Presumably, viewers love nothing better than seeing beautiful young people getting sliced and diced, so that’s what we get in this remake based on the 1981 camp-horror classic by Sam Raimi.
Stripped of the humor and make-do special effects that were lovingly rendered in the original, the remake is essentially torture-porn that finds five young adults transformed, one by one, into twisted, demonic creatures soon covered in projectile vomit and red-black blood. This time around the acting is up to snuff and the special effects are exceedingly well done, but the sense of a steady, thoughtful hand at the till is lacking.
In the original version, Raimi’s imagination made up for his paltry budget, but the big budget evidenced in the remake doesn’t substitute for a lack of imagination. For instance: why must each possessed victim twitch in precisely the same off-putting, laughable manner?
Mercifully a short 91 minutes, the film gives us no one to care for other than a frisky Labrador-mix whose screentime is much too short.
The film’s few clever bits are all but lost amid buckets of blood, an eruption of skin boils, and a plethora of self mutilation — including hacked off appendages. You needn’t have seen the first film to predict this one’s more deplorable acts because they are driven home by a close-up of an electric meat-carving knife as it slices a lovely, blood-rare beef roast.
Also rare are preserved remnants from Raimi’s original script. You’ll recall the “Book of the Dead” from which certain incantations must not be, but of course will be, read aloud, as well as the remote cabin in the woods, or the five young adults whose moronic behavior begs for killing.
Taking a chapter from zombie films, those who are killed, but not completely dismembered, buried alive, or purified by fire, reanimate to carry out the evil spirit’s wishes. One exceedingly clever twist — late in the film — partially redeems the otherwise straight-ahead storytelling — but does so merely on a technical, rather than on the much-needed emotional level.
At the comparatively innocent time of 1981, it was acceptable for victims of horrific attacks to be naive, but in a universe now populated by self-aware parodies such the “Scream” or “Scary Movie” franchises, we expect more. Those threatened by demonic possession or other supernatural forces now command knowledge sufficient to fight effectively.
Produced by Sam Raimi, along Raimi’s best childhood friend and star of the 1981 original, Bruce Campbell, it’s disappointing to realize that a pair of savvy guys, made wealthy and recognizable from that version, were so foolish they failed to deliver a quality remake.
My guess is they were content to cash in since even Bogart and Bergman knew that you can’t necessarily, “Play it again, Sam.”