EVIL DEAD (2013) is a remake/reboot of THE EVIL DEAD (1981), but don’t worry, they did more than just drop the THE from the title…a lot more.
Let’s just get this part out in the open, I am not a fan of remakes/reboots. This isn’t just an angry fanboy “they’ll never get it as good as the original” cry on my part. It’s from learned experience. As far as I think, the vast majority of remake/reboots that I see are either lazy remakes of past films that weren’t even that popular (PROM NIGHT, MY BLOODY VALENTINE, etc.), or fail epically (the new POLTERGEIST, PULSE, THE EYE, etc.). In the case of the first, this isn’t necessarily a guarantee the movie will be bad, I happen to own both examples I used above because they were fun and entertaining. But I go into them, rolling my eyes, thinking that they aren’t even trying anymore, they’re scraping the bottom of the horror barrel for most of these. However, I admit, that sometimes they work, like PROM NIGHT and MY BLOODY VALENTINE (3D), but it doesn’t happen often. As for remake/reboots that fail epically, there’s a slew of those. The problem is, I’ve (probably) seen them all. So after a while of being force fed such crap, I start psychologically reacting to remake/reboots as though they are crap to begin with, as the past has been full of that crap.
Remake/Reboots can be a good thing, though. An update of a classic (think THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE remake, not the FRIDAY THE 13TH remake) that happens to work. The other situation where I feel remaking a film is somewhat acceptable is a foreign language film (like THE RING, THE GRUDGE, DARK WATER…hmmm…I’m noticing a theme here). Not to Americanize it, no no, in a perfect world these films would be remade shot for shot in English, if for no other reason than more people will see OLDBOY now that it’s in English. OLDBOY is amazing, and if it takes a remake to make the idiots out there take notice, fine with me, because all you have to say is “Did you know that was a remake”, and then they want to see the original. So in the end, the film that counts, the one that matters, gets a little more play, as it should. For instance FUNNY GAMES is pretty much a shot for shot remake of the original, written and directed by the same man that did the original, but now with 100% less subtitles so people will go see it and get some exposure to some great horror films.
After that lengthy tangent, let’s get back to EVIL DEAD (2013). The story is similar, group of friends go to an abandoned cabin. However, it’s not to party, it’s to help their friend Mia quit heroin cold turkey. This particular detail comes out within the first 15 minutes, and I have to say that I very much appreciated the same atmosphere (the secluded cabin in the woods) but with a different reasoning. It was a smart move, and already, 15 minutes in, I knew I’d be okay.
Perhaps the boldest thing EVIL DEAD (2013) does is not give us a definitive modern-day Ash. Sure there’s a character that might fit the ticket, but actions towards the movies conclusion say otherwise.
I will say that they did an excellent job of recapturing the tone from the original. Straight up horror, very little to no humor, just like THE EVIL DEAD (1981). This can be seen as a safe bet, as EVIL DEAD II was that one in a million, perfect, meld of horror and humor, and something like that would be hard to recapture. So stick with the tone of the original no doubt played a large plot in making this film as successful as it was.
The story is, by and large, the same as the original. Kids go to cabin, kids find evil book, incantations from the book awaken the evil spirits in the forest, deadite block party. The story for THE EVIL DEAD (1981) is pretty simple, and is easily copied. That’s not to say that this film doesn’t have a mind of its own. It adds a story arch previously non-existent that changes the course of the film and gives us as memorable an ending as the original film did, but it’s a totally different ending. The tree rape is still there, but it’s been changed to make it a horrific experience instead of a stomach churning (not in the good way) experience.
Maybe it’s just me, but I found EVIL DEAD (2013) to be much more violent and explicit than THE EVIL DEAD (1981). From the carving knife to the arm, the forking of a tongue, the caving in a skull using a toilet lid, and let us not forget the repeated stabbing in the face by a syringe needle (this one gives me the shivers just thinking about it). That’s not even the half of it, there’s so much here for a gore hound. Ya know, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Often remake/reboots fall flat on their face, but not EVIL DEAD (2013). It also did what it was supposed to do, light a fire under Sam Raimi's ass. With the popularity of the remake, the film series scored a big comeback, and thanks—in part—to that, there’s a STARZ original series coming called ASH VS. EVIL DEAD. Now if only I could find some way to sleep and not wake until October 31st when the show premieres. To say I’m excited for this show is an understatement.