Taking in the Thursday late show of Fede Alvarez’s re-monkeying of The Evil Dead (something I never would have done if I hadn’t had a press screening on Friday morning) gave me, if nothing else, a more representative feel for the fan base. After all, this crowd was presumably made up of the folks most keen on seeing this Evil Dead (the “the” has been dropped for the new one) — and there’s little doubt that they seemed to take to it pretty well. By that, I mean that they jumped when they were supposed to, cringed when they were supposed to, and even screamed when they were supposed to. Fair enough, but they also started filing out the minute the credits started to roll — not usually a sign of complete immersion. My take? Evil Dead comes under the heading of “I didn’t mind it” — but I say that as someone who remains ambivalent about the highly-regarded original.
The inherent problem with a movie like this isn’t that it’s a remake (or re-whatever-this-is-called). Sure, it has a story, a setup and an approach that runs to a form. But, no matter how you slice it (and I use the term advisedly), it’s a kind of horror wind-up toy: Once you set it in motion, it’s going to do the same thing it always does. This one’s no different. For that matter — and regardless of how I feel about the film — selling this load of demonic clams only a year after the postmodern snark of The Cabin in the Woods strikes me as ill-advised. It’s just too close to the sort of thing that was just parodied. (The box office has said I am in error.)
There’s another basic problem in that the movie relies on our belief in some weird alternate universe where people have apparently never seen a horror movie. You would think by this point in the history of humankind only a special kind of blithering idiot would read aloud from a clearly demonic book (with warnings festooning nearly every page to put the damned thing down). I mean, come on. The book is bound in something that looks like skin, and was found — wrapped in a garbage bag and barbed wire — in a subterranean chamber with a bunch of dead, desiccated cats hanging from the ceiling. (Hell, this kind of thing was being made fun of in the 1960s in a Gahan Wilson cartoon.) But does that deter hapless Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) here? Oh, my, no. He even works at it to restore scratched out text. A finer specimen of the Boobus Americanus you will not find — except in this movie. Yes, indeed, here we have dim-bulb David (Shiloh Fernandez), who is still having doubts that something nasty is going on after his girlfriend (Elizabeth Blackmore) has reached for the Hamilton Beach and (improbably) sawn her own arm off with said electric knife.
Mostly, it’s the same old gore-and-mayhem — a little too fixated on pain for my taste — though I give it credit for being at least mostly done without CGI. (Some claim there was no CGI, but I’m skeptical.) I also happily admit that the last stretch of the film is pretty darn intense and exciting — thanks in no small part to Jane Levy’s game performance. If the whole film had been like this, I’d be going back to see it again. As it stands, once was definitely a sufficiency. Rated R for strong bloody violence and gore, some sexual content and language.
Playing at Carmike 10, Carolina Cinemas, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande