Today The Evil Dead is overshadowed by its two comedic sequels, often leading many to forget that the original film was not a giddy horror. There were no one-liners, laughing wall ornaments or possessed hands. Instead, it was a film so brutal and gory that today it still stands as one of the watershed moments in the genre. So, naturally, one might be nervous at the prospect of a remake. Did they get it right?
The idea of horror remakes is often more terrifying than the actual films. The good remakes are few and far between, while almost every major horror franchise that did get remade became instantly forgettable and regrettable. Indeed, if Evil Dead did not arrive with the explicit backing of Sam Raimi and co, it’s doubtful fans would have taken to the idea without incredible venom and anger. Yet here is the good news: Evil Dead is actually pretty decent and, above all, appears to understand its source material well enough.
A line, though, should be drawn: if you prefer the shenanigans of Evil Dead II and Army Of Darkness, this is not the film you are expecting. The original The Evil Dead was a low-budget gorehound spectacular, augmenting cheesy effects with some really over-the-top violence. There has not ever been anything like it before (not counting the various gory Italian horrors of the time) and it influenced the genre extensively, particularly towards the mid-Eighties. But Ash is just a wimp, there are no clever lines and nobody pulls out a chainsaw.
The remake isn’t quite as stoic – it borrows elements from both the first and second films. But the tone is squarely that which The Evil Dead spewed out in buckets of blood. Some creative license is taken – though core elements are in place, the story plays out a little differently. The film also, disappointingly, relies on a few modern genre cliches – a dumb character reads the book, as opposed to a recorder unleashing the spirits, and the evil now actually has its own manifestation – a creature unimaginatively resembling the Ring girl. It’s annoying given the series never required giving the menace its own shape. That said, this change does deliver the movie’s rather stunning climactic scene. And, yes, the tree rape scene is back – though the original version is still more shocking and uncomfortable.
Evil Dead is far from perfect and it is very likely lots of fans will hate it. Many will expect the tone of the later films, but as mentioned this is not what the original was about. Some die-hards will be displeased with elements that have been changed. But these can be defended – the new Evil Dead strives to make things its own while still adhering to the principles of the original. And it does not hold back its punches, which is the least we can hope for. It also does not make the mistake of Nightmare On Elm Street or Friday The 13th by assuming the audience is familiar with the original.
Ultimately there is one major drawback: it’s just not all that shocking. If you have dipped your toe into R-rated horror through the past decade, there is nothing all that new here. Evil Dead will eventually fade from memory and is not the iconoclastic work the original was. It also consequently tries too hard in places – for example, the moment when a character declares that everyone will die tonight is woefully overwrought and has quite the opposite effect of the same scene in the original. That said, it still evokes a sense of nostalgia that is rather nice to experience. And they didn’t screw it up. That alone is a blessing. You may not spend cash to see Evil Dead on a big screen, but this will certainly find its way into your DVD player…
Last Updated: August 15, 2013