I’m afraid of loud noises. Sudden loud noises in particular: balloons, fireworks, champagne corks. As afflictions go, it’s pretty mild. I just have to avoid all special occasions. But it sets the bar at a certain level for horror films—if a film scares me more than a bursting balloon then it’s doing very well; if it tops a champagne cork then we’re in classic territory; and if it’s as frightening as an exploding firework then I’m not sure how I’d react, because I’ve never seen anything onscreen that makes my body clench to half its size and then fly out in all directions like Stretch Armstrong.
Evil Dead, a remake of 1981’s The Evil Dead (which was already sort of remade as Evil Dead II in 1987) has a belter of a tagline on its poster: “The Most Terrifying Film You Will Ever Experience.” It’s a bold claim, and also strange. The first two films in the franchise (let’s put aside the bonkers third entry, Army of Darkness) were, I suppose, frightening in parts, but that wasn’t really the point. Despite being labelled a “video nasty” by the UK press—and being heavily cut by the British Board of Film Censors—The Evil Dead was a reckless and charming piece of punkish filmmaking.
Evil Dead II, the best of the initial trilogy, went even further towards slapstick. Sam Raimi, the creator of the series, returned to the scenario of the first film but abandoned the conventions of down-the-line horror. Evil Dead II is as comic as it is scary, aiming for free-form lunacy rather than shrieking terror. Its appeal lies in the sensation the viewer gets after about 30 minutes, when the threadbare plot has already been dispensed with. The film could go anywhere. And it does.
The new Evil Dead (note the lack of a definite article) has a different agenda to the earlier films, if not an original one. It wants to scare you to death. A lot of the familiar elements are there: a cabin in the woods complete with cellar and an ancient demonic book; naïve young men and women with very little chemistry; a reprise of the infamous tree-rape…