April 20th, 2013
Back then, way back then, when I was knee-high to a sod of turf, I spent every single post-school afternoon in the local video library. It was a daily reverie, a ritual. I would spend two, three hours, sometimes more, just staring at the ever expanding collection of wonders, examining every video cover with relish, scouring for detail, standing back to absorb the garish and the gaudy, the mawkish and the melodramatic. I soaked up the buddy movies, the Vietnam rescue quadrilogies, the endless sequences of Ninja films. And I venerated the horror movies. More specifically, their covers.
Before the age of ten, I’d begun to cut out posters for films from local newspapers, liberated them from magazines, lived for Thursdays when the Evening Press would print up an entire centre section with posters for new releases. And I was always drawn to the horror movie posters – killer beasts, zombies, Rosemarys Killer, silver orbs with drills, The Shining. When I was two, I straddled the paper being used to clear the fire and declared, while pointing to the film poster, that I was going to be friends with the shark from Jaws. Such a wrong un.
I loved horror film posters, my childs mind instantly buying the hokey, unspoken vernacular of the macabre, spinning out terrifying scenarios, filling the gaps left by promotional copy with imaginings of things that seemed very real to me. Chief among these was The Evil Dead. It arrived like a new pupil into our school and I was mesmerized by hushed schoolyard accounts from the initiated, kids whose parents had been lax enough to allow them to watch it. Or they had snuck it on while they were out. All wrapped in that second-hand smoke of hysteria that surrounded video nasties, films that the grown-ups were afraid that you would one day see.
And it would take me nearly thirty years to actually watch it.
Fast forward to 1987 and it’s 6am, everyone’s asleep and I’m watching Evil Dead II downstairs alone. This will be my modus operandi for watching forbidden films for the next few years. My parents would never have allowed us to watch anything remotely associated with the horror genre. I had to sneak into town to watch Gremlins FFS. I am scared and pushing myself to watch. And I am pleasantly surprised. I am utterly taken with this bizarrely entertaining combination of slapstick and ribald humour and, to my innocent eyes, hardcore gore. I am smitten. When I eventually watch its predecessor, I am equally taken by it’s joyously haphazard blitz of the genres conventions.
This is how I come to the 2013 reboot, Evil Dead. Laden with expectation. Primed by the posters. Gone are the days when a striking, willfully disturbing image was enough to get the imagination salivating. I’ve avoided the trailers. I’ve seen the posters and absorbed the Cormanesque copy. I am shitting it in waiting. I am scared by wanting to be scared again.
The woman two seats over will gasp “Sweet Jesus!” a full twelve times during the film, starting the second before the films title slams onto screen. Twelve minutes in and the first casualty will leave. People will audibly whimper. A girl next to me will ask her friend “Are you shivering?!?”. It is definitely a cinema experience. No thwacking the spacebar to escape and make a restorative cup of tea here.
It is gritty. It is visceral. It is unrelenting. It is possessed of an underlying, gleefully satanic vein of body dysmorphia that provides the lions share of the shocks. It has some of the direst body horror I’ve seen in a while. The woman two seats over pleaded with her boyfriend at one stage “I’m fucking terrified – can’t we just go?”
It leaves no household device unexploited. And they are signposted, sequentially. And that’s my first problem with the film. Signposting. It takes the sting out of the scare. Each device gets just that lingering, teasing shot that screams SIGNIFICANCE. So when you see it again later, you’re essentially eased into the next scene and the shock it was working to give you. You have time to prepare yourself for that scene with the carving knife. The film, with the interceding 32 years of audience genre expectation and familiarity with the genres conventions to contend with, gets you by sticking to the rulebook. In many ways it is infinitely more conventional than it’s source material, almost conservative in its dogmatic adherence to set-up, pacing and clockwork scares.
By doing this, it betrays the originals joyous, gleefully kinetic collision of invention and transgression. Even “I’ll feast on your soul” doesn’t sound quite right when stripped of the originals demonic mischief. Where the original is gleefully ghoulish, Evil Dead is tediously grim at times. I found myself sitting in the cinema thinking “I wish this was just a little bit more… goofy”.
Gone is the campfire eeriness of the original. It knows that in an age when God is dying, audiences mostly don’t have that Grimm connection to a world beyond, that Lovecraftian sense of creep and the protective filaments between darker worlds and our own being rent asunder as the story progresses. And it foregoes that sleepover ghost story creepiness in favour of viscera and bodily fluids. It harks back to Cronenberg, his wrestling with the uncontrollably binary nature of our relationship to our bodies and what it produces beyond our conscious volition. It’s like this film swallowed the originals soul and then decided that what it shat out the other side would do. What I’m saying is that there is a lot of shit and piss.
It’s not a failure as a horror film though. Far from it. I put my hand up in front of my face involuntarily once and said “Nasty”. That’s because I think pliers are intrinsically nasty. I counted 5 walkouts/necronomiflounces on our side of the house. That’s something doing it’s job right. It’s ninety-one, generous minutes of entertainingly predictable, splatter. But it’s no Brain Dead. It’s no El Orfanato. It’s not even as good as the Dawn Of The Dead remake (still think it’s closer to an action film than a horror film). It is one of the more accomplished of the reboots to date.
It just isn’t the reboot that The Evil Dead deserves.
Articles in this section:
- Margaret Thatcher (13 October 1925 - 8 April 2013): A Non-Eulogy
In accordance with MT’s insistence that no eulogy be delivered at her funeral, I composed the following.
- Mama (Film Review)
It’s a day since I watched Mama in the cinema. I’ve had some time to think about it.
Initially when I walked out of the cinema – I thought I had just watched less a ghost story as an almost perfectly put together dark fairytale. In the time to think about it, some other things have come to mind…
- Alex Cross (Film Review)
Somehow, Tyler Perry has slipped by my radar. I have no idea who he was and I wish it’d stayed that way.
- Mientras duermes / Sleep Tight (Film Review)
Spanish directors and scriptwriters have been pushing out some of the best horror on the market. The work of Jaume Balagueró i Bernat of the REC series, has always been worth tracking down.
- Blood Donors Film Club (Charity Film Event Listing)
For its maiden voyage into the world of film screenings, Blood Donors Film Club presents ‘The Loved Ones’, a modern classic of gore, disenfranchised youth, unrequited love, and prom night gone wrong
- The Dying Seconds - Glimmerers (Album Review)
See them live – find them in London – make no mistake – this is a band to see live.
- Playing For Keeps (Film Review)
‘Playing For Keeps’ is a new romantic comedy staring Gerard Butler, Dennis Quaid, Jessica Biel, Uma Thurman, Judy Greer and Catherine Zeta-Jones (who has finally been allowed out of Michael Douglas’ sex dungeon). The plot centres on a former footballer who has fallen on hard times and is now stuck in a small wealthy American town to be close to his son. In the typical run of things he ends up coaching his sons football team and spends his time having to deal with the glut of divorced soccer moms who want him.
- Crawlspace (Film Review)
‘Crawlspace’ is a 2012 Australian genre twisting science fiction horror. Australian cinema, especially genre cinema, rarely ever disappoints and “Crawlspace’ is no exception.
- John Dies At The End (Film Review)
Don Coscarelli (Phantasm, Bubbahotep) bought the rights, adapated it for the screen and directed it. Those involved in producing the film, like Paul Giamatti read as fans of the source material and make it sound like a labour of love in interviews.
- Antarctic Journal (Film Review)
‘Antartic Journal’ is the promising debut of South Korean director Yim Pil-sung. The film centres on a modern antarctic expedition trying to reach the pole of inaccessibility. I tracked it down largely because it stars Song Kang-ho (The Host, The Good, The Bad and The Weird).
- Frisky Dingo (Fancy Things #3)
Created by Adam Reed and Matt Thompson, the comedic geniuses also behind Sealab 2021 and Archer it centres on an alien called KillFaces attempts to destroy the Earth.
- Total Fucking Destruction - Monsters (EP Review)
Grounded by bombardment is where this review of Total Fucking Destruction – Monsters EP comes in to play.
- Path of Exile (Game Review)
Did you like Diablo 1, 2 and the Lord of Destruction expansion?
Do you like dungeon crawler action rpgs?
Enjoy Facebook games?
- Professor Elemental - Father of Invention (Album Review)
What is important is that the gentleman from before – yes, that one, the one with the fighting trousers and that occasionally querulous orangutan butler – why yes – exactly that one! Professor Elemental is back – with a splendid new seventy-eight.