[Note: Reader discretion advised. Non-horror fans, consider yourselves warned.]
MANILA, Philippines – Many would argue that there was no need to redo “The Evil Dead,” a campy, low-budget horror movie that also happened to launch the careers of actor Bruce Campbell — a cult star following his turns in the “Evil Dead“ trilogy — and director Sam Raimi — who eventually helmed, among other flicks, his own “Spider-Man” trilogy.
Many filmgoers would also counter that there is no need for horror movies per se. After all, real life is already horrible, be it on a personal, societal or global scale, and gore itself has long been the stuff of tabloid newspapers and programs, so let’s just fill the world with romantic comedies and sappy dramas, shall we?
Yet here we are, over a century since the earliest suspense film, and people are still making and watching horror flicks. Be it for the perverse thrill of beholding contrived yet compelling shock-fests, or for the cathartic pleasure of witnessing horrific scenarios that, all told, are confined to the big screen and last no more than two hours, horror movies will remain a continual presence in theaters and a longed-for treat for the genre’s devotees.
But why a remake of 1981’s “The Evil Dead” instead of a totally new horror flick? As suggested by the 2013 adaptation, which is directed by debuting helmer Fede Alvarez from a script by Alvarez and his fellow Uruguayan Rodo Sayagues (with input from an uncredited Diablo “Juno” Cody), why the dead not?
On the surface, it seems to be an easy way out, in creative terms, to just take something old and rehash it for today. It also suggests that, 3 decades since “The Evil Dead,” the horror genre has just about exhausted its narrative possibilities, as witness the smart-aleck send-up that was “The Cabin in the Woods.”
Beneath those presumptions, however, the filmmakers — which include the producing trio of Raimi, Campbell and, the original’s main producer, Rob Tapert — must have deduced that “The Evil Dead” is the mother of all teens-in-a-cabin-in-the-woods shockers of the last 30 years anyway, so why not give it a reverential, 21st-century makeover?
And what a horrific hoot this remake is. It may not be “The most terrifying film you will ever experience” as its posters boast, but “Evil Dead” is a well-crafted cringe inducer.
As suggested by its simple dropping of the “The” from the original’s title, “Evil Dead” is both new and not so new — a pleased-to-see-you-again homage for those who saw the source flick and rather riveting scare fare for elder and unacquainted viewers alike.
Even without having sat through Raimi and Campbell’s now 32-year-old joint debut, old and new moviegoers would both be rewarded by the inclusion of certain, familiar elements. These include the middle-of-nowhere setup, the evil-spirit-POV camera work, a cellar as a weak, makeshift prison for the possessed, a gruesome “botanical invasion,” and the dastardly book of spirits that sets things in maniacal motion. (Of the latter, there is this timeless, if freaky, implication: Books can hold so much power over people.)
Along the way, Alvarez and company manage to pull off some gripping visual surprises despite the story’s overall lack of uniqueness, many of them by the movie’s second half. They are also able to sneak in winking subtleties, such as this unpronounced detail: the initials of the lead characters — David, Eric, Mia, Olivia and Natalie — spell out something malevolent.
And as a witty correction to an oft-repeated line from the 1981 “Dead,” the 2013 edition puts forth a more realistic reaction to a character’s panicked assurance that “Everything’s going to be fine.” (Fans of the original trilogy, the so-called “Deadites,” would also want to stick around through the end credits for a pair of disposable but fun bonuses.)
Amid all of its made-up putridness, “Evil Dead” manages to essay an array of underlying messages: that humans are so prone to temptation, dating back to Adam and Eve; that people can be so clueless despite obvious signs of deplorable consequences; and that “Saw” was actually an influential horror movie.
Sure, there are several other films to savor in theaters this week. But for horror fans, “Evil Dead” should be a welcome rain of blood, er, rain of fictitious terror in this summertime.
It is best watched in the cold darkness of a movie theater, all the better to savor the reactionary screams and the stray false-alarm shriek from an easily rattled viewer or two — and away from the hellishness of the outside world, political and showbiz kinds included. – Rappler.com
‘Evil Dead’ is now showing across the Philippines exclusively at Ayala Cinemas. It is rated R-18without cuts by the MTRCB.