Over here at Trash Talk! we’re going to take a look at pop-culture through an artistic lens, more specifically exploring the dichotomy between high-art and low-art in movies, TV, comics, and video games. What’s fine cinema, and what’s trash? Sometimes the line may be thinner than you think.
The Evil Dead hit the 1981-82 underground movie scene like a ravenous deadite. It grossed over 2 million (it had a $400,000 budget), and was a critical success. Stephen King was one of its greatest proponents and called it the “most ferociously original film of the year” (praise that was, of course, plastered on all the promotional material). It’s hard to imagine now, but the original Evil Dead was one of the goriest movies of its time. So much so that it garnered an X-rating, and was labeled a video nasty in the UK. Despite such a disparaging(?) label it was the top selling video of the year it was released, earning it the title “Number One Nasty”. A label that I think could rightfully be slapped on everything Evil Dead with pride. It’s bloody, relentless fun, pumped by a comedic black heart. Now, some thirty years later, it’s time for the inevitable remake that seems to befall every beloved film franchise. But you know what? This time, the remake is just as damn good as the original.
I love the Evil Dead movies, especially Evil Dead II (really, the original remake). It perfected a tenuous tone between camp and terror that few films can match. In the original, however, that comedic edge was meant to be subtler, mostly found in its gleefully over the top violence. The new Evil Dead harkens back to those days. There’s no laughing deer heads in this iteration. There are however possessed appendages, chainsaws, and, of course, tree rape.
One of the beauties of the remake is it doesn’t actually try to remake anything. All the characters are new, and it’d be easy to imagine that this story could take place in the same world as Raimi’s first trilogy. In fact, there is talk of a crossover sequel (in which the characters from both films interact), which would be, in a word, amazing. This film doesn’t undo, or restart, anything from its progenitor, it simply uses the tropes and elements from the original film and recontextualizes them with a modern sensibility. Two guys, and three girls (including a brother and his sister) are at a remote cabin deep in the forest, but now they have a more pressing (and brilliant, plot-wise) reason to be there. A woman is sexually assaulted by trees, but the impetus for it is more clearly defined (beyond the general, “that’s messed up”). First time feature director Fede Alvarez even finds a way to homage The Evil Dead’s more outlandish sequels in a fantastic finale. On top of all that, it’s probably one of the bloodiest, and goriest films you’re likely to see. In fact, it was initially slapped with an NC-17 rating (a version I hope ends up on the Blu-ray) before it was recut. Obviously this Evil Dead has not forgotten its roots. One can’t help but have the impression that this is the movie Raimi would have made, if he’d filmed it for the first time today, and that’s high praise.
The new Evil Dead may not do anything groundbreaking, but what it does do, it does to the utmost. It’s a well thought-out, beautifully composed piece of art, and a squeemy, in-your-face, thrill ride. It’s a strong leader for best horror movie of the year, and it may be the best remake… well, ever.
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