Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Drugs are Bad ... Really Bad -- Reflections on EVIL DEAD (2013)

This is what happens when you shoot heroin, kids.

Evil Dead – the remake of Sam Raimi’s 80s horror classic – is essentially an ABC’s After-School Special with a large budget spent mainly on gore. The film is a 90-minute metaphor for the horrors of drug addiction, as if you didn’t already know that drugs – especially really hardcore illicit drugs, like heroin – were bad for you. It does this in a mostly entertaining, non-offensive way, but being mostly entertaining and non-offensive isn’t all that interesting. To be the Evil Dead, it needs to be extremely entertaining, and extremely offensive. Pat and padded morals just don’t do the trick.

This update of the horror franchise returns to the cabin in the woods (which looked like the same cabin used in last year’s masterful film of the same name), but this time we don’t get anyone nearly as charismatic as Bruce Campbell to follow into the mayhem. Who we get instead is David (Shiloh Fernandez), a grease monkey trying to reconnect and help his heroin-addicted sister, Mia (Jane Levy), spend the next few days detoxing away from all drugs and society. With them are David and Mia’s old, estranged crew, Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) and Olivia (Jessica Lucas), and David’s personality deprived girlfriend. No one is particularly interesting; they are all dour types, except maybe Mia, who at least gets to act crazy.

Eventually, the movie follows beats from the original. The kids find a strange book covered in stitched human skin, say the forbidden magic words because they can’t help themselves, and eventually begin to go through the stages of demon possession. Mia is affected first, but since she is a junkie, everyone assumes she is tripping balls. They’re wrong, of course, and before you know it people are talking in echo-y voices, sporting horrible skin ulcers, and mutilating themselves. There’s not much else to the movie, but there wasn’t much to the original, either.

Except the original Evil Dead had a sense of humor. The first Evil Dead was definitely a more serious entry in the series, especially compared to the campy Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness, but it had Bruce Campbell’s funny reactions, some clever dialogue and demonic repartee, and the novelty of being original. This new film comes at a time in the history of the horror genre in which audiences have seen most everything filmmakers have to offer in the scare department. Cabin in the Woods made that abundantly clear. So, without much in the originality department, the movie relies on the laziest of horror movie conventions…gore. And in that department, it delivers. This is the goriest horror movie I’ve seen since Peter Jackson’s Brain Dead. Blood practically spurts out of every shot, and it’s all done through some exceptionally well-crafted practical effects. If there is any CGI blood in this movie, you can photoshop me into a meme and mutilate me.

But lots of blood does not a great film make, otherwise we’d call Hostel a masterpiece. Evil Dead gets a lot of mileage out of its gory scares, especially the tongue splitting and arm cutting scenes, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that it offers little more than the drug addiction metaphor. Drugs make us demons, the movie shouts, and as those demons we destroy our friends, family, and eventually ourselves. I’d say it’s as deep as a puddle of blood, but in this movie that’d be pretty deep indeed.