SPOILER ALERT: This blog post includes major plot points from the new Evil Dead movie.
The main reason I like horror movies is because I think they are more real than any other movies. Hear me out.
Horror movies address our primal fears about life and what it means to be human, and they do it through symbol. They don’t pretend that people are going to end up in love after an hour and live happily ever after, or that war is super cool and heroic, or that we’re going to skip along through life and conquer our problems and never die. Horror movies are our life blood, our guts, our deepest innermost desires and fears brought onto the screen.
When a director does it right, then the film connects with a lot of people. Invasion of the Body Snatchers – the fear of communism. 28 Days Later – a fear of the mob mentality and human rage. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead - fear of the past rising up to devour us. Hitchcock’s The Birds – ’nuff said.
So what’s the overwhelming symbology in this new Evil Dead movie? It was pretty damn clear to me. Were you paying attention?
Throughout this movie we see young, pretty women who all become possessed by the devil, attack two innocent and well-meaning boys, and then it’s up to their fathers, brothers, and boyfriends to bash their brains in, shoot them, light them on fire, or bury them alive to “save their souls.”
This all harkens back to the rampant witch hunts 400 years ago, where a fear of women’s wisdom and sexuality caused the public executions of thousands of women. Are we still in this mentality in the 21st century?
Right from the beginning a young woman who’s possessed by the devil is being burned alive by her father, to “save her.” The new Evil Dead movie is full of reminders of the witch hunts. Not only do we have the burning woman in the beginning, surrounded by onlookers, but the first strange thing we encounter in this movie is a basement full of dead cats. Very similar to all of the cats that were killed during the witch hunts because they were feared to be the witches’ familiars (which, by the way, increased the rat population so much that it led to the black plague).
There are three young women in this movie. The one who has sinned the most, the heroin addict, is the first to succumb to possession when she ventures out in the woods and is tied up in a bush and raped by some big black penis vine that possesses her. Just as in the witch trials, convicted witches were supposed to have gone out into the woods at night to have sex with the devil.
“You’re reading too much into this,” you are saying to yourself.
I think I’m reading just enough. Let’s keep going.
The second woman to succumb has transgressed a little bit. She is a know-it-all, her friends are blaming her for being bossy and getting them into this mess, and she was a little flirty at the beginning. There wasn’t much character development, so we have to go with what we’ve got. She cut her own face open and attacked one of the men, so he consequently had to bash her head in to save himself.
The third woman is the last to succumb, because she is quiet, diminutive, and just defers to her boyfriend, the hero. She only becomes possessed when Mia, the heroin addict, tricks her into coming into the basement, does some sexy lesbian stuff with her (naughty!), kisses her and bites her hand. This virtuous woman actually cuts off her left arm where she was bitten in order to keep the evil out – she’s the good girl. The left side, by the way, is not only thought of the devil’s side, but has consistently been connected with the feminine.
Meanwhile the two men in this story are being stabbed, beaten, shot, and otherwise abused by these possessed women. The possessed Mia even goes so far as to say to her brother, the hero, that she will “suck his cock.” Wow, really? These evil women are pushing sex on those innocent men, her brother no less, and it’s up to them to defend themselves. At this point I almost walked out of the movie but I wanted to stay and see how much worse it got.
“Are you sure about this?” you may argue. “One of the men did become possessed, too.”
That’s correct, dissenter. However, the possessed women in this movie were killed in very detailed and graphic close-up shots in the following ways: bashing one’s head in with a toilet seat until it was flattened, cut up and shot with a shotgun, and the last had her face sawed in half with a chainsaw. The only man who was possessed in this movie was killed by lighting a gas can, shutting the door, and all we saw were the flames escaping from the window. No gory death for the boys.
I was surprised at first that Mia was the only one to survive at the end; I had at first assumed it would be the hero, her brother. However, it makes a lot more sense this way in maintaining the innocence of the hero. He couldn’t kill his sister with total impunity with the viewers, so instead he buried her alive to “save her,” purged the devil from her, and then sacrificed himself so she could live.
However, she only became victorious after she severed her left arm. Coincidence? I think there are no coincidences in a movie that costs hundreds of millions of dollars to make. That’s just naive.
As a side note, the only other woman referenced in the movie, Mia’s mother, had gone crazy and died in a mental institution. No good news for the girls here.
“Okay, so maybe I see your point. What’s got you all hot and bothered?”
This is the problem I have with this – we really don’t need more of this in the world, in movies or otherwise. Every day, all over the world, women really do have their heads bashed in, their faces cut open, they are burned alive, they are held down and raped in the woods, and often the perpetrators really think they deserve this. During the witch trials, the Bible was used as justification in killing women who became too powerful or who challenged the church through their knowledge or sexuality. We don’t need another voice who supports this and maintains that the brothers, fathers, and boyfriends involved are innocent victims.
Look at the Steubenville rape trial and the response on CNN, where the rapists were the ones to get the sympathy. See my point?
This is the primal fear being addressed in this movie – fear of the witch – the powerful, knowledgeable, or sexualized woman. Are we really still afraid of this in the 21st century?
I’m not a film critic. But I’ll tell you what I want from Evil Dead. I want campy. I want Ash. I want Bruce Campbell and snarky one-liners. I don’t want a movie that takes itself so seriously and furthers an idea that men are justified in “defending” themselves by bashing women’s brains in because it’s for their own good.
I’m glad I watched this movie because it only solidified my own work as a singer/songwriter, in which I’m taking on the female archetypes that have been turned into monsters – Medusa, the witch, the banshee – and recovering their power.
Check out my Zombie Girl stuff at my website.
Thanks for reading. RAWR.