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The Devil's handmaiden

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The Evil Dead (or how to kill a remake at a hundred paces) [Apr. 28th, 2013|02:31 am]
The Devil's handmaiden
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Long term readers of mine will know I am a HUGE evil dead fan, I am a deadite's deadite.
I wrote articles about it when I was at uni and the first one was still banned in the uk and got my copy free from fangoria after working exclusively with the script to write said articles.
so huge deadite - so the remake filled me with equal parts glee and terror

Now let's be frank I went in biassed as hell! The only way it could win was to present the mythology in such a way that it was new and probably terrifying without harking back to many times to the original and possibly - nah sod it, it was screwed, The Evil Dead 2 was a remake of the Evil Dead

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Five GROWN UPS (in their mid to late twenties) show up at the cabin because one of them Mia is having an intervention, she's a heroin user who has od'ed and they've shown up - with dog - to support her
but you realise very quickly that their names, Dave, Eric, Mia, Olivia, Nat spell out Demon
as mia complains of a smell the dog finds the fruit cellar and evidence of a black magic ritual featuring a book. This book is the usual necronomicon but apparently they couldn't call it that for legal reasons - this surprises me because the lovecraft mythos was so unprotected for so long - and the word is actually plausible in the greek - but yeah, I think it was just too big, too many letters, so it's name was given in Spanish - book of the dead.

However instead of a book written by a Kandarian sorceror in the magics that destroyed their kingdom when they summoned demons to give them power the book is written in some sort of unknown script and someone has helpfully scribbled all over it with a red biro. It has illustrations, some of which look uncannily like the posters from the original movie - notably the one Eric calls the Abomination (it is literally the body pulling itself out of the grave with the hand raised)

anyway after Eric pieces together the missing page - the one labelled do not read this aloud - and reads it aloud the demon Kanda appears. Seriously, they called it Kanda. This meant every time they named it I saw a certain sword bearing exorcist, but that was just me. Mia is in the woods trying to walk to town because she wants to go home and they're all - no you shall not go - the demon gets loose and forces her car into a tree (in a nice heads up to the original 1963 haunting, a shot for shot repeat in fact) and into the swamp, where it initiates the infamous "vine rape"
except it's more like a couple of leeches and some reeds. If you've never seen or heard of the evil dead you would certainly enjoy this film because that's where it falls down - where it copies the original.

As Mia is infected she spreads the infection and we see famous scenes reimagined, the blood flood - where instead of the walls seeping blood Mia vomits onto one of the characters floods of blood thus infecting her, the farewell to arms scene is re-enacted with an electrical carving knife and these scenes don't quite work
instead of using the white sclera lense for the deadites they used exorcist style yellow with red rim lenses which looked a bit crappy really. And so much time is spent building up the oh look there is a demon on the loose that the meat has no personality. In fact I didn't notice there actually WAS a dog until they found it dead.
And conveniently Eric always manages to find the page showing what the demon is going to do just before it does it - how convenient.

another thing that bothered me is some of the most terrifying moments in the original evil dead are really subtle - this film had the subtlety of a chain saw. The woman in the cellar singing for example is not intended to be scary, but instead tender. and the iconic "demon" lines, dead by dawn and I'll swallow your soul are mangled into you'll never see morning alive, he'll kill you all by morning etc and I'll feast on your stinking soul. But those simple chants were powerful, they were used as lietmotifs, the deadites chanting them to break morale. i assumed it was because the director was spanish and that's how they appeared as subtitles when he watched it.

And the most powerful trick the evil dead pulled was by breaking convention - it was a boy that escaped, through all of it the girls were the first to succumb and the boy escaped. This doesn't manage that.

Scenes felt stilted and jammed in, you could understand the farewell to arms scene, but the other two felt shoehorned in like - we're making an evil dead film we need to have the vine rape and the blood flood. The tension was unrelenting giving us no time to breathe between horror and horror which just desensitised you to it, even when it was frankly very gross it was meh because it never stopped. The pacing was a mess. The acting was replaced with gruesome flesh effects and lumbering, and the bits in the originals that were truly disturbing were skipped out because they weren't gory.

I might have enjoyed this film more if I didnt know the original at all, I knew I was going to have problems with it, but the problems I had was that it wasn't so much a bad remake, as a film made in honour of that didn't quite understand what it was honouring. It took a film that had originally broken conventions and forced it back into them.
It ended up being as formulaic as the Cabin in the Woods.
And I'm keeping mum on the chainsaw.
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