Evil Dead Makes Me Want to Do All the Heroin

Dude. I'm so glad I'm not hot enough to get murdered by hell-ghosts in a forest. Evil Dead is a movie about hot people—real talk, mostly ladies—getting murdered by hell-ghosts in a forest, and if you can't idea-map your way to this conclusion, OH MY GOD GETTING MURDERED BY HELL-GHOSTS IN A FOREST SUCKS. In case you're not familiar with Evil Dead, it's a remake of Sam Raimi's 1981 accidental-camp classic, which launched Bruce Campbell's chinspirational career along with two beloved sequels (Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness). It also has a really, really famous, really, really troubling scene wherein a lady gets raped by a tree. More on that in a minute.

I love the original Evil Dead. A lot. I like it much more than its sequels, actually—to me, the original Evil Dead's charm lies in its straight-faced earnestness and utterly adorable failure to be frightening. It's mostly Bruce Campbell running around bickering with ghosts (SHUT UP, LINDA), which is awesome. My affection wanes for the sequels. Evil Dead II becomes self-aware and starts leaning into its camp potential; Army of Darkness is a straight-ahead goof parade. Funny, but nowhere near as endearing as baby Bruce Campbell trying to act scared of ghost-vomit. The original Evil Dead just desperately wants to be what this remake actually accomplishes: a real fucking scary movie. And it's that desperation that makes it delightful. I'm not interested in this success shit. (On the upside: Some ghost-bickering remains! I did, in fact, lol thrice.)

The story is pretty basic: There's this demon. And it lives in a book called the Necronomicon in the basement of this woodsy garbage cabin and it can't wait to eat yo brainz. The demon can only access yo brainz if some dum-dum shows up at the cabin, isn't at all bothered by the ONE HUNDRED FESTERING CAT CARCASSES STRUNG UP ALL OVER THE HOUSE, and is just all, "Doodly doo, what's this book? I've been looking for a new beach read!" and then says the magic Satan words out loud. YOU KNOW. LIKE YOU WOULD PROBABLY DO.

A bunch of hot young people show up at the cabin to try and help their friend Mia detox from heroin (ironic for a movie that made me want to do NOTHING BUT HEROIN). They all agree that they're not going to let Mia go home no matter what—even if she says she got raped by a tree and then tries to boil her own face off, it's probably just TYPICAL JUNKIE LIES. Convenient! Even when they find the basement full of the aforementioned obviously witch-related cat-mummies, they're just like, "Oh, man, granny would've hated to see this mess! Oh well, get the gut-shovel." Eventually, of course, the demon gets out and starts possessing everyone, causing them, one by one, to slice their faces off and stick needles in each other's eyes and plug in the electric knife (WHO USES AN ELECTRIC KNIFE) and murder the dog with a hammer and face-vomit, face-vomit, never-not-face-vomit. You see, they're evil, but they're also dead. All three of the women get possessed and mangled; only one of the men does. Do with that information what you will.

If you like these things, you will like this movie! I do not, personally, like these things, which means that I spent the majority of the film's runtime making "disapproval face" at the floor and filling up every corner my notepad with "nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope." Here's a transcript of my notes:

nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope

Midway through I burrowed under my coat and texted my editor, "I will never, ever forgive you for this." She sent me back an emoji of a Christmas tree. Please. People are slipping and falling on pieces of face.

But anyway, let's talk about the rape scene.

I'm not here to dissect misogyny in horror films, because it's already been done much more thoroughly and thoughtfully by people who actually care a lot about horror films. I do not care a lot about horror films, but I understand why other people like them (DEMONIC POSSESSION, RIGHT!?). Despite my personal distaste, I know enough smart, insightful women and men who find catharsis in horror that it'd be short-sighted of me to condemn them outright. And, like I said, I can genuinely get behind camp. I do think misogyny is a culturally damaging issue in straight-up horror, but I also think the best horror films handle it in a responsible way that makes a statement about misogyny rather than perpetuating it. To me, the Evil Dead remake was unnecessary—it stripped away the innocent goofiness that I loved about the original, and, you know, what's the point without Bruce Fucking Campbell?—but if that's the kind of scary movie you're looking for, go nuts. It's quick and sharp and sometimes funny, and for the most part it skirts gross misogyny.

But the filmmakers clearly bent over backwards to keep the tree rape in there. I imagine the Evil Dead fanboys (and -girls) would have lost their damn minds if they didn't get to see a young woman be strung up, spread-eagled, by sentient brambles and then get an evil dead log shoved up her vagina. Because CLASSIC FILMMAKING. (The audience at my screening erupted into applause when the vine-log went in.) But the makers of Evil Dead 2013 were crafty about it, kind of. First of all, they make sure it's clear that the demon is female, so it's a woman raping Mia in the woods. Because graphic girl-on-girl rape isn't as bad? Rape is a sliding scale, right? Some rapes aren't as real as other rapes, right guys? ...Right?

Second of all, they make sure the rape serves a purpose (a stupid, hollow purpose, but still a purpose). The lady-demon barfs up this big slimy rape-vine and sends it slithering up and into Mia's body, at which point it does not come out again. It just lives in there now! That's its home! This signifies that Mia is now permanently infected with demon-brainz. The rape is the method of transmission of the demon. (Nobody else has to get raped to get demonified, but, you know, uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, actually, no. I don't know how to justify that.)

The tree rape scene in the original Evil Dead has always made me uncomfortable, but I'm able to compartmentalize it (to some extent) as a clueless historical artifact from a time before "rape culture" was part of mainstream discourse. But in 2013, when the most dominant news story of the year is about rape-prone teenage boys, why include a weakly justified gratuitous rape scene in a movie sure to be eaten up by teenage boys? Nostalgia? Sorry, dudes, that's not enough.