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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Hollywood pathetically attempts to recapture the glory of the past (Evil Dead review)

Evil Dead red light

I’m “biast” (pro): love the original…

I’m “biast” (con): …but see little call for its remake

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

It’s “the most terrifying film you will ever experience,” Evil Dead would have us believe. Bah. Is it gory? Sure. This is one of the most disgusting movies I’ve ever seen, grading strictly on a scale of blood and guts and viscera — and burns and slashes and stabs and cuts and bashes and so on. But terrifying? Hardly. Unless there’s some fright to be found in how damn depressing it is to see Hollywood once again attempt to recapture the glory of the past instead of doing something new. But even that is so tediously ordinary as a state of being for Hollywood as to lack any sense of surprise about it.

It’s even more depressing when the original 1981 Evil Dead, from writer and director Sam Raimi, was a reaction to a lack of creativity in horror films… a tradition of utter cleverlessness that this remake proudly continues. How the hell could Raimi give his stamp of approval to this slap in the face to his own work? (Raimi doesn’t merely approve — he’s a producer and so helped get this made.) How the hell could he not have understood that what made his film work so well was that his lack of a reasonable filmmaking budget forced him to be wildly inventive with stuff that costs nothing, like deploying certain odd camera angles to create an eerie atmosphere? How the hell could he not know that everything that was fresh and new about his Evil Dead has been imitated — over and over and never well — throughout the past three decades?

That’s why it was almost inevitable that any remake of Evil Dead was going to feel bland and generic. That’s why it was almost inevitable that it was going to lack a sense of humor. Because everything that made Evil Dead unique has long since been co-opted by the genre and had its uniqueness squeezed out of it by rote repetition. This is exactly the sort of movie that last year’s ingenious The Cabin in the Woods rendered wholly irrelevant, precisely because it was itself a reaction to all the Evil Dead copycats we’ve endured over the past 30 years.

Here is, perhaps, the most damning thing that could be said about this Evil Dead remake, and you don’t even have to have seen the film to guess the answer: Is it possible to imagine a new Bruce Campbell coming out of this film? Hint: No. No, it isn’t. Because Hollywood isn’t interested in Bruce Campbell. If it were, he’d be a household name instead of a geek demigod.

And so it is a flat and flavorless band of twentysomethings who head to a cabin in the woods, where they will be slaughtered by demons. The script — by director Fede Alvarez (viral short “Panic Attack”), Rodo Sayagues, and the increasingly overrated Diablo Cody (Jennifer’s Body, Juno) — has to invent a new reason for a flat and flavorless band of twentysomethings to head to a cabin in the woods and stay there, even when demonic shit starts to hit the fan, and it’s this: one of them (Jane Levy: Fun Size) is going cold turkey on her drug habit (heroin? it’s never clear what her drug of choice is, and it doesn’t matter), which she’s attempted before and failed. Remoteness from her dealer is what’s called for, and while there’s some thematic potential in the notion that drug addiction and withdrawal is akin to demonic possession, that’s not dealt with in any interesting way here. It cannot be as long as the demonic possession is actually supposed to be real, and not a metaphoric thing.

It’s real, of course, coming via a book of dark-magic spells and other nasty stuff that gets read by the gang even though it’s wrapped in barbed wire and has “Leave this book alone” written on it in blood. These kids are dumb, naturally, and partly as a consequence also not very interesting. “I can smell your filthy soul,” the demon in the body of one of the Scooby gang hisses at another, and gee, wouldn’t it be interesting if we got a hint of that filthy soul? (I can’t help but think about what Miggs said to Agent Starling, and Hannibal Lecter’s calm reaction to that: “I myself cannot.”) That could be an intriguing twist: maybe these younglings deserve to die at the hands of vengeful demons.

But no. They really are nothing more than fodder for demonic attack. Worse for them, the demon turns out to be pretty easy to dispatch, though not until most of them are already dead. Sucks for them.

Sucks for us, too. We really have seen this all before.

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Evil Dead (2013)
US/Can release: Apr 5 2013
UK/Ire release: Apr 18 2013

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated BB: blah and bloody
MPAA: rated R for strong bloody violence and gore, some sexual content and language
BBFC: rated 18 (contains strong bloody violence, gory horror and very strong language)

viewed in 2D
viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • Frank Vignola

    Did Sam Raimi, Fede, Rob and the entire cast of this movie not emphasize enough that this movie was not meant to be a remake and was not meant to recreate the same glory as the first one??? They very specifically called it a rebirth and very specifically emphasized there will be no camp. This movie is what Sam Raimi wanted to do 30 years ago but didn’t have the 14 mil to do it. Your review sucks.

  • ethan singer

    ” the increasingly overrated Diablo Cody ”- i guess im not the only one who feels this way

  • ethan singer

    thats the same line that george lucas said when he re-edited the original star wars trilogy with his goofy cartoon cgi crap, ‘this is the movie i wanted to do!’ it didnt make sense for that, and for this movie im crossing my fingers (seeing it fri,) but all signs point to 2013 fluff supermodel jersey shore actresses as they karaoke porno act in pain to a soundtrack by skrillex…

  • Dasby

    I find it interesting that the reviewer felt the need to take a dig at Diablo Cody despite the fact that, as it turns out, she’s not even listed in the credits for the movie and as such may not have seen any of her work make it into the movie at all.

  • One, or many, can emphasize something as much as one, or many, wants to, it doesn’t make something true. From the trailers, this looks hilarious, in no small part because it’s obviously trying so emphatically not to be. It also may be quite boring, as we’ve seen this movie many times before.

    Anyways, I’ll have a better idea after I see it (not on my dime). As usual Maryann, a passionate and considered review.

  • Ah, I see. “Rebirth” is what we’re calling “total creative bankruptcy” these days. Thanks for the clarification.

  • Have you memorized the credits for the movie? That’s interesting…

    She’s mentioned at the film’s IMDb page. If that’s an error, she should have her people deal with that.

  • Guest

    I didn’t memorize them, I watched them. Thanks for your unnecessary condescension on that one. She’s on the IMDB page because at one point very early on she was brought in to do a brief dialogue pass on the original script. Since then It’s been well established that little of what she did was kept, if any of it at all. And that’s confirmed by her not being mentioned in said credits.

  • edgar

    You do realize that the first evil dead was suppose to be a straightforward horror movie right? It was never suppose to be funny! The only reason it was is because of bad acting, lack of budget and campy performances. Raimi always was a campy filmmaker as well. Look at darkman, spiderman, drag me to hell and army of darkness, they were all campy!

  • I watched the credits, too. But I cannot recall them now. That’s why I have to use other sources for them.

  • Bilbo Baggins

    You spelled biased wrong.

  • Tonio Kruger

    Horror movie remakes are rarely an improvement on the original. If anything, most recent remakes have been so soulless that they make even the most mediocre originals seem inspired. I would like to believe that Evil Dead 2013 is an exception but I have yet to see any evidence to that effect.

  • ethan singer

    just because diablo cody signed a few horror fans’ ‘jennifers’ body’ posters at random horror festivals, doesnt mean we are all fanboyn’ to her slop!!! perhaps sam raimi or whoever had the banhammer for the new evil dead script nixed diablos’ 1990s pop culture references and manic pixie girl characters… if the horror movie gods listen to the prayers of some of us, she will never write a script again… ugh

  • ethan singer

    …and the future with remakes of suspiria, etc… its just one after another, and usually they are misfires… the studios’ can UP the violence and gore, like last house on left, spit on grave, BUT they ruin the nostalgia and relevance of those movies, as well. Perhaps when this generations’ memories get remade they will understand the disgust by some of us when our favorites’ are regurgitated and re-imagined. i also hope that evil dead 2013 is an exception. we shall see. i can’t recall ANY remake that i enjoyed to the point of wanting to memorize the lines, or buy a poster for it. and thats the horror of this new remake genre, that it might be a decent 90 mins of shock, but it holds zero weight after you leave the theater.

  • Jurgan

    It never gets old!

  • RogerBW

    Ah, I see the gorehounds are out again.
    Here’s an idea, Hollywood: instead of spending millions on remakes, why not clean up the old prints of the films you’re remaking and give them a wide release? You’re still trying to appeal to the people who didn’t see them first time, after all; maybe you won’t sell quite as many tickets, but it’ll be a whole lot cheaper to organise so the profit margins should be through the roof.

  • Beowulf

    Missed the “…”, eh?

    Your word is spelled “T-r-o-l-l.”

  • Frank Vignola

    Sorry – I stopped reading when you said “from the trailers” because you obviously haven’t seen the film yet. I have.

  • knight owl

    I agree with everything you said about this film. It IS gory, but it was not scary or shocking in the least bit. Perfect review!

  • M M

    There have absolutely been remakes that surpassed the original. Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Carpter’s The Thing, The Fly, etc. some things can be improved upon. Not all of them (as we’ve all seen) but in the right hands its possible. Evil Dead is one that has surpassed the original, but it’s clearly not for everyone as this review shows. That’s fine. Can’t please everyone.

  • M M

    Only to the cynical.

  • M M

    Juno was actually good and a lot of Jennifer’s Body was too (aside from wretched lines like “salty”). She didn’t write Evil Dead.

  • M M

    I love how everyone complains about how dumb people are in horror movies. Of course they’re dumb. No one would do half of the things people do in horror films. If people acted like real people most horror stories wouldn’t happen. But wouldn’t you know it…people do dumb things every day and people get hurt. Why is it such a stretch to have someone making an obviously dumb move in a fictional film?

  • RogerBW

    Isn’t it more interesting, and more horrifying, if smart people are put in danger, and in spite of being smart still take losses? You can no longer say to yourself in a comforting way “well, I wouldn’t do something so stupid, so I’d be all right”. You might even experience a real moment of fear. (I know, it would never sell in the modern market that prefers rubbish like this.)

  • I’d love to see the original Evil Dead on a big screen. I bet most fans of the film have never had that opportunity.

  • If there’s room for improvement yet over the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, no one has yet found it.

  • Are you suggesting there’s a way to look at Hollywood today and NOT be cynical?

  • Alvarez & Rodo Sayagues are the credited writers in the film. I didn’t see Cody’s name anywhere in the final credits (not even in a “special thanks” capacity). I heard her involvement was essentially a dialogue polish (since the director and co-writer’s first language wasn’t English) to make the dialogue flow. But I heard most of her work was tossed during filming anyway.

  • ethan singer

    mm, you talk in minutes when evildead 1 and 2 have been around for decades. post in 20 years when you think this new evil dead has any relevance. i saw it, it was garbage. you believe in improving on others’ work, and thats’ a point of contention to those who think that some things are what they were, and real artistry would be doing something new or relevant. not regurgitation and melting down statues to rebuild in playdough. thats the fanboi comic convention cosplay snafu of thinking that a click of a mouse or insertion of cgi makes something ‘better,’ but for lack of a better description, its lazy and insulting. again, let the passing of time decide what is relevant, and to say in one weekend that something is better or surpassed cinema that has endured, is like comparing a stone to a mountain.

  • ethan singer

    they see the 1970s movies, and want to clean up every frame, remove every blemish and make it their own ‘vision,’ but its a re-imagining by lesser individuals.

  • ethan singer

    not only is a great experience visually, but the audience ive seen evil dead1 and 2, and army of darkness with, was such a blast!!! laughing, screaming, and fun.

  • ethan singer

    everything is great, lets not have any parity or discourse. its all amazing!!! criticism must be a 20th century device. oh its snobbery to judge!! and to that, i say yes. and while 10,000 people think smearing suicide girls with blood makes them the next dario argento, they are not, and have little technique beyond trying to be vulgar. This tact of the basement dwelling fanboi world; who think that the only thing to be criticized are the critics and everything they think is amazing is obviously so, because it has a nice web design and is in hi def. what is new is automatically superior, and it takes less than 48hrs for something to become classic while the classics are garbage.

  • Char

    Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?

  • sirklw

    I never quite understand the need to re-make a well-made original movie. I often wonder why there’s no desire to remake that movie that should have/ might have been good but somehow didn’t make it up on the screen. I know they’re regarded as colossal flops but what tweaking [a tighter script, better direction or editing or a correction of casting] might have made Heaven’s Gate or Ishtar or The Last Action Hero the movies they had the potential to be?

  • ethan singer

    i kno that in 2013 everyone is used to instagram pics and the concept of words iz a bit antiquated. sorri. ttyl lol brb ftw coolstory sam raimi diablocody broz

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