Far Too Evil
By Carl Kozlowski
As the director of Oz and the original Spider-Man trilogy, Sam Raimi has become as successful as any mainstream filmmaker. That’s a far cry from the start of Raimi’s career in 1981, with the extremely low-budget horror film The Evil Dead, in which demonic spirits unleashed from a book of witchcraft force a group of young adults to slaughter each other in a gruesomely inventive fashion.
The film kick-started Raimi’s career by helping him build a thriving cult fan base while creating an international stir over the movie’s relentless bloodletting. It was one of the most notorious movies ever placed on England’s “video nasty” list of films, which were heavily censored or deemed unfit for release in civilized society. It had nearly 12 minutes cut from it before Finland would allow its distribution, and it spent 20 years in censorship limbo before Germany would let it to be sold freely. Though its fans often found its over-the-top violence to be humorous, The Evil Dead was really a vicious piece of work.
One might think that, with a string of family-friendly blockbusters behind him, Raimi would have changed his focus and forgotten the movie ever existed. But strangely, Raimi has produced a reboot of the original, with the new The Evil Dead infesting theaters this weekend.
Like the original, the new movie’s plot is simple: A group of 20-somethings head to a rundown cabin in the woods. This time, they’ve assembled because one of them, Maia (Jane Levy), is desperate to kick her heroin habit after overdosing.
Her friends and brother David (Shiloh Fernandez), take Maia to the woods in hopes of removing her from all drug temptations, and they make a pact behind her back to lock her down and hold her in the woods, no matter how much she begs to leave.
But when the other guy on the trip, Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), finds a book on ancient witchcraft and ignores scribbled warnings to not read it, he unleashes a demon that possesses Maia, leading to all sorts of hell breaking loose, with Maia’s friends taking turns being possessed and attempting to kill each other.
That’s the plot, folks. It seems that 90 percent of the new film’s running time consists of finding brutal and bloody ways to kill a person with a shotgun, a nail gun, glass shards, strangulation, drowning, electrocution, burning and live burial.
As in the original Raimi-directed Dead, the deaths (as well as a scene in which tree branches rape a woman) are so extreme that they’re often played for laughs. This film is a vibrant example of the cliché “buckets of blood,” with writer-director Fede Alver having actors spew vomit and drip blood all over each other and the scenery. The original Dead was made for $350,000, while the new film seems to use every penny of its $14 million budget on its gruesome effects.
Many critics have already pointed that that this new version is far more graphically violent than the original, which Raimi chose to release unrated when the ratings board refused to give it an R. The fact that the new version is going out in wide release with an R is an example of just how far off the rails our society has gone in accepting bloodshed as entertainment.
Its unending assault on the senses may be skillfully shot and decently acted by performers who seem to be playing it all for laughs much of the time, but the fact that audiences will be paying good money to cheer and laugh at all manner of brutal deaths and dismemberments should be a cause for concern.