Saturday, April 6, 2013

Evil Dead review: She picked a hell of a day to quit heroin

When the credits rolled there was a section of the audience that applauded. The teenagers in the theater were so entertained I didn't see any of them text once during the movie. As I made my way past the bathrooms I overheard a smiling soccer mom say, "I didn't care so much for the gore, but I liked the supernatural elements." I don't know if it says more about the movie or the changing times that an older woman can enjoy an Evil Dead movie, but that happened.

Me, on the other hand... I shuffled to the car absolutely baffled. One thing repeated in my mind: That was it?

You should probably steer clear of the trailer; it gives away far too much.

Evil Dead isn't a bad movie. It's almost exemplary for a modern American horror movie, but is that saying much? The trailers before the film can attest to one sad fact: the American horror film is in a dull, joyless rut at the moment. And up until now I always loved Evil Dead films; when I was a kid I once went as Ash for Halloween, chainsaw and all. So I do have to say it's incredibly disappointing to admit that not once during the film was I moved in any shape or form. I'm not exaggerating. I really felt nothing even as everyone around me was reacting to the cheap jump-scares.

So the five characters who end up in the infamous cabin in the woods this time are cardboard cutouts whom we simply don't give a shit about. The main character, I suppose, is Mia, a heroin addict who's trying to kick the habit by secluding herself in her mother's cabin. As expected, a particular book is found, a certain incantation is spoken, and an evil is unleashed via flying P.O.V. shots. Unfortunately, despite the award-worthy effects (they promised no CGI, but there's definitely some in there) you don't care when a character cuts her tongue in two or when someone begins dismembering their friend. Horror films are supposed to be cathartic; they're supposed to wind you up and even make you laugh when the tension is finally released, whether the resolution is what we wanted to see or not.

Horror movies. Are supposed to be. Fun.

Where did all this inventiveness go? Where's all the fun?

I didn't find Evil Dead all that fun. I didn't find Evil Dead to be fun at all. I found Evil Dead to be pretty lifeless, extremely joyless, and 100% unnecessary unless it makes so much money the studios decide to greenlight a proper Evil Dead sequel. If you haven't seen many horror films, you'll probably like it. Or if blood and guts and violence alone is enough for you, you'll probably like it, too. But for the rest of us there's nothing new, nothing unexpected. I hate to say it, but this new Evil Dead is predictable. And that kind of defeats the purpose of an Evil Dead movie, doesn't it?

As we all know, if there's a gun shown in the first act, it'll be fired by the end of the third. Here it's a nailgun, an electric carving knife, and a cellar step that's going to break exactly when we expect it to. I'm not giving anything away. You'll see it coming from a mile away, too. The rest is packed with the filler material from the previous Evil Dead films and sweetened with dialogue you'd expect to hear from the little girl in The Exorcist. There's a few nods to the original films here and there, but they're unnecessary, too. Consider the following exchange:

"It's a few hours until dawn."
"We're not going to be alive to see it."

Pardon me while I yawn.

I'm pretty much done talking about this film because the disappointment pains me so much. I feel like I just left a funeral. The only saving grace is that Bruce Campbell has announced they're making Army of Darkness 2. But I've heard that so many times before I can't hold my breath any longer. Their plans to make a new Evil Dead 2 and then combine the subsequent sequel with Army of Darkness 3 (yes, part 3) isn't ingenious, it's just confusing. And let's face it: it's not happening, either. What's even more confusing, though, is I plan to see the new Evil Dead 2 on opening weekend, too.

I just don't know when to give up, I guess. This series means too much to me I'm going to be right by its side, holding its hand as it suffers on its deathbed. For better or for worse, until death do us part. Amen.

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