Evil Dead Reboot: Only the Strong Need Apply

So far, 2013 is shaping up to be a great year for horror. Both a Stephen King and a Joe Hill book are coming out this year; the Stephen King miniseries Under the Dome comes out in June; and Donna Tartt, who I consider gothic horror, is putting out a new novel this fall. This last weekend I had choices about what to see out in the theaters—two! That almost never happens. Granted, one was a documentary on theories behind a very famous horror movie, but still, the diversity.

My horror-loving friends and I debated which movie to see, and we finally decided on Evil Dead at the Union Square movie theater, planning on drinks and food afterward to dissect the movie. I was excited because I saw Diablo Cody’s name attached to the screenplay on IMDb. A lot of people have bagged on her work after Juno, like Jennifer’s Body and United States of Tara, but I really like her. She writes strong, complex female and male characters, and the lady really likes her horror.

The Union Square movie theater’s gem is a man in a wheelchair who greets customers as they enter the theater. One of my friends was running late, so as two others saved seats, I waited downstairs for the straggler. Me and the greeter started talking about what movie I was going to see, and he said he’d seen it and that it was scary.

“How scary is it?”

He gave me a mischievous smile and said, “If I’m still working after you see it, come tell me what you thought.”

Another woman, a lover of the original Evil Dead trilogy, joined in the conversation, and we talked about our favorite Evil Dead movies and moments, and the greeter told us which were the best theaters in the complex and that I didn’t have to worry about being late for my 4:30 p.m. movie—it wouldn’t really start until 4:45 p.m.

I’d received e-mails telling me about how one woman, a movie critic, walked out of the theater because of a self-mutilation scene, and I started to get a little worried. I do not like torture movies—that’s why I had to quit the Saw franchise after the second movie. I draw the line at torture and animal cruelty, and guess what? This Evil Dead reboot hits on both.

 

I knew the filmmakers of the Evil Dead reboot would have to take a much different direction from the original, which is a classic. You can’t touch the zany mix of humor and over-the-top grotesqueness that are the original Evil Dead trilogy. The filmmakers decided to go with gore, and I knew I was in trouble, with the first scene establishing the story of the evil cabin in the woods, when I saw the torture instruments lying out on a wooden table in the basement, where all the bad juju happens.

It’s an interesting premise how the young group is gathered in the woods in the first place—to stage a drug intervention, where everybody promises to stay through to the end, no matter how crazy it gets, in order to help and support their friend/sister. When shit starts to go down, nobody’s able to really scream at the screen, Leave! Go! Get in the car and drive. Instead, it’s understandable when the character Mia (Jane Levy), going through withdrawal, is not believed after saying there’s something in the woods.

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Her friends bumble through the cabin, trying to clean up the place, and come across the Book of the Dead locked up in the basement. One ends up releasing the demon complete with my favorite, the Raimi effect. Who knew that a camera strapped to a two-by-four would become such a legacy? I’m sure the footage was shot more artfully in this Evil Dead reboot, but it looks the same to me, and it’s an important link to the original trilogy.

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The problem for me with this version of the Evil Dead is the too-realistic gore that doesn’t seem to serve a purpose. I saw at least five people get up and leave the theater, not able to stomach any more, and at the end, reading credits and waiting for the legendary Bruce Campbell’s cameo, I didn’t see Diablo Cody’s name go by for screenplay. It made me wonder if her efforts were rubbed out.

I guess this is a great movie for some, but not me. The acting is good, the story makes sense, but I just don’t like torture films. I was counting down the bodies, knowing only one would be left standing and it was just a matter of time. Because the characters were all dying in such grisly ways, I didn’t grow attached to any of them. I don’t think I’ll be watching the movie again when it’s released on DVD, though the small screen might make the gore more tolerable. I prefer the goofy fun of the original Evil Dead.

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Opera by Dario Argento

I love ravens. My love affair started with them in college at the University of Iowa, where flocks of ravens would wing around the Pentacrest and other areas of the campus–it was so thrilling to watch, like nature’s fury unleashed, but with bodies attached. I’ve always been a fan of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds and that’s been my golden standard for creepy use of birds, the strange alien intelligence they seem to have. Second in line is Sam Raimi’s ravens in A Simple Plan, a bad omen, symbol, used most effectively. But I think both are surely eclipsed by Dario Argento’s use of ravens in Opera. (Check out the link below for Opera‘s international trailer.)
www.youtube.com/watch
Opera
begins with a fabulous opening shot from the perspective of reigning opera diva Mira (Daria Nicolodi) as she has a meltdown during her rehearsal for Verdi’s Macbeth when the ravens start attacking her. The camera jerks aggressively up and down and side to side as the diva, who we never see, makes her way from the stage and out of the theater to the street, all the while hurling insults and comments to those who dare get in her way. Mira is injured when a car fails to yield to her and runs her down.

The ingenue and understudy Betty (Cristina Marsillach) then gets her chance to step up as the lead at the opera house, but she has deep misgivings because in the theater world a debut as Lady Macbeth is bad luck. This production of Macbeth is put together by former horror director Marco (Ian Charleson), and though his crepe trappings are made fun of by the press, Betty is applauded for her brilliant debut.

It’s soon shown that Betty has deep psychological problems. She’s frigid due to something dark that happened in her childhood, which she doesn’t remember, and hates sex, proclaiming she’s "lousy at it." Shortly after Betty makes this announcement, a psychotic with shiny black leather gloves takes a fancy to her, tying her up so she’s immobile, a perfect audience, and taping needles beneath her eyes, forcing them wide open, so she has to see what he has to show her.
The psychotic then performs most artful murders that only Betty witnesses. When he is done, he lovingly caresses Betty’s body before freeing his captive audience.

I loved the ideas of performer and performance that are played on in Opera, and my favorite scene, when the ravens from the production of Macbeth take on a life of their own, wheeling around the auditorium and frightening the glitzy, well-heeled audience with more than they bargained for–that particular mise-en-scene is going to stay with me for a long time. Maybe forever.