As the remake looms, we ask the question – why exactly do we need another version of the Evil Dead
As positive as we’ve been thus far
about Fede Alvarez’s
new take on the material, from the refreshing level of gore to a move away from CG and the direct involvement of franchise alums Sam Raimi
and Bruce Campbell
, the issue of relevance remains a concern.
Back in 1981, Sam Raimi
made an explosive feature filmmaking debut with the original The Evil Dead
. With a nightmarish production that included tales of terrible discomfort for the entire cast and crew, down to burning the furniture in the isolated cabin to stay warm as the shoot progressed, and a budget of less than $400,000 – there was no reason to expect anything from the then 20 year old Raimi. But, together with childhood friend Bruce Campbell and the help of family (including Ted Raimi) and a bit of luck, the film went on to make almost $30 million worldwide.
Theatrically released movies don’t come much more home made than this, with slip shod (and often dangerous) special effects and buckets of gore without a care for possible censorship. But more than 30 years later, The Evil Dead
retains a manic energy which is strangely disarming, an infectious charm which became even more concrete in the high spirited, superior sequel from 1987.The Evil Dead
may not quite have been the calling card Raimi
was hoping (he didn’t have another unqualified box office success until Darkman
in 1990 but the process of refinement between Dead
one and two saw him create the style he would become known for in later years.Army of Darkness
in 1992 took the series further into comedic territory, increasingly leaning on the physical skills of leading man Campbell
. And Ash has become his signature role, seeing the impressively chinned one develop a healthy sideline in humour to this day.
And so, 32 years since the original and more than 20 since the last time we visited with the Deadites, we’re back in a lonely cabin in the woods, dropping the definite article for the revamped Evil Dead
Remakes happen for a number of reasons. Though it may all stem from the studio urge to make money – a case can be made for updating the events of the original, of throwing more cash at the effects, filming in a different language or even taking a more ironic look at proceedings.Raimi
have been keeping the rumour mill stirring on a possible third sequel for years, tantalising us with the possibility of an ageing Ash picking up his boomstick to do battle once more. Sadly, that has failed to materialise – leaving us with a rather more straightforward retread from writers Fede Alvarez
, Rodo Sayagues
and Oscar winner (for Juno
) Diablo Cody
But my issue is exactly why this film exists. The original The Evil Dead still feels remarkably fresh today, a simple story with exaggerated gore and ludicrious effects which could have been made by some enthusiastic amateurs at any time over the last three decades. Furthermore, there’s so little to the story that it’s hard to imagine what three writers could have worked to expand – fanatical fans will hate any additions while clueless filmgoers will wonder why it’s so limited.
You might argue that a larger budget (around $15 million) is a reason for a remake but that ecomony is almost the point of Raimi’s
first film – a staggering achievement which has been a challenge to other low-budget filmmakers ever since.
The promotional material released so far hasn’t given any hints of a wider story, focussing on five friends who head to a cabin and are gradually possessed by demonic things. Originally there was mention made of a subplot with one of the female characters going through drug rehab but there’s been no mention of that recently. Cody’s
presence is another odd addition – she’s known mainly for a certain kind of barbed teenage dialogue which might find little place in a movie mostly composed of screaming.
And then to the gore. Director Fede Alzarez
has been telling everyone who will listen recently that the effects in Evil Dead
are 100% practical. While the truth of that remains to be seen, its refreshing to hear in a world where substandard digital squibs and dismemberment takes the sting out of horror. But at the same time you can be damn sure that Raimi
would have used CG back in the 80s if he could afford it, his movies are liberally slathered with the stuff now (just look at Oz: The Great and Powerful
But the focus on some realistic looking maiming in the red band trailers also has a more sinister bent than the original film. Raimi’s
effects were often squirm inducing but also just as clearly fake. Even as his budgets increased, there was always a sense of things being too over the top, of bodies which didn’t just spray blood but vomited it in great gouts, of gleefully giggling dismembered hands and fantastical gore. There’s something more sinister about this modern remake, a tone extended from body horror to take away from the over the top ridiculousness of what we expect from this universe.
There’s even the unmistakable fact that Raimi
has, to all intents and purposes, told this story three times already – with recaps in both Evil Dead 2
and Army of Darkness
. Not to mention that it’s easily the least interesting and most familiar plot of the series.
I have no doubt that Evil Dead
2013 will be an above average horror offering on a purely technical level and that praise for the effects will bring audiences in their droves after release. I’d just rather the time and money was spent on a unique concept, a new terrifying enemy and a location with some hint of originality, rather than rolling out the rightly revered franchise for another stab at our collective wallets.Evil Dead is in cinemas from the 12th of April 2013.