The 2013 Evil Dead Tries For Cool Twists But Gets Bogged By Blood
By Alex Cranz
Trigger Warning for rape discussed in the final two paragraphs.
I may have made a couple of period jokes coming out of Evil Dead. It is one of the bloodiest films I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen the House of Blue Leaves sequence in Kill Bill in color. Director Fede Alvarez went through nearly 50,000 gallons of blood a day for the film’s climax and for one sequence two of the actresses had to develop a warning system so one wouldn’t choke on all the blood coming out of the other one.
There’s a lot of general gore in the film too. Dismemberment, mutilation, and stabbings. Oh the stabbings. Things get plunged into body parts and pulled out excruciatingly slowly. Lou Taylor Pucci gets stabbed so many times he starts to look like a pincushion, and he’s not even the one meeting half their end to a nail gun. Alvarez gleefully unleashes the pain and gore in this movie, moving quickly from gooey set piece to gooey set piece with little time to breath.
It takes a while to get to those set pieces though. After an amusing opening sequence things grind to a halt so Jane Levy can do the best she can with Alvarez and screenwriter Rodo Mendez’s stilted dialogue. Diablo Cody took a couple of passes to clean up a script that clearly was written by writers new to the English language but her usual punch rarely rears its head, too bogged down by the gore and Alvarez’s not so stellar directing of dialogue. Alvarez too seems bored by his own plot, rushing through the talking to get us to this “good stuff.” It’s a shame, because Jane Levy is a tremendous actress and the bones of Alvarez’s update to Sam Raimi and company’s story is incredibly neat.
For the Evil Dead virgins the original plot, the barest of bare original plot, five friends go to the woods. One idiot reads from a book ONE MUST EVER READ FROM. One girl gets possessed. Everyone proceeds to die except our lead who takes a chainsaw to his undead and possessed friends. The end. In the update the five friends come to the woods to help Levy’s Mia kick her heroin addiction. When she starts showing signs of possession they naturally assume she’s just handling the detox badly. It’s a fantastic twist–especially in a story so dependent on possession, because Mia’s already possessed when she comes into this thing. She’s now got two demons in her, one the addiction and the other a foul-mouthed murderous demon that does things with a box cutter I can never unsee.
And it isn’t the only twist. As Drew Goddard gleefully showed us last year with Cabin in the Woods this genre of film is, at its heart, morality plays. That’s why everyone who has sex or does drugs has to die. Raimi never really approached the genre from that angle with the original Evil Dead films, but Alvarez does. He gives us a group of friends who aren’t necessarily the best of people. They’re not having sex and doing crazy amounts of drugs though. Instead they’re impatient, or bitchy, or Mia’s brother–a guy who flees responsibility and leaves his drug addicted sister to deal with their institutionalized mother.
It’s one of the better updates to the genre. It doesn’t feel as inherently sexist as killing off the first girl who takes her top off (none of them do in this!). It feels meatier (poor word choice after you see the movie!).
Other updates are…less successful. Alvarez and his producers, Raimi, Rob Tapert and Bruce Campbell (the original producers!), worked tirelessly to update the story for the twentieth century. In particular they promise us a female Ash and gore and Deadites that don’t look like they were pieced together in some kid’s backyard. And they deliver on that promise…to an extent. The gore and practical effects are impeccable, but Mia isn’t Ash. She’s a victim of drug addiction saddled with a brother who can’t be bother to help her take care of their ailing mother and a group of friends at the end of their rope with her. It’s always interesting isn’t it, that in these horror films if a man is the hero he must simply survive, for a woman to be the hero she has to be beaten down and victimized (and even murdered!) before she can ascend to the pedestal of badassery.
And poor Mia doesn’t even get to have the fun that Bruce Campbell had as Ash. She displays none of the physicality that made Campbell’s hero something special and here’s none of the humor that made Evil Dead 2 one of the better horror/comedies every made. This film is much more in line with the original, and maybe a little repugnant, original Evil Dead. It’s got that dirtiness of the original.
And it has that sequence involving arboreal violation of a woman. Because remember, a heroine has to be brutalized first. Props to Alvarez for not sexualizing the tree rape (did I really just use that phrase?). Less props to the audience who cheered and clapped during the sequence. I know guys, it’s basically tentacle rape, only with vines and branches, and that’s something that never really happens in movies, especially a rated-R studio release. It is, however, not something to cheer either you know?
But I suppose that is the appeal of dirty, nasty films like Evil Dead. They’re supposed to show us the most violent and depraved acts we can contemplate in gloriously lurid shades of red. On that front Evil Dead succeeds with abandon.