Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Original vs. Remake Comparison: The Evil Dead (1981) vs. Evil Dead (2013)

Fede Alvarez’s new Evil Dead film has been the talk of the horror community for some time now. When news emerged that a remake of the classic was in the works, horror fans were instantly apprehensive of the idea. After all, Sam Raimi’s original The Evil Dead (1981)is one of the most beloved horror films of the 80’s, hell, it’s one of the most revered horror films ever, period. Sam Raimi and crew unleashed their independent horror film onto the world way back in 1981, when they were all struggling filmmakers and actors. Back then Raimi wasn’t the Hollywood mogul he is now, back then he was just a guy who loved making movies with his friends, and that he did. With every film they made goofing around, they got better and better, until they finally decided to make their first real feature length film. The Evil Dead’s kinetic style and frenetic pace truly impressed horror fans, so much so that Stephen King himself called it “the most ferociously original horror film of the year” That famous quote was well earned, back then, nobody had seen anything like The Evil Dead.

I first came in contact with the Evil Dead films around 1993 because it kept getting mentioned in Fangoria Magazine. Back then, before the internet, all a horror fan could do to keep up to date with new stuff and learn about the classics was to devour every issue of Fangoria and its sister magazine Gorezone. I kept seeing articles that mentioned The Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987) over and over again as films that any true horror fan should experience. Back then, as a neophyte horror fan, I devoured every horror movie I could see. When I finally got around to seeing The Evil Dead, my teenage mind finally realized what all the hype was about. Evil Dead was “the ultimate experience in grueling terror”. It quite simply pushed the limits of what had been done with gore and horror up to that time. Because of its meager budget (350,000) the film was a success and while it was banned in many countries because of its graphic nature, it also served its purpose; it showed the world that Sam Raimi was good at making horror films and that he was a special filmmaker that was here to stay.

Raimi and Campbell on the set of The Evil Dead

Fast forward 30 odd years later into the future and The Evil Dead has spawned two sequels, helped boost the career of both Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell and has now spawned the most recent addition in the Evil Dead family: a remake. When I first heard about the remake, I was also apprehensive of it. I guess, that’s a gut reaction from any true horror fan. I also feared that this was going to be a watered down version of the Sam Raimi classic. Various factors lead me to believe this. Why was I so hesitant to believe that a new Evil Dead film was destined to be a “sans cojones”  version of the old one? Well, my main reason for all the trepidation was the sad state of the American Horror Film. For the past couple of years, the American Horror film has suffered from the same ailment that the American action film has suffered from. They just don’t have the guts they use to have; they just don’t make them like they used to. You know this and I know this. When you watch an action film from the 70’s or 80’s you can feel the difference, you can sense the augmented sense of horror and violence; you can see the characters were crazier, edgier somehow. When you watch old horror films from the 70’s and 80’s, you are reminded of what you no longer see in modern horror films. Where are today’s Icons of horror? Where are the Freddy’s and Jason’s of this generation? That shock to the system that you would get from these old horror films is all but gone from cinemas. All you’re left with is what American Horror films are today, a pale imitation of what they used to be. Old horror movies like The Evil Dead serve to remind us just how soft American horror films have become.

Then there’s the fact that the director behind the old Evil Dead films -Sam Raimi- has kind of drifted away from his horror roots, which is a natural progression for any filmmaker who wants to grow. Filmmakers need to stretch their muscles and try other things outside of the horror genre, which Raimi has proven he is adept at. Unfortunately, when Raimi attempted a return to horror he made Drag Me To Hell (2010) a film that I didn’t love because it simply felt like a watered down version of a Sam Raimi film. It was Sam Raimi light. Drag Me to Hell was the studio horror film that couldn’t go very far in terms of horror because it had to play it safe. It was a studio putting kajillions to make a horror film, Raimi couldn’t risk it being a failure. Drag Me to Hell was disappointing because it wasn’t the Raimi that I loved, it wasn’t the guy who pushed the horror genre as far as it could be pushed. Drag Me to Hell felt like Raimi was pushing back, pulling away.  Another thing that worried me are the horror films that Raimi has been producing through his own production company, Ghost House Pictures, a production company that Raimi formed to make new horror films and allow younger directors to take a crack at making them.  I’m talking about films like The Possesion (2012), Boogeyman (2005), Rise (2007), The Grudge (2004), not exactly a mind blowing group of films, not to mention the mind numbing direct to video sequels that followed some of these productions. My big worry was, would this new Evil Dead film also be unspectacular and watered down?

Boy was I wrong! This new Evil Dead film blew me away! It took my expectations and surpassed them in every way imaginable. In my book, Evil Dead is the horror film responsible for giving American horror its balls back. This is what I’m talking about! Evil Dead is a film unafraid to cut away, unafraid to show you the goods, unafraid to be graphic and brutal and unrelenting. In other words, I was a happy horror fan, I cheered, I clapped in approval, I jumped, I cringed, I gasped. It’s a funny thing that the director responsible for giving American Horror films it’s gravitas back is actually Uruguayan! Ha, but seriously folks, I applaud Sam Raimi for giving young filmmakers like Fede Alvarez a chance to just go out and make their own thing, test their mettle, see what they are made of. And let me tell ya, for a first time filmmaker who’d only made short films before this one, Alvarez shows great aplomb with Evil Dead. Editing, cinematography and performance wise the film is solid. It wowed me, it took me by surprise. Let’s explore what worked and didn’t with this remake shall we?

First off, they give the events that happen in the film more depth, more weight. For all its legendary status and legions of fans, the original Evil Dead film is a very simple, straight forward horror movie about a group of friends going to a cabin to have some fun. Their main preoccupation is partying. Demons resurrection passages, the book of the dead and everything else is just something they stumble upon while on their search for good times. There’s a hint of romance between Linda and Ash which gives Ash something to fight for, but for the most part, the main focus of the first Evil Dead film was to shock the hell out of you. Where the remake succeeds in my book is in giving the proceedings meaning, purpoise. The kids on the remake go to the cabin to help their friend break with her cocaine habit. This isn’t a film about people going to have fun as in most horror films, nope, these kids are here to help their friend break the habit, so immediately the film has a more somber/dark tone to it. This mission was a positive addition to the film. I also enjoyed how they used demons as a metaphor for the Mia's personal demons, nice touch.

Then there’s the gore which was plentiful. How plentiful you ask? Well, let me put it this way, in the pantheon of ultra gory horror films like Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive (1992) or Clive Barker’s Hellraiser (1987) which are two of the goriest films I’ve ever seen, Evil Dead can proudly stand next to them. You know how modern horror films don’t linger too long on anything graphic, as if afraid to offend sensors or the Motion Picture Association of America? Well, Evil Dead isn’t like that; if somebody chops off their arm, you see it, if blood splatters, it really splatters! If somebody needs to get chopped up in half with a chainsaw, then this is what you are going to see! I honestly don’t know how the MPAA let this one slip by. That is the question that kept popping into my mind, how the hell did this one slip by them intact? Sam Raimi must’ve pulled a few strings because this is one blood drenched film. Honestly I was getting tired of films being all shy about the gore, this one my friends brings those gory days of the 80’s right back! There’s only one scene that I regret they didn’t include from the original and it’s the scene where Ash chops off his zombie girlfriends head off with a shovel. They do something similar, but they didn’t really do it. It’s the only negative thing I can say about it. But they included so many other cool things that I let that one pass. And the demon possessed folk look really demonic, loved that about it.

When comparing the two Evil Deads, both come out on top. Both are good for different reasons. Evil Dead is the rare remake that is great, it pays its respects, but keeps things interesting as well. Trust me, if you love horror, gore and demons in your entertainment, then go see this one as soon as possible! We get the stuff we love about the original, like kids going to a lonely cabin in the woods, we get a book that brings demons from hell and all that, but the film also offers up new things that we never saw on any of the previous Evil Dead films, but with enough familiar elements to keep Evil Dead fans happy. Its little things here and there, little bits of dialog, or simply, visual gags that pay homage to the original. For example, for most of the film we don’t see a chainsaw anywhere, but there’s this one moment in which a character finally picks one up and turns it on and at that precise moment, the audience cheered as if saying “now it’s really an Evil Dead film!” You’ll see Raimi’s signature yellow 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88; a car that has appeared on all of Raimi’s Evil Dead films, including this one. So from the standpoint of an Evil Dead fan, I can say you’ll be happy.  

Audiences have liked this new remake, actually, audiences have devoured it! It is still number one in theaters and has more than doubled its budget with its box office intake! I personally would like to thank Raimi and Campbell and Alvarez for making this one special, it wasn't a half assed cheap-o sequel cash in. Nope, this one was made with love, and I know that sounds weird because its a movie about people getting chopped up with chainsaw's, but dammit, there's a love for the genre present here. A sequel is no doubt in the horizon as we speak and first time director Fede Alvarez must be feeling all kinds of giddy with his first success. Alvarez has already spoken about a sequel, which as he states it would be an all new story that takes things in a whole new direction, gotta admit, I’m looking forward to that! Evil Dead fans should be rejoicing because if internet buzz is true, then Sam Raimi and his brother are currently writing a new installment in the Evil Dead franchise! With Bruce Campbell playing Ash! Now how groovy is that? Extremely freaking groovy that’s how groovy! And speaking of groovy, take it for me and stay after the credits, there’s a special something for all you hardcore Evil Dead fans! It’s well worth the wait.

Rating for The Evil Dead (1981): 5 out of 5

Rating for Evil Dead (2013): 5 out of 5



Jack Thursby said...

Heard a lot of good stuff about the remake. Looking forward to seeing it. I think I'm going to wait for DVD though. Evil Dead should always be watched on a TV in the dark.

I remember first watching Evil Dead 2 on VHS back in the 90s. It freaked me out so much I had to watch it in 10 minute installments. It was only when I was much older that I realised it was horror comedy!

Franco Macabro said...

When I first encountered these movies I was immediately addicted to them even though I was a christian and this movie was about demons! I was like...I don't care, these movies are fun as hell! Then I went to see Army of Darkness in theaters...and the deal was sealed, i was a fan for life.

But honestly, I'd recommend checking it out in cinemas...it's an experience, the most grueling experience he he he...

GregM said...

I honestly have to agree with this blog entry. I went in very skeptical came out very satisfied(that's what she said). The audience girls literally screaming -- yes legitimate scream. The chainsaw was actually showed once before the final scenes. It was no doubt that this was a hat tip to the original. I do hope that if there are any sequels they will continue to push the edge and not go down the typical Hollywood horror movie.

I must say that there is a piece of me that wants to see a remake of the army of darkness. That one was just too funny.

Franco Macabro said...

Glad you also liked the movie. I think that if they do make a sequel, it will continue with the same trend of high levels of gore and violence, it just goes with the name Evil Dead.

I too am curious as to how future sequels would deal with the whole medieval thing, and the time portals and the more magical aspects of the books, and the demonites. Looking forward to whatever the makers of Evil Dead got coming out ways, i wonder if Sam Raimi's Evil Dead 4 will ever come to be, I truly hope it materializes.

Thanks for commenting.

venoms5 said...

Nicely energetic review, Fran. I wasn't as enthused with the picture, personally. I liked it, but it was a middle of the road remake for me. I honestly didn't like the look of the deadites. I thought the burned white look of them in the original was much better. And the things they say were just stupid. It sounded like dialog you'd hear in an Italian EXORCIST clone. That none of the deadites were full on dismembered was shocking to me. The horror element I thought was done much better in the original -- particularly the way the demons are resurrected. And the drastic alteration at the end was kinda meh for me, but kudos for them taking a gamble.

Franco Macabro said...

Ha, I hear ya about the dialog "Why don't you come down here and let me suck your cock pretty boy?" Definetly felt like something out of The Exorcist. But with so many bad Exorcist clones out there, I'm glad this one at least wasnt embarassing.

But if you think about it, demons from hell would say the most profane things wouldn't they? The more shocking the better.

Italian exorcist clone...hmm..Beyond the Door comes to mind!

Yeah, can't blame the filmmakers for trying something new, I wonder how they'll deal with the more fantastical elements, like the time portals and such...if they even decide to go into that.

Unknown said...

The original is a classic scarier music and sound was great demons were terrific but fede guess concentrated on the gore the demons werent scary it was kinda fast paced he could have made it creepy and scary guess for the new generation it was ok but for me the original will always be a classic no matter what!!!

Franco Macabro said...

Yeah, I agree with you, the original is great, and I love it to death and it will always be there for us to watch and enjoy, but gotta give props to this new one as well, I mean, at least it wasn't a dissapointment which was my big worry.

Anonymous said...

I've just watched the movie... (remake).
I'm 41 now and saw the original horror movie in the early 80's... this remake doesn't give me the scary feeling like the original version..but thats because Im not a teenager anymore like I was when I saw the original.....
A few things: The orginal demonic voices/vocoder are better than the remake imo...the remake the demonic ladies sounds crappie......including the way the demonic ladies looks... in the original they look much scarier than in the remake...
I'm not really a fan of the remake...not that its really bad...but it's just not what i have expected... I still wait for a horror movie that will give me that oldschool 80' s horror movie feeling... like the italian were good at... beyond etc...

allison said...

I liked them both, I liked the remake more than the original however. Yes, the original is and always will be a classic! That said, the newer one had a reason for the teens bein there, they are goin to help her get and stay sober, it unfolds slower where you can enjoy it. In the first one, they get there, the whole tree thing happens, she flips, people start dying, yes they die in gory, detailed ways, but just not a lot of story. I like movies that scare the hell out of you, AND there is a reason/story behind it. JMO though :)

Franco Macabro said...

Anonymous: Agree with you about the voices and the look of the possessed, they were scarier on the original, more demonic somehow.

Anonymous, very few movies can achieve that 80's feel from movies. I think they forget that a lot of the characters were just plain silly fun, everything now has to be so serious and have a damn explenation.

Allison: You are one of the few, but I hear ya, the remake was pretty solid in my book as well. I've seen it quite a few times now that its on dvd, and I find very few faults in it. I'm with you on giving the teens a reason for being in that shitty, stinky cabin in the middle of nowhere.

But as always, the classic original will always be one of the greatest horror films ever made, no doubts about that!

Joey2go said...

Saw it twice in theaters but after that I'd had enough. I admit the special effects are great; no doubt about that. However, the "explanation" about the reason for being at the cabin is nonsensical: "I have a friend dealing with drugs and emotional issues; let's take her to an isolated cabin in the woods. That will do the trick!" Truly, there is no valid reason for going to a place like that.

The female "embodiment of evil", so lame and HIGHLY overdone in modern horror, truly groan-worthy and unimaginative. Although you can argue the various analogies/metaphors behind it, still a very annoying modern horror trope. Ditto for the "shocking" demonic sexual language and behavior. It's very par for the course; predictable and obvious. A real been there, done that feeling.

Points to the effort for trying straight horror. Really nice special effects too. The bevy of modern horror tropes really removes me from the experience though. The original trail-blazed; this one just followed....

Since a sequel is in the works, let's hope the don't do more of the same.

Anonymous said...

The only remake I'm really scared they'll mess up is if they decide to redo Army of Darkness. It was my second favorite, only to the first installment, and I really hope they do it justice. Even if it isn't a word for word remake, and is something kind of new like this remake, there's still a lot that could go wrong. I am hopeful though.

Franco Macabro said...

Hey Joey2go: I don't know it kind of made sense to me that these kids would want to go to an isolated place for their friend to break with her drug habit.

If I am to believe anything that I've seen in movies like Trainspotting, then that moment's in which the person breaking with the habit has to go "cold turkey" aint a pretty site. Maybe that's why they went to an isolated cabin.

When I went to see this one, I wasn't really expecting originality since it is a remake and by nature, it isnt going to be all that original. What I was expecting was a good production, which would attempt to spook modern audiences with superior effects and a couple of new elements, which is what I got. i hear you about it not breaking new ground, perhaps in a future film they will venture into more original territory, which is what I hear Fede Alvarez is interested in doing.

Anonymous: I hear the new Army of Darkness movie is finally getting made, though I believe it isn't going to be a remake, it will be more of a direct sequel to Army of Darkness.

I hear Raimi is going to make Bruce Campbell get back into shape for it. Looking forward to that if it ever gets made, it would be so much fun to see all this talent back together again. It'll be like a high school reunion, old buddies working side by side! The way it all started!


Related Posts with Thumbnails