Living Up To Standards
Film remakes are very hit-and-miss. When done wrongly, they can flop terribly in the box office, and the critics will be quick to bash the ratings. Special shoutout goes to the trainwrecks of The Mummy from 2017 and Oldboy from 2013, the newer versions of course. When done correctly however, it may replace the older versions. Like aging wine, there are many factors to consider what maintains the older counterpart as better than the more recent one. You can copy the script, setting and ending exactly, but you could still fail to capture the original allure. Dawn of The Dead from 2004, does not exactly beat its predecessor, but is nonetheless alright. Hats off to The Woman In Black from 2012, a remake that comfortably edges out the old one.
Sam Raimi has done well to spawn a trilogy out of his Evil Dead back in 1981. Known for its unconventional amount of gore at the time, the trilogy was a step forward for the horror genre. Many films today can trace its inspiration back to 1981, and although time has rusted our memories of Ash and co, the idea of a bunch of youths getting murdered at a cabin in the woods does not sound all too bad, even today. Enter, the remake. Truth be told, audiences have been crying out for a fourth instalment of the original series, maybe because the story is just that good. 2013’s Evil Dead introduces a cast, with roughly the same setting and plot, and as a remake, it does not suck all that much. It’s actually pretty good.
Five friends arrive at a cabin, for some kind of AA meeting dedicated to eradicating Mia’s nasty drug habit. You got David, the hot male lead who shares a deranged mother with Mia, and his overly docile girlfriend, Natalie. There’s blonde Jesus who probably loves weed just a little bit more than talking about communism, Eric. Another dull female character, in the form of Olivia. I’m sorry to say this, but the female characters are literally useless in the film, by will of the filmmakers or not, I truly don’t know. Then, you have Mia, the standout e-girl of the group who resembles Sam Manson from Danny Phantom. In order to get rid of Mia’s dependence on drugs once and for all, the group vows not to let her leave until something good comes out of her withdrawals. Nothing good comes out of this cabin.
Unbeknownst to them, the cabin is not as innocent as it seems. Long prior to their arrival, a witch exorcism took place in the basement, with all sorts of witchcraft artefacts hanging from the ceiling, not to mention dead cats. Creepy. Word of advice, if you ever discover that your basement was the grounds used for an exorcism, leave and never return. Our Jesus look-alike has the ingenious idea of reading from a book found in the basement, and it is from there, that a sinister force is unleashed onto the five people. Oh and the dog. Mia is possessed rather unpleasantly, and acts as a conduit to exact horrific acts against the other four.
I unleashed something, something evil.
This is where the remake shines. Admittedly, it does not surpass the overall 1981 version. However, taking into account the type of audience this film is catered to, there isn’t much to complain about either. As far as cheap scares go, Fede Álvarez relinquishes the traditional method of horror, with an amped-up range of special effects and makeup to make us cringe from the disgusting mutilations. In a downpour the size of Singin’ in the Rain, we sit through a rollercoaster ride of unholy jargon, excruciating dismemberment, and dim-witted ideas so irreversibly stupid that you wish the demon could be even more ruthless.
It is hard to give Evil Dead a flying grade because it fails on a grander marking scheme. Personally, I liked it. The story is like the characters, simple. I get scared easily so general horror tropes work well on me, which also means that I tend to give higher ratings to horror films in general. Again, horror is subjective. If you are strictly into cruor and unrepentant about it, Álvarez’ work ticks all the boxes, satisfying practically every nefarious surgical technique we can conjure up. A jump-scare-oriented critic could say, “However, splashing out blood in 3D does not equate to a successful piece of horror. The fundamentals of tension and release, are the basic premises of scaring someone. A series of scenes where extreme shit happens is more pragmatic than it is useful.” The film is honest in that it does not hide behind a façade of pathetic jump-scares. It is gore, easy as that.
Hotly debated, the film garners either support or hate. Similar to every cabin-in-the-woods story, Evil Dead has potential. And like many film remakes today, that potential is wasted since directors forget what made the originals great and replace them with easy solutions riding on the originals’ coattails. If you heard that Infinity War was going to get a remake, would you watch it? Hell yeah. That’s the hating side. To Álvarez’ credit, he nails down other directorial techniques such as cinematography, sequencing and blocking, so apart from the gore, the film is still visually entertaining. The horrific side triggers our sadistic perspective, generating a different response than tradition would otherwise dictate.
In a bunch of anonymous actors, of whom I literally recognized Shiloh Fernandez from Deadgirl, they actually don’t perform so poorly. Of course, the actors and the film will not merit Oscar-worthy performances, but for the budget and the limitations, Evil Dead passes the remake test. 1981 or 2013, the films are rather B-film tier. There comes a time when we stop hating films for not winning awards and just enjoy them. So just sit back, relax, and cringe.