I have never been a fan of horror. For the most part, the combination of appalling characterisation, ridiculous story progression and general gloominess relegates the genre permanently to the B movie section. It’s also a bit of a catch 22: if the film fails then it vindicates my prejudice; if it succeeds then I won’t sleep for a week. Fortunately, Evil Dead does not suffer from such prejudice because it strikes the balance of pastiching the ridiculousness of the genre while retaining the essential elements which make it entertaining.
Observing almost every horror cliché in the book, the film (a sort-of-remake of the 1981 original) centres around a group of teenagers who spend a few days in a creepy cabin in the middle of a murky wood in order to help their friend end her drug addiction (apparently the local rehab clinic was fully booked). After one of the teenagers reads a book which emphatically recommends that it not be read, all hell breaks loose. Yes, Evil Dead knows exactly where it stands within the genre. It is a film which needs to be approached in the correct manner; if you’re expecting a ‘pure’ horror film (as promoted) you will be disappointed. If you are expecting to be scared witless (as promoted) you will be disappointed. Evil Dead is a fun, schlocky and very gory take on the B Movie horror genre, a little like Scream, minus the self-reference (and sophistication) seemingly integral to progressive modern horror.
While devoid of overt humour, the entertainment comes from the ridiculous excessiveness of every scene. Without so much as 10 minutes of dramatic foreplay, the film launches into an avalanche of increasingly over-the-top, visceral scenes, in which anything from being ensnared in thorns to a tongue being sliced open is endowed with grimly entertaining sexual overtones.
Evil Dead is only for those with a strong constitution: frequent instances of detailed mutilation make for a gory ride. While there are lots of jumpy moments, you would have to be completely unaware of the horror genre (and very tolerant of the mediocre characterisation) to find Evil Dead particularly scary; for the most part the excessive nature of the scenes is funny and entertaining in its own right. Nevertheless, the denouement of the film stands out as genuinely, grinningly thrilling, nostalgically evoking the climaxes of classic horror films such as The Terminator.
Schlocky, over-the-top and super gory, Evil Dead is an old school B-Movie injected with a decent budget and modern influences, and while it’s unlikely to make the cut at the Cannes Film Festival, is well worth a look for anyone with a twisted sense of humour.