet.
Anyway, the set up for both the original and remake Evil Deads is a group of teenagers heading to a remote cabin in the woods. In the original, I believe, they are there for spring break – looking to take advantage of the solitude to have a bit of partying fun. The sole nod to innovation in the remake is that here the group are there to help someone go cold turkey from a drug addiction that has previously led to overdose. That aside there is literally nothing that you haven’t seen before. I am, by no means, an aficionado of horror films, but I was bored within 5 minutes, realising that this has been done to death (excuse the pun).
So, briefly, group finds evidence of witchcraft, including book with foreign scrawl and messages of warning. One member of the group says something out loud that summons the evil spirits. Evil spirits have their way with the group in attempting to take their souls to Hell. Yawn yawn yawn.
There is nothing with the playful inventiveness of Drag Me To Hell (or, presumably, The Evil Dead). We never get to know or care about the characters (one of them was called Mia. Other than that, erm…). The violence happens and is gruesome. To the credit of director Fede Alvarez, none of the effects are CG, and all look suitably impressive. But nothing stays with you really. There are a couple of voluntary amputations, but none as memorable or horrifying as that in 127 hours.
With this kind of material, that has been seen so frequently, I suppose you need to do one of two things: either acknowledge we’ve seen it all before and have some fun with it (see Scream, Final Destination and last year’s brilliant Cabin In The Woods), or be serious and make it truly horrifying (Wolf Creek). Having centred the film on a recovering drug addict, and with the theme of possession, there was the opportunity to cast an interesting third route and use the violence as some kind of metaphor for destruction wrought on a person or society by hard drugs, but any notion of this coming along was soon lost.
To be fair, that’s probably not such a new route – zombie movies have been doing it for ages, with various … Of The Dead’s reflecting various aspects of Americans society of the last 40 years or so, but it still would have been interesting for a cabin schlocker. Well, more interesting.
As it is, you leave the cinema feeling that this remake is merely another cashcow to file alongside the Nightmare on Elm Street et al remakes.
Soulless. Pun fully intended.