Monday, April 8, 2013

Everything You Never Needed To Know About Evil Dead



     It's hard to review the remake of The Evil Dead without comparing and contrasting with the original. If you want my thoughts on the original, they're all over everything I write. If you want my explanation for that, go to my November '05 entry, titled: "Wait… Are There Zombies In It?" Go ahead… I'll wait.
     Back? Good. 
     Shall we then?
     If you should ever find yourself in an isolated cabin in the middle of the woods and come across a book made from human flesh and bound shut by barbed wire, never, fucking ever, cut that barbed wire so that you can get a better look. And if you do give in to curiosity and cut it open and notice that it's full of pentagrams and scribbled depictions of demons devouring human souls and the only words printed in English are "DO NOT READ THIS" and other such foreboding phrases, then DON'T READ IT! And especially NOT ALOUD! Even if you're the most cynical person on the planet, it's not worth it. You don't know what it means anyway, except that it's obviously supposed to be some sort of incantation, so, just for shits and giggles, give the violently scrawled warnings the benefit of the doubt and fuck off. The very best case scenario is that you're gonna give somebody the creeps and they're gonna bum everybody else out for the remainder of the trip, hearing noises that aren't there and seeing things move in the trees and what have you.
     This is not a fault in the new film that didn't sort-of already exist in the original. It's just an observation that I have to get out the way before we go any further. 

     Evil Dead is the story of 5 hapless souls who could've benefitted greatly from that little piece of wisdom, but then we wouldn't have much of a movie now, would we?
     In Sam Raimi's original film, the knuckleheads are there to party. The guys play the spooky tape with the words from the book even though it really freaks out the girls. Much evil goes down.
     In Fede Alvarez's new version, One of the knuckleheads is kicking heroin cold-turkey and the rest of them are there for support, which is about as opposite to "partying" as a group of 5 can get while still being alive. The one obviously smart guy sneaks off and cuts the barb wire holding the book closed and all but deciphers it, reading aloud as he goes. He's a professor. His intellect demands it of him. Much other evil goes down.

    I'm trying to avoid letting this become a review because I've always sucked at those. I enjoyed it for what it was, despite itself. If that's all you were reading this for, then: YES. GO SEE IT IF YOU LIKE THAT KINDS OF MOVIES. THUMBS UP AND ALL THAT. ONE MORE PERSON ON THE INTERNET DEEMS IT:  "NOT THE SUX"…

     But, it's not even arguably superior to Sam Raimi's film. It's got more expensive looking special effects. They look more realistic. The acting is more realistic, but not nearly as interesting. The plot shadows the original, but makes minor changes that, for the most part, stay loyal to the source without mimicking it entirely. The score is big and scary, not a real stand-out, but not offensive in any way. There's no misplaced pop songs or those fake-metal "duh-dup duh-dup" parts that cut into the orchestra when somebody's being a badass or some shitty rapper, rapping about everything that just happened, over the closing credits. There's nothing wrong with the movie. Nothing damning anyway. I bet it had less things wrong with it than the old one, even. Still… I never once watched The Evil Dead and thought, "As much as I love this movie, it could sure be a lot more realistic and less over the top."

It's not you, it's me…

     I've been pretty open with my feelings on remakes over the years. 
"There's good ones and there's bad ones."
 Same thing any self-respecting racist will tell you about the ethnicity of their disapproval.
 I could never be one of those, "FUCK ALL REMAKES!" kinda fanboys, cause there have been too many that I've liked. Anybody paying attention can spot the difference between David Cronenberg's The Fly and, say, Friday The 13th.

     You know. The new one.
     Yeah, They made a new one.
     No, I have no idea who directed it.

When Peter Jackson remade King Kong, it felt like a tribute to the original King Kong. He went to great pains to translate the images that the original film had seeded in his imagination throughout the majority of his life. Love it or hate it, that's Peter Jackson's movie you're seeing when you watch it.
All I know about the When A Stranger Calls remake is that it's from The Producers Who Brung You The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and A Nightmare On Elm Street.

     Oh shit!
     Tobe Hooper and Wes Craven?
     No… They were the directors…

Not that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and A Nightmare On Elm Street, silly.
The 2003 and 2010 versions. The new ones, with all new graphics and actors with fashions that aren't out of style.

    Oh… Yeah…
     Well, that's kinda misleading. What if I didn't already know that those were both just new versions of older movies you hadn't told me about yet?

 We're making money here, Kid. You got 8 bucks to see When A Stranger Calls or what?

     …And I'm back.
     So, maybe I'm a little bit schizophrenic when it comes to the endless hail of remakes we will likely spend the rest of our movie-viewing lives sifting through, but the best way to solve that would be to STOP MAKING UNNECESSARY REMAKES NOBODY EVER ASKED FOR.
     What I'm pretending is my "point" here, is that Evil Dead - The New One is a fine little movie by a director who didn't do a bad job. It's self conscious enough NOT to try to outdo the original and… succeeds? Yes, succeeds at never one-upping the 1981 film of the same name.
     Bravo. Mediocrity achieved.

     I know it's a very petty thing to get so uptight about (especially when there's SPORTS I'm supposed to be excited about) but, in my unsolicited opinion, poor ole Fede Alvarez should have been given just as much money and resources to make a movie with only a couple more changes, that could muscle out from under the weight of the name, "Evil Dead" and be remembered for being a fun (if somewhat derivative of Sam Raimi's first film) little splatter movie that showed the promise of an inventive and fresh new director.
    You know, kinda like Cabin Fever, but much closer, narrative-wise.
     It wouldn't take that many tweaks to totally overhaul it into its own idea, just obviously, you know… derivative. So what. Some of our favorite genre films would never have existed if their creators had been worried about snobs thumbing their noses at them in the name of originality. 
     Where would any zombie film since 1968 be if their directors had been scared of treading on George A. Romero's turf?
     Would it even be possible to make a space opera epic without copying Star Wars or Star Trek just a little bit?
     What if Don Coscarelli had decided that The Beastmaster was too close to Conan The Barbarian?
     Were you one of the bazillion people, me included, who thought Children Of Men was a brilliant depiction of a dystopian future and a fantastic idea? What if I told you that it lifted it's premise, with very little deviation, from 2019: After The Fall Of New York, a kickass Italian ripoff of The Road Warrior and Escape From New York? Would you appreciate it less?

     It was hard to watch Evil Dead- The New One without carrying on this inner dialogue with myself, which is very distracting when I'm just trying to enjoy a movie I haven't already seen. If it had been called Dead Muhfuckas In The Middle Of The Woods or ANYthing more clever than that, I might not have seen it the Monday after it opened. It may have been a week or two later, when word of mouth got around and one night I'm hanging out with some like-minded friends and somebody goes, 
     "Hey, did ya'll see Dead Muhfuckas In The Middle Of The Woods yet?"
and everybody's like,
     "Fuck no. That shit looks like the Evil Dead episode of Dawson's Creek, but without Bruce Campbell."
and that one brave soul who probably sees all the cool shit before the rest of us says,
     "Nah, it's kinda badass. I mean, yeah, it's totally ripping off Evil Dead, but at least it's not ripping off Dances With Wolves or FernGully. It's got some cool ideas, though, and it's way brutal. I'm telling you, that Alvarez dude… No… Al-Va-Rez. Yeah. Next movie or two, that dude's gonna make a name for himself. I betcha."
     I'd want to check it out first chance I got. I might actually be excited. That's how cult classics are born.

     Instead, all I'm gonna hear is, "We went see Evil Dead - The New One today… It was pretty good. Not as good as the old one."
     Nobody asks who made the movie with that description.

     In my '05 blog, I mentioned that The Evil Dead was the first time I had considered the concept of "random" evil. Evil without a face. It was as if the movie itself was out to get the characters inhabiting it. At any moment, anything could happen. The only guarantee you had was that it would be something absurdly horrific.
     The New One inexplicably stuffs that random evil into a dark witch-like doppelganger of the protagonist who is spotted right behind the tree line sporadically throughout the movie, needlessly personifying the evil presence and making it less omniscient, therefore less effective. She only comes into clear view twice. The first time, it's so that we can see the vines protruding from her mouth. YOU know what vines I'm talking about. YOU know where those vines are going. Well, now you also know that there was a scary witch lady animating them instead of your previous notion that the forest itself was part of the evil and capable of doing terrible things all by itself.
The second time she steps out from the shadows is for the inevitable final showdown that reduces everything that has come so far into a one-on-one rock-em-sock-em brawl with our hero's soul as the prize. It's never explained why that's suddenly all it takes or how our heroine has somehow found salvation after having spent all that time possessed and being raped by a length of tree branch long enough to make a kebob of her insides. I wouldn't care about any of this if the movie hadn't spent so much of its time over-explaining itself, but now, since it did, I want the rest of those answers.