Disclaimer: This article contains spoilers as well as several descriptions of violence and gore. If that’s not your thing, navigate to another article. I’ll try not to take it personally.
Gone are the days of the moldy-faced demon. (Source: www.blastr.com)
I don’t know why it took me so long to watch The Evil Dead. During my junior year of college, I lived with a friend who attended the live musical, read Bruce Campbell’s books, and coveted her boyfriend’s Army of Darkness t-shirt. This year, the IT guy at my workplace raved about Sam Raimi’s 1981 classic for months leading up to the release of the reboot. No matter where I turned, I saw evidence of the film’s cult followers. I decided it was time to join them.
Objectively, one could say the effects and storyline of The Evil Dead have not aged well. The gore occasionally looks a little too much like chocolate syrup, the bodily secretions too much like rice pudding. Cosmetics used for demonic effect often call to mind a Tammy Faye makeover gone awry. Yet, there’s something about its B-movie aesthetic that appeals to my sensibilities.
Through its innumerable campy chills, The Evil Dead reminds modern viewers—especially those accustomed to big budget, impersonal productions—that earnest filmmaking exists. Raimi’s attempts to scare and repulse are pure and unpretentious; The Evil Dead strives for nothing other than twisted entertainment. Often, that sort of straightforwardness relegates movies into a cinematic void. In the case of The Evil Dead, simplicity provides the substance. It makes the film worth appreciating decade after decade.
“It’s raining blood, Hallelu…” Wait. Are you serious? (Source: www.deadites.net)
Despite being produced by Raimi and Campbell, the new Evil Dead (in addition to ditching The in its title) fails to deliver the same charm as its predecessor. The plot is more developed, the effects more realistic, the violence more plentiful.
Overall, it’s just plain more. By the time the final skin-shredding, blood-spewing horrors take place, one feels slightly browbeaten. That’s because the outrageous happenings overwhelm instead of engage, isolate instead of invite. Somewhere within the process of modernizing the film, the filmmakers lost sight of what made the original so great.
If Raimi devotees are willing to wade through the gore, they might discover enough Easter eggs and homages to deem Evil Dead a worthy reboot. I wish those fanatics the best. In the mean time, I will look to Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness for another dose of hokey horror.
Fair Warning: This week’s topic is about as adult as I get. Mature attitudes will prevail.
This week we found out that the Evil Dead remake scored an NC17 rating its first time up against the MPAA. NC17 is notoriously unpopular with theaters because it automatically cuts down a film’s profit margin by virtue of its age requirement; it is the only rating that outright bans certain people from seeing a film. Evil Dead is now going back to editing to get an R rating instead.
My first thought: Well is that ridiculous tree rape scene in it?
For those that haven’t seen the original, there is a seriously graphic scene of a woman (Cheryl) in the woods being raped by… well, the woods. This wasn’t a Shawshank Redemption style scene where the camera pans away from the assumed assault. Cheryl is shown held down and penetrated by a tree which impregnates her with evil. Heavy-handed metaphor aside, it’s almost pornographic. Check out IMDB’s description of the scene:
The trees and saplings and roots around her come alive and begin to entwine around her legs and arms and neck, tearing her bathrobe from her body and tripping her to the ground. The proceed to tear at her nightie, pin her arms down, open her nightshirt, expose and squeeze her breasts and finally in an act that labeled this movie a video nasty, spread her legs apart and violently rape her body with the thickest, longest and gnarliest looking tree root around.
The description is user-generated (hence the grammar and usage of “video nasty”) but an accurate point-for-point description of the scene. A scene which was hinted at in the teaser trailer for the remake (NSFW).
I have a lot of thoughts about it.
On the one hand, it is a free country and minors won’t be able to see the film without a parent, assuming the scene even remains in the movie. So part of me thinks that if someone wants to see that in a film they should. Why not? We allow porn, after all. It’s the same argument that sits in the back of my head whenever I think about racism or sexism in media.
And a part of me is wary of over sensitivity. Like murder and theft, rape does happen. It’s a part of our context and our history and avoiding it in film doesn’t make it disappear. Consider A Song Of Ice And Fire for a moment. This issue has some traction in George R. R. Martin’s Westeros. In those novels rape is an ever-present reality of medieval life. And it’s a very real tool in warfare. Characters consider warfare strategy while taking into account the odds of their people being sacked and raped. It’s not meant to offend or titillate any more than using a siege engine or a magic spell. And the books do have a similar “scene” in them in A Game Of Thrones.
Without getting too deep into the mythos, one character is sold into a marriage with a tribal horse lord, and there are moments that are not always consensual. It’s the only non-consensual sex that’s actually written about in the books, but other things happen out of sight. The character overcomes and transitions into a well-developed pillar of the story. In my mind it’s not kid friendly, but it’s not unnecessary or in bad judgement.
Alien is a better known example of the same thing. Face-huggers forcibly attach themselves to a person and plant the seeds of evil.
So there is precedent for sexual violence as part of a good film or story.
On the other hand, it seems silly saying it’s not supposed to titillate or offend any more than other parts of a book or movie, because they are created specifically to entertain. So we are supposed to take a graphic rape as part of our entertainment. The reason it seems gratuitous to me is because the story can be told just as well without it. The inclusion of a similar scene is, at this moment, completely speculative in the new Evil Dead, and it doesn’t seem to matter to the plot.
And the scene, arguably, takes away from the film. Even Sam Raimi conceded that the scene is distracting from the overall story and creates a kind of offense among viewers that he never intended.
Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. And this “classic” scene interferes with entertaining the audience. No doubt that’s why Evil Dead 2, which was really just a polished remake of the first film, features a toned-down version of the tree assault scene.
So is it gratuitous? I would say absolutely. Should it be in the new film? Well, I’m not sure. For better or worse it is a part of the original, and it wasn’t offensive enough to derail the film. I do find one fan-theory disturbing though. An argument can be made that Cheryl enjoyed the assault. If you watch the scene (which you can Google) it does appear that Cheryl may have enjoyed parts of it. Or not. I don’t know, but the notion puts me in an uncomfortable place.
While violence and even sexual violence can be used as narrative tools, I find it beyond bad taste to show a woman enjoying rape. It sends a message that can’t be reconciled as a literary device… outside of porn. I’m not going to explain the differences between a film made for general consumption and pornography here, but the two are not the same.
Speaking of impregnated with evil. If this topic left you a little uncomfortable, have your mind blown by this video and feel better.
I thought I’d take a moment this week to briefly look at what’s hitting the box office this year and give a quick prediction on the outcome of each.
Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters – January 25th. Premise: Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) play the fairy tale brother and sister who are all grown up and have become professional witch hunters. Prediction: Van Helsing meets Brothers Grimm, which means a lot of action with an intriguing story but hopefully with more Grimm and less Helsing.
John Dies at the End – January 25th. Premise: You take a drug, it sends you through time and space, you might come back normal, or you might come back as something else. Something otherworldly. Now the world is in danger of a sinister invasion and it’s up to two college dropouts to save it. Prediction:Dude, Where’s My Car? meets Buckaroo Banzai but with Paul Giamatti for added effect. Definitely worth a viewing, high or not.
A Good Day to Die Hard – February 15th. Premise: John McClane (Bruce Willis) and his son travel to Russia to fight Russians and stop a nuclear weapons heist. Prediction: I think it might be getting to the point where it might be a good idea for John to die. Hard.
Warm Bodies – February 1st. Premise: A zombie becomes human again through the power of love, other zombies follow suit. Possible hilarity, horror, and action ensues. Prediction: I think someone might be trying to “Twilight-ize” zombies. Let’s hope not.
Oz: The Great and Powerful– March 8th. Premise: A prequel to The Wizard of Oz telling the story of how Oz (James Franco) becomes the Wizard. And it’s directed by Sam Raimi. Win win. Predictions: I think this film will be fantastic and be the magical wonder that Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland failed to be.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation – March 29th. Premise: All but a few Joes are killed off by Cobra. Now it’s up to the remaining Joes (The Rock, Channing Tatum, some other people), including the original Joe (Bruce Willis) to, for lack of a better word, retaliate. Prediction: Hopefully this film will offer some retribution for the let down that was G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra.
Evil Dead – April 12th. Premise: A remake of the original with a female lead (Jane Levy) in place of Bruce Campbell’s Ash. It’s also promising less humor and schtick and more blood and gore. Sounds promising. Predictions: Hardcore fans will be difficult to convince, but from what I’ve seen so far of this flick, they’ll be won over. It looks wicked.
Iron Man 3 – May 3rd. Premise: Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) returns to take on his greatest foe yet, The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley). From the looks of things, this might be the Dark Knight Rises of the Iron Man series. Ya know, a very powerful foe shows up, strips him of everything, and then Tony must find the hero in himself to defeat his enemy. This also begins Marvel’s Phase II. Prediction: Probably won’t be the best of the three films but I’m sure it’ll outdo Iron Man 2. And make Marvel a lot of money.
Star Trek Into Darkness – May 17th. Premise: Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), and the rest of the Enterprise crew return to take on a most deadly foe, possibly Kahn, played by Benedict Cumberbatch. Prediction: This film will be epic, just like the first, and seeing Benedict as a bad guy is going to be sweet. This is a can’t miss flick.
Now You See Me – June 7th. Premise: A film about bank-robbing illusionists, directed by Louis Leterrier and scored by The Chemical Brothers. Enough said. Prediction: I have a feeling this is going to be one of those twist-and-turns, mind-f*ck types of film. But with bank-robbing illusionists.
Much Ado About Nothing – June 7th. Premise: Joss Whedon adapted this classic Shakespearean tale while making The Avengers. He cast it with people from Firefly, Buffy, Angel, and The Avengers. He made it because of his insecurities with taking on a huge project like The Avengers. It’s Joss Whedon’s take on Shakespeare….do I really need to say anything else? Prediction: I love Joss Whedon. I love Shakespeare. Without even seeing it, I love this film.
Man of Steel– June 14th. Premise: Zack Snyder directs, Christopher Nolan produces, and a bunch of great actors star in what is sure to be the best Superman film ever. And a film that will hopefully restart the series and lead into a Justice League film. Prediction: The more I see of this, the more I believe that this film will be one of the greatest comic book films of all time. But I’ve been wrong before.
World War Z – June 21st. Premise: Brad Pitt stars in this adaptation of Max Brooks’ bestselling novel about a U.N. employee trying to stop a worldwide zombie outbreak. Prediction: I’m pretty much done with the whole zombie genre, and I haven’t read the book, so I’ll probably wait until this comes out on Blu-ray.
Pacific Rim – July 12th. Premise: Guillermo del Toro writes and directs this film about giant robots fighting to save the world from giant alien monsters. Prediction: I was sold at Guillermo del Toro. The rest is just icing on the cake.
The Wolverine – July 26th. Premise: Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) travels to Japan to train with samurais and take on a powerful new foe, The Silver Samurai. Prediction: This has to be better than Wolverine Origins. If not, I give up on Hugh Jackman. And Wolverine.
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters – August 16th. Premise: Part 2 of the series finds Percy (Logan Lerman) and his friends searching for the mythical Golden Fleece. Prediction: I enjoyed the first film, so I may go see this one. I’m hoping this film will fill some of the void that Harry Potter left, but I doubt it.
Riddick – September 6th. Premise: Vin Diesel returns to his most badass character to take on new alien predators, new mercs, and an old foe. Prediction: I will watch this film because I love the others. I will hope this film is the last in the series because I don’t want this series to be run into the ground like Diesel’s other popular series, Fast and Furious.
Cloudy 2: Revenge of the Leftovers – September 27th. Premise: Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) discovers that the machine he’s created is still creating food-animal hybrids and wreaking havoc. Now it’s up to him to stop it once and for all. Prediction: If you don’t like the first film, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, you have no soul. No but seriously, the first film was hilarious and great for the whole family. This one will be too. I can’t wait.
Oldboy – October 11th. Premise: Spike Lee’s remake of the ultraviolent Korean cult classic about a man (Josh Brolin) who has five days to figure out why he was imprisoned for 15 years without explanation. Prediction: Of all the films on the list, this is one I’m looking forward to the most. I love the original, and I cannot wait for this remake.
The World’s End – October 25th. Premise: Edgar Wright directs a film about five friends who reunite in an attempt to top their epic pub crawl from 20 years earlier unwittingly become humankind’s only hope for survival. Prediction: This is the final film in Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s “blood and ice cream” trilogy, so I hope it’ll be pretty damn good. I have a feeling it will be.
Ender’s Game – November 1st. Premise: Based on the novel by Orson Scott Card, 70 years after a horrific alien war, an unusually gifted child is sent to an advanced military school in space to prepare for a future invasion. Prediction: Die-hard scifi fans will go ape over this film and then probably rip it apart. That’s how it works. I want to read the book before I watch it.
Thor: The Dark World – November 8th. Premise: Thor (Chris Hemsworth) battles an ancient race of Dark Elves led by the vengeful Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) who threatens to plunge the universe back into darkness. Prediction: Part two of Marvel’s Phase II looks to be another epic win with the addition of Doctor Who number nine as a baddie. Get ready to nerd out, kids.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – December 13th. Premise: The journey continues for the Dwarves, Bilbo (Martin Freeman), and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) as they seek to retrieve their gold from the dragon, Smaug (voice by Benedict Cumberbatch). Prediction: Do I really need to predict anything for this? People will flock and empty their wallets for this film. We all know what’s going to happen.
Anchorman: The Legend Continues – December 20th. Premise: The Channel 4 News Team returns for more crazy on-set adventures. Predictions: Probably won’t be a hilarious as the first but I’m sure it will be freakin’ hilarious! And filled with many great one-liners that will be quoted for years to come.
I know I’ve missed a few films here and there, but I don’t really care. I think the list is long enough as it is now. It doesn’t need any more.