Let’s get one thing straight – I’m not a fan of remakes. The trend in Hollywood for remakes, re-dos, reboots and re-imaginings; for scouring and scraping its own barrel and for re-appropriating classy foreign pictures is vulgar and runs in contrast to everything the cinematic art form is about. It's masturbation – feels good for a short time but ultimately leaves you feeling quietly disappointed. This lazily pornographic process is never more evident than in the glut of horror remakes that are slowly eroding some of my most cherished film-going memories.
I crave the warmth, the moistness of something real.
Halloween, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (we’ve had one piss-poor remake and are now being “treated” to a hackneyed 3D version), Nightmare on Elm Street, Ring, Friday the 13th, Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, all have had the, ahem, benefit of a remake. The Amityville Horror, Last House on the Left, The Omen, The Hills Have Eyes, The Wicker Man (one of the great movies of all time, a definite ‘10’ utterly shot to pieces by the ludicrous La Bute/Nic Cage version), The House on Haunted Hill, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligary, the list could go on forever (and ever, and ever, and ever... dung, dung, dunnnnnng). (Ominous).
Of course there are some shining lights that have risen above the low watermark left by the schlock of their contemporaries and have, on occasion, surpassed the original – Cronenberg’s The Fly immediately springs to mind, as do Carpenter’s The Thing and Herzog’s Nosferatu (if not superior it is certainly a match for Murnau’s original) – but they are few and far between. Here’s hoping that the Kimberley Peirce helmed, Chloë Moretz starring Carrie can join that group. It’ll have to go some way to even equal the superlative Brian De Palma/Sissy Spacek original of 1976 (a finer horror movie you are unlikely to find). I don’t hold out much hope. In fact, I’d bet the dismemberment of my most valued member that it’ll be the cinematic equivalent of getting chilli in your eye.
Considering the frighteningly (ba-doom) low hit-rate and smash ‘em out, bollocks to integrity attitude towards the horror remake it was with a deep, all encompassing sigh that I greeted the news that The Evil Dead was going to be dragged through the grinder. The Evil Dead is the epitome of a cult classic and is a film very close to the heart of any horror fan worth his bucket of karo syrup.
Of course, all the usual bleating was made in the film press – it was going to be darker, more intense, the original team were producing, they never made the film they intended to in the first place, the effects would allow them to realise their original vision. All that nonsense coughed up in every interview about every remake since the dawn of time; sound bites that fill the airwaves and pages of the film press without ever actually saying anything. Lip service and little more.
Or so I thought...
...but having seen the trailer for Fede Alvarez’s update on this bonafide horror classic I have to say that I’m excited. Gone is the unintentional comedy of Sam Raimi’s orginal (the result of some early 80’s effects and Campbell’s po-faced and utterly hilarious performance). The Evil Dead was a 100%, out and out horror flick; an absolute exercise in using camera work and sound design to build tension. The card guessing sequence is one of the great horror-movie moments and is still powerful to this day.
The thing is, though. The thing is that horror films are funny. They just are. There is something very funny about the grandiose madness of a good horror film. The exhilaration of either being scared or shocked or the sheers audacity of a script that calls for a man to cut his own arm off with a chainsaw (Evil Dead 2) leads inevitably to shared mirth at the effect. It’s for this reason that horror films make such great date-movies.
Good horror should be appalling, exhilarating and hilarious in equal measure, and from the second red-band trailer for Evil Dead I think Alvarez has nailed it. There are some spectacular blood fountains when the inevitable chainsaw rocks up, some awful, creepy perversion to be had in the “forest is alive” sequence (now, I’m all for tree-rape but the whole choke you with thorny vines thing Alvarez has gone for is a significant step up, in my opinion). Then you’ve got the... err... how to describe this? The bit where buckets of blood are vomited into a woman’s face. If that doesn’t make you laugh then I’m afraid, my friend, you can’t come to dinner at my place. We just ain’t gonna gel.
The crowning glory of this frankly dazzling trailer is what I can only describe as the tongue bit. I mean, have you ever seen anything so tough in a film, let alone in a film trailer? The proliferation of the Torture Porn genre since Eli Roth’s Hostel has made the grotesque mundane; the offensive has become the norm. It’s dulled the senses somewhat. I can’t remember the last time I couldn’t look during a movie (the end of Terminator 2 doesn’t count – I had something in my eye, okay?) but on first viewing of Evil Dead’s R-rated trailer I let out an audible noise of disgust and buried my head in my arm pit.
Now THAT’S what I want from a horror film.