I’m not really a sick person. I’ve raised healthy children who don’t scream horrifically when I walk into the room. I’m kind to kitties and puppies. I give to charity. I really don’t enjoy the suffering of real people, and I help those in need when possible. No one needs to report me to the authorities.
I just needed to stress this before I state how much I found myself laughing at Evil Dead (2013), which ends up being teenage butchery horror at its most overdone, even in the closing credits (which seem to consist of torrential gouts of red paint masquerading as blood, splashing, splattering, seeping, and seething about rotten wood and rusted nails). It’s one moment after another of “Really? Are they REALLY going to — oh, they just did,” intuiting what’s going to happen next while not quite being able to look away.
I will note that I also laughed at Raimi’s definitive version of the story when I first saw it a few months ago, but that was mostly due to the camp factor; not only could I imagine Raimi himself smirking throughout filming and editing, but it’s like the demons — quintessential camera whores to equal any pageant princessery — knew they were on stage and wanted to put on a good show. It’s an approach that mirrored itself in everyone’s favorite Elm Street sadist, Freddy Kruger, but got lost in the recent remake of that series, and the same thing seems to have happened here. No one wants to have fun anymore; the “evil dead” here take themselves a little too seriously to enjoy the carnage. Oh, they might giggle when they say things like, “Your little sister’s being raped in hell tonight, David,” but you can tell, this time out, that their heart’s just not really in it.
One ruling absurdity of the movie resides in its creative application of the most eclectic makeshift collection of destructive implements you can imagine. I think there should also be a No Prize awarded to one teen who manages to suffer multiple physical indignities that might have dropped a Terminator before finally succumbing to injury over insult.
One of the very few improvements over Raimi’s rendition, there’s actually a believable plot device to keep all these teenage Happy Meal souls in place: Little sister Mia is a hardened junkie with one failed intervention under her belt, and Round #2 has just begun. So when she starts freaking out about demons in the woods and how everyone is going to die unless they run like hell, of course no one is inclined to believe her, she’s snookered them all before; they’re dedicated to practicing tough love to a hallucinating junkie. (They just have no clue how “tough” their love is gonna have to get.)
There’s also an attempt to develop a bit of backstory between Mia and her big brother David. It’s not quite enough to really bump up the movie into “drama” on par with a horror movie like “The Descent,” but it does provide slight incentive to accept one of David’s decisions that at first makes little sense. And the writers do try to differentiate the outcome here a bit from its predecessor. (More than that, I dare not say.)
But some elements have dropped right back into trope — like the teen who opens a book sealed in plastic and barbed wire and bound in human skin, with horrific pictures of summoned demons and graffiti scrawled across the arcane pages (“Don’t read! Don’t speak! Don’t listen! PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD AND ALL THAT IS HOLY STAY AWAY FROM THIS BOOK!”), who even has to WORK to discover the damned litany, which he then needlessly utters out loud when he could have simply read the words silently. Raimi’s version with the tape, where the teens had no idea what was happening until it was far too late, seemed more realistic.
I found myself wishing that the movie had played more into one extreme or another — more camp or more drama — since, stuck in the middle, it’s hard to be completely satisfied with either.
But that’s okay. If there is anything certain in life, after all, it’s death, taxes, and stories of teenagers possessed by demons fighting for their lives somewhere in a cabin in the woods.