If you want blood …

Evil Dead remake/sequel is really gross but not so scary

Pruning in the rain? That’s how people get hurt.

Pruning in the rain? That’s how people get hurt.

Evil Dead
Starring Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez and Jessica Lucas. Directed by Fede Alvarez. Cinemark 14, Feather River Cinemas and Paradise Cinema 7. Rated R.
Rated 3.0

“Torture porn” was a recent horror subgenre that followed the rudimentary structure of porn, but with a different currency of money shots. It sounded more disturbing than most of the films really were. A lot of the notoriety was carried by the term. But this Evil Dead remake might be the one that really defines the genre … just 10 years later.

I’m guessing that this is satire. It’s hard to tell sometimes, especially when it’s irony-free. If nothing else, here we have the first true major-studio splatter film.

Admirably enough it’s a remake of a cult classic that aggressively demands comparison with the source material. Not that the 1981 original is a great movie. It’s a sporadically awful movie held together with bursts of terror and genius—and blood, claymation and even more blood. It has its charms, it has its followers, and I still think it’s the best of the Evil Dead movies with its perfect balance of giddiness and horror.

The remake plays the pitch-black camp straight. It also tips its hand early with a small in-joke that implies this is actually Evil Dead 4. It’s pretty much the same cast of characters, with different names and all polished up. Original director Sam “I’m back!” Raimi is on hand as producer to OK the coloring outside the lines.

The story: Four idiotic but attractive kids arrive at a spooky cabin in the woods to stage an intervention. The intervention is irrelevant. They find a bunch of slaughtered cats strung from the ceiling of the basement and … well, that’s kind of irrelevant, too. They hang around. The brainy one reads an incantation from an ominous book. Spooky noises. Then the junkie goes out into the woods and gets raped by a tree and … yeah, there’s an uncomfortable misogyny at work here.

As it parallels and tops the original version, the two dudes still get off light in the punishment, and now the three ladies are former prom queens. Two of the young women are given a couple of lines so they won’t be mistaken for props. The other one is given a subplot that becomes irrelevant the moment the blood hits the fan—although that might be part of the satire. If that’s what it is. Otherwise it’s lazy character development that doesn’t offer anything but the bare minimum to set these props to slaughter.

There’s also no internal logic, and a narrative hiccup late in the game renders character points moot.

The film does look good, though. It manages to evoke the pus-’n’-blood palette of recent French and Spanish horror and douse it with the cartoon excess of ’90s Japanese gorgasms. And if it’s CGI blood, it’s bloody good work.

The main problem is that it’s not particularly scary, nor suspenseful, since none of the characters are anywhere near likeable. They’re pretty, so there’s that. Then all hell breaks loose and all that pretty goes to hell. In several baskets.