I don’t see a lot of horror flicks, but not for the reason you think. I’m not trying to sound like a tough guy; when I was younger, horror movies scared the crap out of me. To this day, I still remember how scared I was watching Poltergeist and, later, Aliens. In hindsight, my dad really shouldn’t have let me watch those movies at the age I was at the time (6 and 9, respectively, give or take a year), but then again, I asked. I was sure my stuffed animals were going to pull me under the bed and that aliens were going to start dropping out of the ceiling. Twenty-five years later, I still get a twinge of nervousness when I walk into a dark, unfinished basement, so I know there’s still a little bit of that kid left in me. As I sat in the theater watching Evil Dead, I started to feel like that kid again as I could feel that little twinge once again. The difference was that it wasn’t fright I was feeling, but nostalgia.
The real reason I don’t watch many horror movies is because they simply aren’t very good anymore (that and my wife still does get freaked out by scary movies). Maybe they were never very good, but most of them just feel different; more disturbing than scary. Movies like The Hills Have Eyes or Hostel, where the goal is to be gratuitous for the sake of being gratuitous. Like porn, they put in random things (in this case, gross-out things) simply because they can, not because it makes any kind of narrative sense. And, both genres of movie throw in a token, usually nonsensical plot just so the audience knows that they are, in fact, watching a movie. Thinking back to movies like A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th, they didn’t have much plot either, but they also knew exactly what they were – slasher flicks where a group of people are killed one by one. Sure, they had gross-out things as well, but they weren’t the point of the movie.
Evil Dead is like those older slasher flicks, with a little Exorcist thrown in for spice. It’s also a remake of The Evil Dead, from 1981, which explains why it is the way it is. I’ve never seen the original (calm down), so I really don’t know how much they changed and how much they kept. However, I can guess based on the recent film Cabin in the Woods, which pays homage to scary movies, but The Evil Dead in particular. I know this because I kept seeing things in Evil Dead that were also in Cabin in the Woods (also, Cabin in the Woods actually has the word Deadites written on a white board in one scene).
It’s also like those movies in that the script is very thin, consisting of two things – how the group of people come to be at the creepy cabin and some kind of back story to explain the demon/murderer/monster that tries to slaughter the group. In this case, David (Shiloh Fernandez), Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), Olivia (Jessica Lucas), and Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) take David’s sister Mia (Jane Levy – Tessa from Suburgatory) to David and Mia’s family’s old cabin to help Mia kick her heroine habit. Once they are there, we’ll get a couple of token scenes with Mia freaking out due to detox, but moves very quickly to the introduction of the killer. As in the original, one of the group reads from the Book of the Dead, inadvertently setting the demon loose to possess someone in the group (Mia) and start picking off the members of the group. For the rest of the movie, the game is to guess which of the group survives and kills the demon or if the demon wins. Either way, you know there’s going to be blood, blood, and more blood.
It would be unfair to say this movie didn’t have gratuitous gore (at one point, it’s literally raining blood), but what sets it apart from most modern horror movies is that it was made with no CGI. That’s right, it’s a true throwback to the days of The Exorcist when everything was done with props, makeup, prosthetics, lighting, and enough fake blood to fill the Superdome. It’s hard to knock a movie in which the producers put in that kind of effort to make something seem a little more authentic. That’s also what made really made me remember my childhood and watching scary movies. It was like I was actually watching one of those movies.
By the time the movie was over, it was fairly obvious that most of the audience had the same experience I did. That included lots of murmuring, gasping, and cringing throughout the film as the carnage ensued. Was it a good movie? Meh. Was it an entertaining movie? For the most part. But, most importantly, it made us feel like kids again, even if it took remaking a cheap, cult classic to do it.
Rating: Don’t ask for any money back because you’re getting your money’s worth of blood and then some.