"I have tweezers in my bag,” one of the stock female characters of the new Evil Dead cheerfully chirps at some point in the movie. The line perfectly captures the relative intelligence level of the film. Her boyfriend has got a shotgun shell in his arm, begotten from his demon-voiced, black-ooze-spouting, projectile-vomiting baby sister, whom the characters now lock in the bloody basement next to a book of evil curses and the dozens of strung-up cat carcasses. Well, I don’t know what they would’ve done without those tweezers!
Fede Alvarez’ remake of Sam Raimi’s 1981 cult classic might not be much to think about, but it’s definitely a lot to watch. A lot of gore, that is. Viscera and limbs fly as the blood splashes, spatters, and spurts; it even rains from the sky. Chainsaws, electric meat cutters and nail guns are involved.
The film treads well-traveled movie territory. Five pretty, dull, dim-witted, teenage-minded childhood friends make their way to a lonely cabin in the woods. The difference is, this time, instead of drinking, doing drugs and having sex, they’re actually there to help a friend, Mia (Jane Levy), kick a nasty drug habit. For support, she has her estranged older brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) and his personality-devoid girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore), a registered nurse (played by Jessica Lucas), and a mildly weird, bookish type (Lou Taylor Pucci). A backstory uncovers an unhappy past in Mia and David’s… But who the hell cares? The filmmaker certainly doesn’t. Alvarez is more interested his torture chamber than his characters.
Unlike its cheesy, gory cinematic predecessor, the new, heavy-handed Evil Dead takes itself too seriously, putting on a gloomy, surprisingly straight face as it delights in finding more and more inventive ways to torture the characters and gross the audience members out.
We already know the story; all but one of these five individuals will die horrible, nauseating deaths, and the lone survivor will return home bloodied and traumatized, but stronger and better off for the experience, perhaps after a late-breaking epiphany. The problem is none of the characters capture our sympathy; there’s no one to root for.
We might, for a second, forget ourselves and care whether these people live or die enough to get scared, but as soon as we regain our senses we realize there’s enough emotional engrossment in the film to match the involvement one feels when watching a cruel villain tear pieces of cardboard apart.
If you’re a fan of this sort of stuff, some enjoyment might be gleaned from the big-budgeted B-movie bloodbath. There is some strange sense of brutal beauty in the proceedings, and production values, makeup and special effects are close to impeccable.
But for non-hard-core-gore fans, Alvarez’ Evil Dead is not shocking as much as disgusting, not scary as much as sadistic, a generic horror film whose sole accomplishment is the sheer intensity of its gleeless bloodlust. There is no atmospheric sense of dread, no tension, no originality, just great gruesome gushing geysers of goo—oh, and plant rape. The only thing surprising about it is how much red dye Alvarez can fit within a frame and how much blood can spurt out of characters that are about as far from flesh-and-blood human beings as you can get.