Two great things happened to me in 1981 – I was born and Evil Dead was released. Out of all things Evil Dead related, this movie is probably my least favorite, but I truly love it all. This was the movie that first showed a flash of the brilliance that is Sam Raimi and the world would never be the same again.
When it was announced that they would be remaking the film, I cringed, bitched, and cursed. How could they possibly do that!? Well, we all know that we live in a world of remakes, so everything is destined for bastardization. Not that I hate all remakes, but there is a precedent for worry.
I thought then the same thing that I thought when I heard about the Nightmare on Elm St. remake – if they want to make a good film, they can’t attempt to recreate the weird humor that made the original so good. They had to go full dark with it; bloody and serious. While Nightmare didn’t take that advice, Evil Dead did. The remake is dark and unforgiving, without a hint of humor anywhere.
Let’s break it down.
Every time I go back and watch this movie I can’t believe how young Bruce Campbell looks. It is shocking as hell. There is all the same bad acting and terrible plot in this movie as all other similar films of the time, yet this one stands out. It is unique and not just because of what the series became. Sam Raimi’s style is what does it. His ability to recognize the absurd and harness it, molding a feeling of humorous unease. It is silly and scary simultaneously, and that isn’t something you get practically anywhere else. The demons themselves have a specific look. It’s make-up, but it isn’t the same as what the other movies do – this becomes much more prevalent starting with Evil Dead II.
Arguably the most memorable moment doesn’t have Campbell, or the cabin, or the demons. It’s the famous plant rape scene. I still wince when I see it. If you don’t know, vines wrap around a woman until she is pinned to the ground. The vines spread her legs and enter her, basically impregnating her with the evil that will spread through the cabin. I got into an argument a while ago with a friend over the value in this scene. They took an obvious stance on how rape shouldn’t be shown in such a way, that it demeans women, and that it glorifies violence toward them. I agreed, yet I believe that in horror all bets are off. Obviously, one of the facets to the genre that we love is its willingness to circumvent what is considered normal, and present something that is, in a word, FUCKED.
This doesn’t take away from the movie, but I don’t think it really adds anything either. It isn’t like the plot is suddenly awesome and original. It is still generic, just with a few added details. The gore is more realistic and works well. Definitely going for shock in this version.
I have two complaints about the film. The first is that there isn’t a character that captures the interest of the viewer as there was in the first. I am truly grateful that Alvarez didn’t attempt to recreate Ash in another actor, but there is no one to really care about otherwise. Screen time is basically equal, and there is no real main protagonist.
In 1974, a small film about a couple of lesbian vampires was released to relatively little fanfare until news of its heavily censored state hit the UK. A small buzz was formed but nothing that would be worth writing your grandma about. Years later, the film – Vampyres – would develop a strong cult following. Directed by Jose Ramon Larraz, and principally shot at Oakley Court, home of many a late era Hammer Film exterior, the film is known for its sexuality more than its horrors.
Fast forward to 2015, when director Victor Mattelano decides to take a crack at a re-make. Right off the bat, differences in the presentation glare like a sequined dress blowing in a desert breeze.
First a quick, and I mean quick, synopsis. Two vampire lovers seduce people back to their mansion by pretending to hitchhike. They stab the victims, drink their blood, and tra-la-la. Things change when one of the woman falls for a man she brings home, keeps him around longer than the customary one night, until he decides to try and escape with the help of another couple. People die, vampires run away, and many breasts are revealed in the process.
The cinematography in the original is not too shabby, and with the remastered film, the colors (mostly flesh, oranges, and browns) really pop. The use of shadow is sometimes used very well, but not enough pains were taken to actually set a mood. The re-make loses all of this. The palette is flat, almost completely devoid of shadows. Most of the night shots from the first film are replaced with poorly filtered dusk shots. The amazingly beautiful and gothic old house is replaced by – a house; just a house.
Marianne Morris, who played Fran in the original, was probably the highlight of that movie for me. She is soft spoken and monotone, but has eyes and subtle facial expressions that make her sultry, with a tad of mystery. Marta Flich doesn’t pull this off nearly as well, and though she is also monotone, comes off as a drab mess.
While the first film focuses in on its strengths, namely the set pieces and sex, the 2015 version seems to actually try for the scares, and this may have been its biggest mistake. Bloody women approaching menacingly done a hall just don’t matter when we just watched two minutes of fucking. There just isn’t a good way to get a scare like that, and the film loses a lot of credibility in the attempt.
The remake also makes an attempt to up the level of plot, without actually changing it much. More plot details are added in slow moving scenes of a woman reading a journal. This is where the movie loses all sense of identity. It tries to have a sensible plot, a few jump scares, and all the sex the original had – and falls flat on all accounts.
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