My Extremely Disrespectful and Jaded Review of Evil Dead (1981)

Here’s my review of Evil Dead, and in case you skimmed over my title excitedly, I’m kickin’ it old school, as in the original.  You want to read about a movie from this century, go find one of those high falutin’ bloggers with real money who can still afford the luxury of a theater visit.

I saw this once before and was hugely underwhelmed; sorry to say my opinion wasn’t changed on a second attempt. I realize it’s a “cult classic” and “iconic” or whatever; if you’re a fan, I’m just warning you now I’m about to stomp all over your treasured memories.

Do you need a plot summary? Teenagers. Rustic cabin in the woods. Evil dead possession. Lots of blood and screaming. 80% body count. Done.

I’m not a monster. I realize it might be unfair to judge a 30-year-old movie with a shoestring budget through the eyes of a future dweller in the age of CGI. Except I hate CGI. I think practical, wherever possible, is always better and scarier. Two examples: Neil Marshall’s Dog Soldiers and The Descent–not a lick of CGI between them (to my knowledge) but scare the pants off me.  (The exception to this rule might be Silent Hill–that was pretty damn scary but used CGI.)

Not CGI, scary.

Not CGI, scary.

Also not CGI, also scary

Also not CGI, also scary

It’s obvious where Evil Dead’s budget went: gallons of bloody Karo syrup and a fog machine that frequently got out of hand. It wasn’t wasted on the comical makeup effects, and certainly not on the terrible actors (including a wee baby-faced Bruce Campbell before this very franchise propelled him to international superstardom).

Hasn't even started shaving yet

Hasn’t even started shaving yet

The movie started off so promising: the remote, grim little cabin is perfectly creepy, and the grainy 80‘s film stock is a positive boon. I was even willing to forgive the cheesy stop motion effects.

But it all fell apart when the “dead” started attacking. That tiny cabin that looks like it might not have indoor plumbing is lit like a Walmart: it’s BRIGHT. TOO bright. You can see where the bad makeup ends and the actor’s face begins. A little (or even a lot) of shadow goes a long way. And it’s obvious sometimes people are being attacked with dummies, the way the head flops like a puppet. I’m not scared by videogames (CGI), and I’m certainly not scared by mannequins (except when they’re supposed to be mannequins, like that one Doctor Who).

images (1)

Scary AND cheap. My expectations are not unreasonable.

Not scary, just annoying

Not scary, just annoying

Might be scary if we turned the spotlight off

Might be scary if we turned the spotlight off

Moisture just beads up and rolls off

Moisture just beads up and rolls off

Some words on Mr Campbell: He must be part duck, because he gets doused in blood more than once and the stuff just beads up like Rain-X.  If I get a tiny nosebleed, my skin is stained for days.

Also he spends literally the entire third act screaming like a girl and grimacing unconvincingly in extreme close-ups. Surely not the finest moment of his career.

I’ve just now consulted Wiki, and they call this movie a pioneer in “horror comedy.” Is this supposed to be funny? If so, it either invalidates my whole review or fails at both genres (it neither scared me nor made me laugh).  I think “camp horror” seems more accurate.  Maybe it’s better enjoyed Rocky Horror style and I spectacularly missed the point?

Nope, not remotely scary.

Nope, not remotely scary.

I’ll see the remake eventually, but I’m preemptively prepared to be disappointed by too-slick-to-be-scary digital monsters.

CGI isn’t cheaper, I’ve heard. Imagine shooting a horror movie practically with a CGI budget? That might be worth seeing. What’s Neil Marshall up to these days?

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5 thoughts on “My Extremely Disrespectful and Jaded Review of Evil Dead (1981)

  1. I don’t know if the remake will be scarier (ok, false humbleness aside, of course I know it won’t be scarier or better) but I remember the Whedon spoof being much scarier.

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