Saturday, April 13, 2013

Evil Dead Marathon

The Evil Dead (1981)

I watched a scene once from Army of Darkness while flipping through the channels on TV during October - it was the scene where Ash is fighting miniature versions of himself - and it was so shamelessly slapstick that I was totally turned off. I viewed the Evil Dead series as more of a joke than a serious contribution to the horror genre. But, as a dutiful horror fan, and because the series has garnered so much acclaim by fans through the years, it was only a matter of time before I broke down and watched the series. To my delight, I discovered that the earlier titles in the trilogy were progressively less slapstick and more horror than Army of Darkness. Thus, The Evil Dead - the first movie, at least - earned a place in my horror viewing repertoire.

Naturally, when I heard that they were remaking The Evil Dead, and after I saw the gruesome red band trailer which made the point that they were emphasizing the horror and gore over the campy, slapstick elements of the classic series, I was beyond excited. I saw the new film, and I loved it. Enough that I decided to see it a second time. But before doing so, I figured it would be an excellent opportunity to go back and watch The Evil Dead once again.

Having just done so, I think I enjoyed it even more than the first time I watched it. In fact, I can now proudly rate it as one of the perennial horror classics I can recommend to any aspiring horror fan, along with other genre staples such as Halloween, Texas Chain Saw Massacre, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and the like. It's such an original and imaginative film, like a simultaneously fun and frightening meld of Friday The 13th, Poltergeist, and The Exorcist. It conjures an atmosphere of fear with a frighteningly unpredictable supernatural, demonic force of terror, and doesn't shy away from the gruesome nature of the both physical and psychological torture the film's protagonists are subjected to throughout their night in a remote cabin in the middle of the woods.

Evil Dead II (1987)

Right from the start, Evil Dead II adopts a drastically different tone from the first movie. It has a very campy mood, with unselfconsciously over-the-top acting by Bruce Campbell (who is a very charismatic actor, but his subdued performance in the first Evil Dead is far preferable to this cartoonish caricature of a man plagued by evil, undead forces). Nor does this movie take any time at all to build up an atmosphere like the first one does. It is without explanation that, instead of allowing the first movie to stand on its own, Evil Dead II insists on bastardizing The Evil Dead by retelling (and greatly simplifying) the events of the first movie in the first five minutes of the second, only to pick up right where the first one left off.

It's too bad the movie is marred by these problems, because it does have a few memorable fx shots (although they are very much hit and miss), and when Bruce Campbell isn't acting like one of The Three Stooges, he does have something of an action hero bravado that is uncommon in horror movie protagonists. But, these are all things I've said about this movie before, and ultimately, its few pros don't make up for its plentiful cons, and it is mostly forgettable. Fans' opinions are drastically divided on this point, but if you ask me, watch The Evil Dead (it is excellent) but don't waste your time on the sequels.

Evil Dead (2013)

Finally we come to the remake, which I have already told you I enjoyed. After the slapstick sequels, this film takes the series back to its roots as a gritty, gory horror tale. And it updates the story excellently, given modern filming techniques and special fx, while staying true to the original. Honestly, this is a case where I couldn't tell you that either version is better than the other. You could watch either one - in fact, I recommend you watch both, whether back to back or on different nights - and still get the full experience of "Evil Dead".

Honestly, I have very few complaints about this film, and they're so minor (like that there wasn't enough nudity in the tree rape scene in this version - but I'm a pervert), that they're hardly even worth mentioning, because they're totally overwhelmed by everything that is good about this film. I thought the addition of the addiction withdrawal plotline was a spot of creative genius, giving the group a plausible (and less cliche than the raucous teenage vacation that sets up so many traditional slashers) reason to be out in the middle of the woods staying in an old cabin, while also blurring the line (though for the characters perhaps more than the audience) between psychological hallucination and supernatural occurrence.

I could say a lot of things about this film that I've already said about the original - like how imaginative a horror film it is, and how much fun - not in the sense of campy, humor fun, but in the sense of good old-fashioned blood and guts and terror fun - it is to watch. The fx are creepy and in many cases more convincing than in the low budget original - let me just say, I loved the rain of blood. I was going to complain about how in movies that have occult texts (like the Necronomicon), the illustrations in the text are always more intriguing and scary than what monsters actually attack the protagonists (and this is still true in this movie), but everything that happens in this movie is so cool, and pulls out the stops like few horror films even today have the guts to do, that I'm not even going to, because I'm content enough with what we did get.

So far, it seems that fans' opinions on this remake are as divided as they are on the rest of the series, so your results may vary. But if your taste in horror movies is anything like mine, you're gonna love this one. I count it not only one of the best movies and best horror movies to come out this year, but also one of those titles that, however deserving fans' apprehensions about remakes is, proves that remakes can be fantastic if done properly. Don't miss this one.