American movie audiences are so inured to screen violence that it takes an awful lot of blood and viscera to faze the MPAA enough to stamp a NC-17 rating on a film. Show too much male genitalia though, and it’ll take less than a heartbeat for them to declare it unfit to be seen by anyone under 17. According to director Fede Alvarez, upon its submission to the MPAA, Evil Dead became the first movie in I don’t know how long to “earn” the NC-17 based only on violence. The various red band trailers have showcased a wide and diverse array of unpleasant things happening to the human body, but I had no idea it was that over-the-top.
This actually means that this movie is proudly carrying on the tradition of the original Evil Dead film, which was rated X for its violence (and the depiction of a demon tree raping a woman). However, that movie was able to go on to be an unlikely success even carrying that stigma, whereas it’s extremely hard for a NC-17 film to do the same, since many theaters will outright refuse to screen them and media outlets are reluctant to advertise them. So Evil Dead had to be recut to get a R, as Alvarez mentions in the above tweet.
What does this mean for the film’s content? Not much, really. Watch This Film is Not Yet Rated some time and you’ll see how opaque and arbitrary the MPAA’s standards are. All it will probably take is a few small cuts, perhaps shortening a few of the more egregious moments by a second or two. That isn’t even a joke – many movies have been able to get a more commercially viable rating with miniscule changes. The R-rated Evil Dead likely won’t look all that different than the NC-17-rated one. We’ll see for ourselves when it’s released on April 12th.