When A Remake Gets it Right: “Evil Dead”- by Dustin Brewer

Much ire has been raised leading up to the release of “Evil Dead,” a modern remake of Sam Raimi’s 1981 cult-classic. After seeing the remake for himself, Dustin argues why this is one example of a successful reboot.

Photo from: http://www.nytimes.com

It’s long been known that Hollywood has seemingly run out of ideas. Sequels, adaptations from comic books and remakes have all but run original stories out of town.

Most of the time, audiences are wise to avoid what look like lackadaisical cash-grabs. Naturally, more than a few eyebrows were raised when it was announced that a remake of “Evil Dead,” one of the most beloved cult-classic films, starring arguably the most loved cult-actor (Bruce Campbell) was going to be released. Even with the knowledge that both Campbell and original director Sam Raimi were involved in the creative process throughout as well as serving as producers, fans were none-too-thrilled at the prospect of an Ash-less “Evil Dead.”

As the release date loomed and more and more clips and trailers were released, the buzz began to build. Word of the gleefully gory film spread faster than the deadites’ diseases.

It’s safe to say, a week after release and following a $26 million opening weekend, good enough for the top spot, that the film offers enough for fans while also appealing to horror fans in general.

After seeing it for myself, I feel confident in saying that it has set the bar quite high for future remakes, reboots, re-imagining, re-releasing and whatever the hell else Hollywood has planned.

There are a lot of reasons the film made such an impression on me (Cameron as well, the fact that we were the only two in the theater spared an audience of our “Mystery Science Theater” style observations) but to share all of them would be spoiling parts of the script that are too entertaining to see unfold before you.

So broad and spoiler free, here are a few reasons “Evil Dead (2013)” is a worthy successor to the original.

  1. The Script Has Just Enough Substance- Most horror movies are doomed from the start, not because of a bad cast or a bad director, but because the script is full of enough cliches and plot holes to put all your Batman Visa cards in. In “Evil Dead (2013)” there is a moment where they have the chance to leave before everything really gets started, but the backstory we’re given is smart enough that we understand why they would be inclined to stay, as opposed to just being a dumb group of oblivious, death-seeking dummies too wrapped up in their sex, drugs and booze to care. This type of early detail really makes a world of difference.
  2. Practical Effects and Buckets of Blood- Sam Raimi didn’t have the luxury of highly advanced CGI special effects when he made “The Evil Dead,” instead, he had a shoestring budget and a can-do attitude. Imploring a similar technique, “ED2013” features a bare minimum of CGI shots (apparently it was used quite sparingly and only for minor touch-ups) and relies entirely on prosthetic and practical effects. An astounding feat given the things that the audience is shown over the course of the films’ 90 minutes. Partnering that with a bloodflow I’ve heard described as “On par with Tarantino” gives the film a more visceral and shocking style when compared to other horror films that rely on graphic CGI violence. How your blood is spilled is one of the most important aspects of a horror movie, and “ED2013” spares no expense as it uses an apparent world record amount of blood that originally earned the film an NC-17 rating.
  3. Leading Lady Jane Levy- No, there is not an Ash in the film, but Jane Levy’s Mia is certainly a solid substitute. She is put through the ringer and more than answers the call with one of the most memorable performances in any horror movie in the last decade. Frightening, heart-breaking, ass-kicking, vulnerable and at all-times and most importantly- believable. The last few years have seen an influx of ass-kicking girls shouldering the load of action/horror movies, and Jane Levy continues the new trend in high fashion.
  4. Respecting, Not Dwelling on the Past- Remaking/Rebooting a horror franchise is tough stuff, a lot of the time the filmmakers are so concerned with fan-service that the rest of the film becomes a bit of a mess. There are subtle references to Raimi’s “Evil Dead” throughout the film (again, no spoilers because they’re fun to try and spot) but never once do you feel like nostalgia is being forced on you. The filmmakers are interested in preserving legacy, but they’re biggest concern is the quality of the film today. “ED2013” director Fede Alvarez was clearly familiar with Raimi and the “Evil Dead” franchise long before he helmed the remake. There are certain shots and approaches that aren’t so much a knock-off as a homage. It’s this level of respect that elevates the overall quality, they’re not merely remaking a movie to remake a movie, they’re working to update a cult-classic movie in a way all its’ own, and it’s quite successful.
  5. Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell’s Seal of Approval- Having the two keys to the original trilogy involved in the remake isn’t always a surefire formula for success, but given Raimi and Campbell’s love and passion in the franchise, their compliance and contributions surely helped ease the nerves of the filmmakers and made sure that what was going to be released was worthy of the name “Evil Dead.” Allegedly, at SXSW last March, while promoting the film, it was  declared that plans for the franchise going forward were for Alvarez to make an “Evil Dead 2,” Raimi to make an “Army of Darkness 2” and then both storylines to merge in an “Evil Dead 7.” Does that sound a bit convoluted? Yes, but, given the success of “ED2013” it’s safe to say, if anyone can pull it off, it’s Raimi and co.

If you enjoy the original “Evil Dead” then go see the remake.

If you’re a fan of horror in general, see “Evil Dead.”

If you don’t know what to do one night with friends, see “Evil Dead.”

Just make sure you see it with an audience, you’re really going to want someone to talk to about it.


Dustin Brewer is co-creator of HefferBrew. He’s long been a fan/critic of horror movies, to share your thoughts on “ED2013” or anything horror, find him on Twitter @dstnbrwr , @HefferBrew , on Facebook.com/HefferBrew or in the comments section here. 

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