Friday, October 4, 2013

Remaketober 2013: Week 1



It's the first Friday of October, which means I get to post what all of you have been waiting for: The first week of Remaketober (credit for the name must go to my friend AJ, who I know will kill me if I don't give him credit). Just to refresh, for those of you who don't know, each week of October I will watch 2 horror movies and their remakes (for a total of 4 movies per week) and compare and contrast them. So, without further ado, let's get this started.

Evil Dead
1981
Evil Dead gets to go first because it was the movie that inspired this project. The Avon was showing the original Evil Dead around the time the remake was hitting theaters and I had originally planned to see the remake in theaters and compare them. But I was struck down with a vicious case of 'Couldn't Be Bothered' disease, with complications arising from 'No Money' syndrome (long way to go for that punch line). But that idea stuck in my head and blossomed into this idea.
Rewatching the original Evil Dead, I was surprised by how uneven it is as whole. It's still a good movie, and highly entertaining, but it's bizarre to see how choppy it is. Now admittedly a lot of that is the on-set learning curve but it makes certain sequences (the one with the girlfriend giggling in the doorway comes to mind) reallllllly hard to take seriously. The juxtaposition of some of the more serious sequences, such as the scene with the trees with the sillier scenes is also quite jarring, even if the sillier scenes are accidental.
But I obviously like the movie or I wouldn't have paid money to see it at the Avon. I think part of the reason I like it (besides the fact that it appeals to my weird side) is that it's just so enthusiastic and honest. Despite the fact that a lot of the cast are non-actors, they throw themselves into their roles and the energy from the director's obvious passion for the project bleeds through into the movie. It's also genuinely scary, something neither of the other two films in the trilogy can say. So while it's a flawed and highly uneven movie, it's also a really good one and it remains well known and well liked among horror fans, and justifiably so. So...how about that remake?

2013
The remake...is okay. I'm not going to say it's great, or as good as the original. If I had to make a direct comparison to the original, I'd say the remake is less flawed but the original is a better movie. What it is, on the other hand, is straight up intense. Seriously the reason I originally intended to see this is cause the Red Band trailer had a sequence where a girl cuts her tongue in half and I thought "Well that's just fucking metal."
And that's really all the film has or needs going for it. It's got a weak screenplay, the characters are thin and it's got a ridiculously bad case of Horror Dumb. Admittedly the reason they're out at the cabin is more clever than usual, and it provides a legitimate reason that it takes them so long to realize shit has gone south, but the guy who reads from the book is LEGENDARILY stupid.
Still, I'm not here for the characters or the plot, I'm here for the violence and it delivers that in spades. A few of its big moments are repurposed from the original series (including the sequence that everyone, Raimi included, though crossed the line) but for the most part its original and intense content. Power tools, machetes, needles, exacto knives and even boiling water at one point all get put to incredibly gory use. By the time the finale hits and the sky starts literally raining blood (unfortunately not sound tracked by Slayer) you just got to give up and root for the movie to push itself even farther. And yes, in case you were wondering, the final person's choice of weapon for the final showdown, the *ahem* loss they suffered and the post-credits scene did cause me to squeal a bit.
I can imagine that people more familiar with comedic aspects of the original trilogy, whether intentional or unintentional, will be a little put off by how serious it is, but if you're willing to take it on its own merits, it's an incredibly intense horror movie. So I guess what I'm trying to say is that I liked it, more than a little. In terms of 2013 horror films it's no The Conjuring or You're Next but it's really engaging, so if you're looking for a good Halloween film, yeah this is a good one. Unless you haven't seen Cabin in the Woods. Or Trick ' Treat.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
1974
I really like introducing people to the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Its title would suggest a schlocky, stupid movie in the grindhouse movie. And if that's all you're looking for, you can probably find it here, but if you watch it carefully, there's a lot more going on in this movie than you'd expect. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has always been well regarded amongst critics and horror fans, but there is a small subset who consider it to be an underappreciated classic and I'm kind of one of those people.
Part of the reason I like it is how utterly and completely terrifying it is. The opening sequence with the hitchhiker is a good metric for the whole film and the entire ending, from the beginning of the dinner scene to end credits still has me white knuckled. But even beyond that, there's a lot of subtleties to it that you might not catch if you're not looking for to them.
I know it seems odd to be talking about the subtleties of a movie which is literally titled 'Location, Weapon Massacre' but really, they're there. A lot of them are focused around the character of Leatherface. I'm serious, stick with me here. The idea that Leatherface is mentally challenged is hinted at heavily, which really alters the dynamic between him and the rest of the family (hinting at more of a brutal form of control or conditioning, rather than genuine malice on his part). The masks he wears and when they change from scene to scene and add in some brief glimpses into his psyche. Add in an above average script, for a horror movie and some genuinely excellent direction and we have the recipe for a great movie.
So. About that remake.

2003
Ugh. I hate this movie. I really, really, really, really, REALLY hate this movie. I think I hate it more than a lot of movies that are objectively worse than it. Part of it is its legacy; it kicked off the remake deluge, which if Evil Dead, Carrier and Texas Chainsaw 3D (excluded from this list because I didn't have the energy) this year are any indication, shows no signs of slowing. It was also a founding member of the Torture Porn subgenre that so overwhelmed the horror genre for the entirety of the 2000s that I basically couldn't go see horror films that entire time. But it's also just because it's a bad movie.
The main reason it's bad is because it's boring, and it's boring because it doesn't have an original thought in its head. All of the major kills are either recycled or tiresomely predictable. It's only two kind of original scenes (the new take on the hitchhiker and the 'summoning Leatherface' sequence) are dragged out to the point of utter meaninglessness, and start to arouse questions about why the characters just stand there and wait for things to happen.
And that's before we even wander into the damage it does to the series mythos. Leatherface has had all of his unique elements from the original excised and all that's left is a generic slasher villain, Jason Vorhees with a more specific tool set and an ickier mask. The elements they try to add, like R. Lee Ermery's character being the sheriff and the hints that the entire town they're in is in on it just punch massive plotholes in the thing (note: I'm aware that the prequel tried to cover these holes, but I never saw it and I don't care). With nothing left in the way of scares or effort, all that's left is a generic slasher film, with its only unique features being it's garish color scheme and how depressingly mean spirited and empty the whole enterprise feels.
And with that, my least favorite movie that I have to watch for this project is out of the way. Tune in next week for a pair of movies with a little more brains and lot more class.

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