[Fair Warning: This Article Is Rife With Spoilers]
Even before its official opening in early April, horror flick The Evil Dead stirred a remarkable frenzy in the horror film community. Some hailed it as a terrifying masterpiece, while others derided it as sloppy, needlessly gory, and a weak, unnecessary remake of a film that wasn’t all that great to begin with.
The mixed reaction is no surprise at all. These days, horror films are at best a decidedly mixed bag, often eschewing classic models of horror filmmaking in favor of stereotypical characters, buckets of blood and gore, and plain old shock value. If you ask people what makes a good horror movie, you’ll get all sorts of different answers. Personally, I skew much more towards the 70’s and 80’s stylings of directors like John Carpenter and Wes Craven, and I have a healthy dislike for the new wave of horror that consists of little more than excessive gore and extremely gratuitous violence. The question is, where does the new Evil Dead fall on the spectrum, and why?
Evil Dead is a maddening amalgamation of fantastic moments of true horror and cringe-worthy mistakes and lost opportunities. The problems that exist in the film only stand out more because of how good some of the other elements are. For my money, The Evil Dead remake is a blending of the best and the worst that the current horror genre has to offer us as viewers and fans.
Let’s start with the basics: 2013’s The Evil Dead is a remake of the 1981 cult classic directed by Sam Raimi and starring Bruce Campbell as Ash. Now, this will probably lose me some readers right away, but I absolutely hated the original Evil Dead. It took me three tries to finish watching it (the first time I quit was after the tree-rape scene), and the dialogue and acting struck me as so bad throughout that it was almost a literally painful viewing experience. Being a fan of 70’s and 80’s horror, I was genuinely surprised at my serious dislike for the original film. Despite this, the buzz surrounding the remake caught my attention enough that I wanted to see it. In particular, director Fede Alvarez’s insistence on using practical effects over CGI intrigued me as a viewer.
What’s interesting, and to me very positive, about Evil Dead 2013 is that it is more of a reinvention than a remake of that original. The reality that the film exists in does not limit it. There’s a fresh spin on the classic story here, and the characters present turn out to be (at least at first) fresh and interesting rather than simple caricatures or replicas of those in the original. Things that carried over – for example, the basic plotline, the setup, setting, and level of horror-infused violence – did so for good reason, and were well executed. It seems fair to say that the starting strength of this movie comes from its embracing of the maniacal horror theme that drove the original, without being overly beholden to the particulars of it. It exists in the same world, for sure, but does so without becoming a dull retread of a story that’s already been told.
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