|May contain nuts.|
This is a tricky road to walk; don't put enough new ideas in and everyone says "What's the point?", put too many in and everyone goes "It's bugger all like the original, why give it the same name?". Damned if you do and damned if you don't. I think now's the perfect time for a sweeping generalisation: The cynical nature of remakes is to make money from an established success and/or to introduce a (possible new franchise of a?) respected piece of work to a new (read: younger) generation. Horror appears the most susceptible to remakes, likely because the films that are remade already birthed successful franchises. Why can't lightning strike twice? Well, it can't if a film's evidently rubbish, for one thing. But EVIL DEAD isn't rubbish, though I may have you believe otherwise by the time I'm finished.
|Camping: it's not for me.|
You can excuse a lot of nonsense in any film, as long as it maintains the fictive dream. Characters acting completely removed from any sense of reason or realism, when the universe they're in is supposed to be realistic, is one way to break this. It's true that, when CABIN IN THE WOODS came out, a lot of people said it would effectively ruin horror films. 'Ruin' might be too strong a word, but what it did do is shine a sharp and critical light on many tropes and clichés employed by horror films whilst at the same time presenting them in a new light. EVIL DEAD, by virtue of its pedigree, ticks so many horror boxes it could almost be a parody, were it not played straight. I'm going to willfully ignore the completely unnecessary prologue and pointless, post-credit in-joke.
Frustratingly, it leaves out ideas from the original that are to the detriment of this new version. For example: in the original, the evil is awakened when a character plays a tape recording. Once they realise what they're hearing, it's too late to do anything about it. That felt organic. In the new version, the 'teacher' character flicks through the book, reads the multiple warnings, yet still takes action to decipher the hidden words and read them aloud. This would work if Teacher had already been shown to be anti-superstition, say, or in some way arrogant. "It's just words, don't be ridiculous" would be a feasible response. Instead, he totally disregards the creepy weirdness in the cellar, and the fact that the book is wrapped in a bin bag and barbed wire. Hint: it's probably bad news, so don't read it. Lucky for us the old 'curiosity killed the cat' card is played, otherwise they'd be no film.
EVIL DEAD is, at its core, a protracted victim story. People are in a location and bad things happen to them. The end. This is acceptable, indeed commonplace, in horror. Making characters change and develop as people, even if they then die, is a step in the right direction. Yet, the characters in EVIL DEAD are no different when they die than before the evil makes an appearance. As mentioned above, some don't even learn obvious lessons when they're right in front of their face (THEY'RE DEMONS! THEY TRICK YOU!). Come the end of the film, the only real lesson anyone has learned is not to read from a creepy book when it's literally filled with numerous warnings against reading from it.
As beholden as it is to the rules of horror films in general, I also think EVIL DEAD breaks its own rules. Or flagrantly ignores them. We're led to believe the evil is effectively one demon, and that it will be free once it has claimed all the people in the cabin. It's established Mia is no longer herself, yet she still manages to be resurrected, and magically free of all the terrible self-mutilation she inflicted upon herself. The evil force then appears as her 'evil twin' (as it does at the start of the film) and goes on about taking her soul. But...you already did that, remember? You know, when you possessed her? You must remember. It was literally two minutes ago. And if David has the wherewithal to do a MacGuyver and jerry-rig a defib unit (seriously), why is he so wet the rest of the time? (I'm also not convinced he had a reason to make the defib when he did, but I might be wrong about this).
|He can make a torpedo from a hairdryer and a paperclip.|
Ultimately, EVIL DEAD, with its gore, demonic voices and evil book filled with scratchy red writing, is the film equivalent of listening to a perfectly decent metal album. I feel a bit like a traitor for not adoring it, but the fact is it does everything you expect, sometimes even to the extent where you can 'count in' certain parts, but it doesn't do anything particularly interesting. This is not the same as being boring. Just as a decent album can feature a song with an unexpected time change (for instance), EVIL DEAD throws in a few of its own surprises, yet before long everything is back on track and playing by the rules. For the most part.