Saturday, May 11, 2013

It Came From The Cineplex: Evil Dead (2013)

It's a reboot! It's a sequel! It's a requel!

Evil Dead (2014) was directed by Fede Alvarez, whoever that is, and was produced by Raimi along with Bruce Campbell (star of the original films) and Robert G. Tapert (producer of the originals). This is the first ever Evil Dead movie not directed by Sam Raimi.

It takes a lot of chutzpah to attempt a remake of a beloved cult classic like the original Evil Dead. You risk pissing off the die-hard fans of the original while generating a big "who cares?" from the general public. Of course that's never stopped anyone in Hollywood from making the attempt. Fortunately (depending on your point of view) the new film has been generally well received.

So what exactly is this film? Is a remake? Is it a reboot? Let's ask director Alvarez, shall we? According to him:
Now, the way I personally like to see Evil Dead (2013), it's as a story that takes place 30 years after The Evil Dead ended. The car is there, the cabin is there (a family bought it and did some work on it more than 20 years ago) and the book has found its way back to the cabin... New kids will encounter it and suffer its wrath. Is Evil Dead a sequel then? Maybe. But the problem with the sequel theory would be that there are too many coincidences between the events on The Evil Dead and the ones on Evil Dead to have happened on a continuous story line. But if you believe the Naturom Demonto can force these things to happen... then it could be a sequel... and I do believe in coincidences
Well, that was vague without being informative, wasn't it? I guess it's up to the individual to decide.

Personally I'm calling it a remake. Virtually every plot point of the original is present and accounted for here. It's like the filmmakers were ticking items off a list: "OK, five people in a cabin, check. Road washed out, check. Necklace that has some sort of significance, check. Creepy basement with a secret room containing a book bound in human flesh, check. Unleashed demons that possess the characters, check. Tree rapin,' check. Possessed girl locked in basement, check. Burial scene, check. One lone survivor, check." It's the same goddamn film! How in the name of Zeus' Mighty Nose Hair can it not be a remake?

Much has been made of the fact that the filmmakers used little or no CGI in the movie (except for touch ups, whatever that means). I'm all for that. Some things can only be accomplished with CGI, but it's getting out of hand. Most special effects extravaganzas these days are little more than cartoons instead of live action. I know, I'm old, get off my lawn.

A few reviewers have criticized this new film for being too serious and ignoring the darkly comedic tone of the original. These people need to study their film history. There's little to no humor to be found in the original Evil Dead. They're obviously thinking of Evil Dead 2 and Army Of Darkness, both of which contained quite a bit of slapstick yucks. 

Lastly, in news that'll make the fanboys squeal like little girls, Sam Raimi insists he's going to film an Evil Dead 4 (starring Bruce Campbell as Ash of course) that'll most likely be called Army Of Darkness 2. Fede Alvarez says he's already planning on a sequel to this film, which will most likely be called Evil Dead 2, even though that title's already taken. Then Raimi says he wants to do a seventh film which would dovetail the two storylines, resulting in a story in which Ash meets the Mia character from this new movie. That would indeed be cool, but... it all sounds a little too good to be true. Forgive me if I say I'll see it when I believe it (yes, I know I said that wrong. Com-O-Dee!).

SPOILERS! I AIN'T KIDDING!

The Plot:
Five twenty-somethings spend the weekend in a run down cabin in the woods (hey, that'd make a good title!). As usual, the vacationers inadvertently unleash demonic forces and they're picked off one by one. When are people going to wise up and realize that nothing good can come from going on one of these trips?

Pros:
• I thought it was a nice touch to have Mia be a recovering drug addict. When she starts seeing supernatural shenanigans happening around her, of course no one believes her, thinking she's experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

 • Good to see Ash's car show up again, as it has in all the Evil Dead movies. 

Actually it's director Sam Raimi's car, a yellow 1973 Olds Delta 88. 

• If you like gore, you came to the right place. There's blood and dismemberment and then some. Especially blood, during the end when it rains from the sky.

I can't find a photo of it right now, but as the Eric character is leafing through the Book Of The Dead we see a drawing of a demon rising out of the ground with one hand outstretched at an extreme angle. The drawing looks very much like this poster for the original film, and is obviously a shout out to the fans. Cool!

• Bruce Campbell has a very brief cameo after the credits as he turns to the camera and says his trademark line, "Groovy" (even though he never said that in the first film– it came later).

Cons:
• Who the hell names their dog "Grandpa?"

• In the original film the characters play a tape recording of Professor Raymond (owner of the cabin?) reading passages from the Naturom Demonto (the Book Of The Dead), which releases the demonic forces. Thus they conjured the demons accidentally-- it was an innocent mistake, making them hapless victims.

Not so in this version. Here Eric (who's allegedly a smarty pants teacher, so he ought to know better), finds a mysterious book with a cover made of human skin (!), wrapped in plastic and bound in barbed wire. 

One would think he wouldn't even want to touch such a thing, but he just can't seem to leave it alone and unwraps it. Then he just can't help himself and makes the incredibly bone-headed move of reading aloud from it. despite the fact that the book is riddled with hand-written warnings to do no such thing. This makes the character of Eric seem like a colossal idiot. It also makes the audience side with the demons, as he pretty much asked for it and everything bad that happens is all his fault.

• Supposedly the first letter of the names of the characters (David, Eric, Mia, Olivia and Natalie) spell out "DEMON." That might have been a nice little touch if I'd known what the hell anyone's name was. Other than David and Mia I couldn't tell you anybody's names. It seems like standard operating procedure these days to never mention the names of your characters. Half the time I have no idea who I'm watching until I see the end credits.

• In the original film the Book Of The Dead, bound in human flesh, had a squishy face on the front cover. In the new version the Book is just bound in crudely stitched nondescript skin. So what was the thinking behind that change? Are 2013 audiences too sophisticated to buy the idea of a book with a face? Too corny & cheesy, perhaps? Feh!

By the way, in the first three films, the look of the Book changed radically in each movie.

• Whenever anyone is grievously injured in this movie, they wrap their wounds up with some kind of magical quick-healing silver duct tape, and they're up and ready to kill demons again in no time. 

 • One of the most iconic images from the first film is that of the possessed Cheryl leering and taunting the other characters from beneath the trap door in the floor. The fimmakers paid homage to this scene in the new film by having the possessed Mia character do the same. 

However... this scene shows up in the trailer only and inexplicably doesn't appear in the actual film. Boo! Bad form! 

• Eric stupidly reads a passage from the Book that says a demon known as the Taker Of Souls needs to devour five souls in order to release "The Abomination" from hell. Blood will rain from the sky, yadda yadda. 

It's a long story, but at one point three of the five characters are dead, leaving only Mia and David alive. David kills Mia, revives her, and then he himself is killed. Blood begins raining from the sky and The Abomination rises from the ground. 

Um, by my count only four of the five characters are dead at this point. As I said, Mia was dead, but she got better. Is that good enough for the Taker Of Souls? Does it matter if one of the souls it took got yanked out of its hand? Or does it still hold Mia's soul? Is she now soulless after being brought back?

• David devises a plan to save his possessed sister Mia. He buries her alive, waits until she dies of suffocation, then digs her up and revives her with a makeshift defibrillator made from an old battery. Oy gevalt!

Once again, world: A defibrillator does not work like jumper cables! It does not jump start the human heart! In fact it does just the opposite-- it actually stops the heart (a bit)! When a person's heart stops, the only way to get it going again is by CPR and/or injecting a chemical into the heart (often adrenaline). This starts the heart up again (if you're incredibly lucky) but the beating will be chaotic and arrhythmic. The defibrillator shocks the heart and stops this chaotic beating, hopefully restoring a normal rhythm. How this erroneous trope ever got started I have no idea, but I'm making it my life's work to spread the truth of how defibrillators really work.

• Near the end of the film Mia is trying to escape The Abomination when her left hand is pinned under a jeep. Mia gives several mighty tugs and literally pulls her hand off! Is it really possible to do that? I'm going to guess no, even if a ravening Hellbeast is after you.

Besides, one would think the ground underneath the jeep would have been soggy enough-- you know, from all the recent rains, of both the water and blood variety-- that Mia could have easily slipped or dug her hand out from underneath it. Even if it was securely pinned, I just don't see how you could exert enough force to tear it off at the wrist. 

And if it is possible, then I'm never shaking hands with anyone again.

And what about blood loss? She doesn't even bother to patch up the stump with magic duct tape, instead halfheartedly sticking it under her arm afterward. All better! Problem solved.

Bad kerning! Bad!
Definitely slicker than the low budget original, but not better. I give it a B-.

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