April 5, 2013
Fede Alvarez (screenplay), Sam Raimi (1981 Screenplay), Diablo Cody (screenplay) and Rodo Sayagues (screenplay)
Jane Levy as Mia
Shiloh Fernandez as David
Lou Taylor Pucci as Eric
Jessica Lucas as Olivia
Elizabeth Blackmore as Natalie
Evil Dead is the remake of a film that has achieved such cult status among horror aficionados that it was a risky film to make. The path that so many other remakes of 80s horror classics navigated could have been taken, casting pretty people with no real regard for their characters or anything else other than the famous killer and immediate gore gratification, but thankfully… Evil Dead decided instead to balance respect for the classic with a new vision. Often it’s hard to know why a remake was made at all, other than to capitalize on a known horror villain and make a few bucks of course, but Evil Dead is unique in the sea of remakes: it earns the right to exist.
Unlike the original 1981 The Evil Dead, Evil Dead begins with a brief bit of background into the evil book written in human blood and bound in human skin, and a glimpse into some horrific events that took place in the very cabin where a band of 20-somethings settle in for a long weekend. At this point that Evil Dead takes yet another turn from it’s predecessor’s set-up of simply being a Spring Break excursion to an unlikely dilapidated cabin in the woods – this crew is there to support Mia (Jane Levy) in her quest to kick the drug habit once and for all.
When a mass of dead cats are discovered hanging in the basement and a strange package turns up wrapped in plastic and wrapped in barbed wire, the situation turns ugly. The “Book of the Dead” is unleashed, and none of the inhabitants of this rickety rural dwelling will emerge unscathed.
The preferred method of discussing and analyzing film such as Evil Dead is to take that film on it’s merits alone, rather than focusing extensively on a comparison between the film and the prior presentation that inspired it. But… is that really possible with a film based on a classic that has so many passionate fans and such a vaunted reputation? The strengths of this film come from both the adherence to the concepts and activities of the original film and a courageous willingness to step outside of those boundaries and present a new vision of demonic possession. Aside from being the bloodiest and goriest horror movie since Peter Jackson’s Brain Dead, Evil Dead has some great characters in (semi) believable circumstances living through the nightmare of an evil demon with a taste for possession and cutting.
One of the best elements of Evil Dead compared to the original is how the “Ash” position is filled. Ash was played by Evil Dead producer Bruce Campbell originally, and that character not only lived through the demonic gorefest in the Spring Break cabin, but also went on to go back in time and fight “deadites” all over the place in Army of Darkness. Ash has become a cult hero in his own right, and that all started with his survival in The Evil Dead in 1981. During the first ¾ of this remake the presumed “Ash character” David (Shiloh Fernandez) did a pretty good job, and fulfilled most of the requirements set forth by Campbell, getting thrown around, battling his own conscience when faced with killing his sister or girlfriend, and generally behaving ridiculously in his waffling between demon-killing bad ass and unsure dummy. But then there’s a huge twist and vast variation from the well-known Evil Dead story and David passes the torch to Mia (the presumed “Cheryl” character) and she kind of becomes the “Ash”. What a nice surprise! There are wide-spread reports of a “female Ash”, and those are semi-true… During most of the film David is the “Ash”, but later Mia indeed becomes the “Ash” to finish the job.
A very welcome thing about Evil Dead is that it ties up one of the most annoying and nonsensical elements of the original film: Why the kids are in the cabin in the first place. No matter how much I love The Evil Dead, it always strikes me as strange that a group of kids would head out to an isolated and falling-down cabin in the woods for Spring Break in the first place. It’s hard to think of a place more unappealing than this place to hang out and party. At least in the remake the cabin is an old family place rather than a random rented shack, and there is a particular reason why everyone has converged there. That small bit of explanation is most welcomed indeed.
Analysis aside and just from the point of view of a horror movie in general, Evil Dead is simply fantastic. This is absolutely the most gory and bloody film in decades, and the uncomfortable gore is ladled on abundantly with the nonchalance of a soup kitchen doling out chicken noodle. This is one scary film, and the terrifying images fly off the screen with wicked abandon. The characters are great and it’s easy to care about the young maidens cutting their faces and arms off with knives, ripping their own hands off and splitting their tongues until they look like a serpent. Really great.
Why does any film need to be remade? Well, if previous themes can be expressed more effectively with modern technology and budget, and also expanded with background and context – with some new twists thrown in to keep the story fresh and scary, then that’s a good reason. Evil Dead is a remake that should have been created, and actually adds to the mythos rather than being a cheesy attempt to turn a respected title into a couple of bucks. This film will appeal to died-in-the-wool horror purists, new horror fans and the immediate gratification gorehound crowd. When it’s all said in done, Evil Dead couldn’t have been better.