Sean Smithson

The EVIL DEAD Has No Soul To Swallow

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Full disclosure: I cut classes on a regular basis my junior year in high school to watch my Betamax copy of Sam Raimi’s original Evil Dead on a loop, while smoking Camel’s and listening to my homemade bootleg recording of Exodus (then the greatest metal band on the planet).

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No. I do not hate remakes. In fact I love the usual suspects, like Carpenter’s The Thing, Kauffman’s 1978 version of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, and hell, I think Alexander Aja’s redux of Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes is actually better than the original.

When news dropped that newcomer Fede Alvarez, who I actually wrote about a few months before over at Twitchfilm.com, before anybody had heard of him, was brought out to Hollywood by Raimi himself, and given the directors chair for an Evil Dead re-imagining, I looked forward to the project with very careful optimism. Fast forward months later, the film is in the can, and many of my critic peers and film ut friends see it at events like South By Southwest. The advance reviews are glowing, with much of the credit going to Raimi, and his partners Robert Tapert and Bruce Campbell, who served as co-producers on the new version.

So when I took my seat at an advance screening a couple of weeks ago, it was with measured excitement. I was keeping my hopes in check, but was very open to enjoying a fresh perspective and having a bloody good experience.

As Alvarez’s vision rolled out, mining a bleaker jumping off point with the main character, now a female, being taken to a cabin by her brother and peers to clean up from being a dope fiend, I realized with a slow sinking feeling that this was indeed not much better than one of those abortions from Platinum Dunes. Not that the original Evil Dead was long on character development, but for some reason we the viewer were quickly endeared to them. Not the case with this 2013 take. The characters this time out are a bunch of over pretty hipster douche-bags with their heads planted so firmly up their asses it’s a wonder they can see where they are going. Also, with the grimmer starting point, the film itself doesn’t go far enough into despair to give it any kind of arc. Gone also is the surrealist element of the original series, where when things start going crazy, up becomes down, down becomes up, and the loss of sanity is up there on the screen. The cabin itself comes alive and mocks the victims, with inanimate objects becoming living entities that guffaw at the misfortune of the original characters. This time out, we get nothing of the sort, instead all that happens is the gore ratio increases.

Evil-Dead-2013.-Book-of-the-Dead-1.Also, the entire drug addict device, and things like withdrawals and conniption fits is completely forgotten. It’s never mentioned what drug the main character is recovering from either. This is a dope-fiend role that seems to be written by someone who doesn’t know the difference between meth and heroin, or even weed and alcohol. What could have been used to really, again, make things “crazy” is jettisoned for GWAR-style buckets of blood sans any charm or humor. In this way, Evil Dead 2013 is trite and poser-ish. We needed Requiem For A Dream level tragedy here, to drive home both the internal and external horrors taking place. Instead we get a “very special episode of Blossom” that treats drug addiction with an over-simplistic view lacking any insight at all to what being an addict is like. It’s just a casual plot device, and about as deep as a kiddie pool.

To add, the entire lip service from Bruce Campbell (genre’s most overrated “star” by a mile) about not appearing in the film, only to pop up after the credits to jerk the audience off with a stale ass “groovy” had me puking in my mouth.

Get off the pot or shit.

It took me a couple of weeks to wrap my head around how I really felt about Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead, but now I’m clear on it. It’s a soulless take on a film that fans would be better served sticking with the funky, intimate, and endearing original.

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