‘Evil Dead’ re-make pleases viewers more than critic

By Gary Clift

The re-make of “Evil Dead” has Sam Raimi (who gave us the Spiderman movies, among other things) as a Producer rather than a Writer. But by getting his participation, the studio was able to advertise the new movie as being by the makers of the original. Certainly the two films are not much different so far as their stories are concerned.

In the case of the current film, five college-aged kids gather at a rustic cabin (somehow furnished with electricity and a gangling basement) isolated in spooky woods. The building belongs to the family of junkie Mia (Jane Levy) and her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez). Joining them are his girl friend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) and another couple, nurse Olivia and teacher Eric.

They are there so that Mia can go through withdrawal from heroin while the others hold her hand, speaking metaphorically. But as soon as she’s poured her stash down the wishing well, somebody smells something bad in the house and somebody else discovers a trap door leading down to the basements.

When the camera takes us downstairs, we recognize the site of a demon burning showed before the credits. The book the celebrants were reading as they offed the coarse-talking female evil-doer is still down there, wrapped in barbed wire, and so are the corpses of a bunch of small animals, all hanging from floor joists.

David starts taking the little bodies out to the trash. Mia begins to feel the drug wear off. And Eric begins reading the book. When he repeats a series of foreign words he finds in the text, the film immediately cuts to a shot moving quickly toward the cabin through the forest. Has Eric called the evil spirit, one who follows a series of steps illustrated in the book and who wants to “eat five souls” so that he can again be free to roam the earth? Holy Lovecraft!

Mia steals the Ford wagon and goes driving up the farm road, apparently headed back into town for some more smack. But she sees a figure in the road—it looks like the demon woman who was immolated in the basement at the beginning of the movie—and swerves into a pond. As she clambers out of the water she is frightened into a trap of vines.

Then a demon female appears and disengorges a thick eel of evil which crawls up Mia’s skirt and disappears. She is found by her brother, who takes her back to the cabin. But soon she shoots him with a rifle shot from a shotgun, and the run of attacks, surprise attacks, self-mutilations, fast festering wounds, blood vomiting, dog killing, hypodermic poking, and such like is on.

While “Evil Dead” has some comedy in it, the makers of the new film are in a sense missing a bet by playing most of the movie as if it were there to scare us. There is nothing scary in the movie, unless you are afraid of theatrical make-up. But the thing is, the story isn’t far from being the simplest version possible of all the horror movies of the eighties—”Halloween” and “Friday the Thirteenth” and “Nightmare on Elm Street” and so on.

So this movie could be a send-up of scary movies, the way the first “Scream” pretended to be. A satire like that would have been more fun than is the re-made “Evil Dead,” which simply tries to be distasteful within limits.

But perhaps I’m complaining too much. I saw the film with a large Sunday night crowd, and they seemed to be having fun as it ran. Levy and Fernandez are attractive screen presences. The film is over quick. Maybe the re-make isn’t so much a loss as a tie.

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