"You have to get me out of here."
A group of estranged friends and family gather together in an isolated cabin in the woods, so they might help drug addict Mia (Jane Levy) kick the habit.
Something is not quite right in this cabin in the woods, though, and a monstrous evil is soon unleashed and begins killing them, one by one.
My original intention had been to do an Original Versus Remake review. But, as the remake's release date drew closer and closer, I found that my interest in watching the original Evil Dead never got to a point where doing so did not feel like a chore. Not a good sign, that.
Turns out that, if I were going to watch an Evil Dead film, I wanted to watch the original's far superior sequel, Evil Dead 2, and just ignore the original. The problem with doing that being the 2013 version of Evil Dead is not a remake of Evil Dead 2. So, there is no long form Original Versus Remake style review of the two films. Sorry. Short form Original Versus Remake review: the original film is the better movie, by far.
My inability to rouse any interest whatsoever in watching the original film (which I have not seen from beginning to end since, I don't know, the early nineties, maybe) led to my questioning whether or not I really wanted to see this more moneyed take on the subject matter. This was also the point where the disappointing reviews started popping up. The consensus seemed to be that the remake was gory, but not the slightest bit scary. ("And neither was the original, for that matter," saith the genre's many apologists in response.) After giving it some thought, I decided it would be for the best if I just skipped seeing the movie. I no longer saw anything of interest there for me.
Then there came a time where I really needed to get out of the house and clear my head. My Artistic Muse was cranky and not forthcoming with the Creative Inspiration. My imagination felt about as capable of engaging in a flight of fancy as a chunk of concrete. I needed something brainless and loud to lose myself in. That is when I decided I might as well go see the new Evil Dead...
I will now point you to the opening paragraph of this review, so I can remind you that I think what I just told you is far more interesting than the film I watched.
Long before the title card gets blasted across the screen, I saw that this new Evil Dead was in serious trouble, story wise. The film opens cold, with a blood caked teenaged girl stumbling through a fog draped wood. (Not all that uncommon of a sight in a horror movie, true.) Two hillbillies then pop up out of nowhere, capture the blood caked girl and knock her unconscious. (Once more, not all that uncommon of an occurence in a horror movie.) The girl awakens in cold, dark cellar. She is surrounded by weird hillbillies and... her father! Daddy claims that what is about to happen is meant to save her soul, for the girl has become possessed by some dark and evil force, that she has murdered her own mother. The girl begs and pleads to be released, that such a thing could not be true, but to no avail. The father prepares to set the girl on fire, while a witch woman reads from from the Illustrated Book of the Evil Dead. As flames begin to eat away at the trapped girl, her pleading warps into demonic taunting. Turns out she really was possessed, after all. (Once more, with feeling, a turn of events that is not at all uncommon for the start of a horror movie.) BAM!!! Title.
Here's the problem with this opening: who all these people are, how they came to be there, and why the Witch Woman and Her Chorus of Inbred Hillbilly Mountain Folk are helping them, is NEVER EXPLAINED. The entire scene could have been cut from the film and not a single person would have thought that something was missing, because NOT ONE of these people are mentioned or ever shown again. The whole thing stinks of something shot to "punch up" the opening of the movie.
The cannon fodder then comes out from behind the title card, to find their deceased mother's cabin in the woods has been broken into. Blood is smeared all over the floor and they find a whole bunch of slaughtered animals strung up in the basement. (By the way, where did all these animals come from? They were not shown in the pre-title credit sequence.) Their response to these disturbing discoveries is to just shrug them off as "kind of weird" and go on about their business. Really? Would it have killed the movie to have at least one scene where these characters alert the local police? There's an abandoned car behind the cabin (fans will recognize the car as Sam Raimi's*) and no one asks about it. Not even the one person new to the cabin asks, "Do you think this car might have something to do with this?" No, they just use it as a bench.
In the original (hey, I am talking about it after all) there is a token degree of explanation as to how and why the Book of the Dead came to be in that cabin in the woods. The characters discover that the prior tenant of the cabin in the woods had been a professor, who had been recording his translations of said Book of the Dead. The characters play the translation recordings and unleash the horror. It might not be the greatest of explanations, granted, but at least the film tried. The new one doesn't.
Once these horrible horrors are unleashed, why do the characters stay in the cabin? Why don't they get out of those dark, scary woods? The original posited an almost Lovecraftian reason for the characters inability to leave. They try to leave and can't, the Dark Force in the Woods has destroyed the only way out. In the new version, Mia, the Final Possessed Girl, is trying to kick her drug habit cold turkey. Her early acts of violence and changes in character are attributed to withdrawal. But that only goes so far. Eventually the Dark Force in the Woods has to wipe out the only road out, too. Why? It happened in the original, so it needs to happen in the remake, I guess.
Because one of the group (Lou Taylor Pucci) is fool enough to read from the crazy looking book they found in the blood soaked cellar, Mia begins to go haywire. (See previous paragraph.) She attempts to flee, but cannot (again, see previous paragraph) and is assaulted by the Dark Force in the Woods. The inclusion of the Angry Molesting Tree is where I started noticing that there was something off about this new version of the Evil Dead. In the original films, the Dark Force in the Woods was never glimpsed (in the first movie) and given a non-human form in the sequel. So why is it a woman in this film? Was it supposed to be the girl from the beginning of the film? If so, why did she still have a head? Why wasn't there something to establish or, I don't know, EXPLAIN that it was? The womb like imagery of the tree rape sequence also bothered me. (A tunnel sequence later in the film is even worse, as it smears vaginal and birthing imagery across the screen in the most blatant and odious of fashions.)
No one knows or realizes that Mia is possessed and, one by one, all the woman become blood oozing psychotics that torture the two male characters. Here is where my memory of the first film becomes somewhat vague. I do not recall it containing the amount of sexual panic that the remake does. I was flabbergasted and offended at how the monsters were all self-mutilating women.
When the big evil arrives, it just so happens to look like a woman. I am certain that some defenders of the film will point out that the Big Evil seems kind of androgynous, but my response to that is a firm, "No!" The feminine aspects are very clear to see. This new version of Evil Dead equates women with evil. The amount of misogyny on display in the film is just disgusting.
I went to see the new Evil Dead with very low expectations. While the technical prowess that is on display exceeeded those expectations, I cannot overlook, nor am I able to forgive, that the film did not scare or impress me all that much. I left the theater wanting to watch Evil Dead 2 again, just so I could clean the bad taste of the remake out of my mind. I can only suggest that you skip seeing this movie and just go directly to Evil Dead 2.
One and a half star.
*Director Sam Raimi used his own car in the first Evil Dead. That car has gone on to make a cameo appearance in every one of his movies. (It's Uncle Ben's car in the first Spider-Man movie.)