You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Fede Alvarez, the director of the new Evil Dead has called his film a “re-birth” or “re-imagining” of the original 1981 film, and I have to say has been one of the most hyped up horror re-makes (I don’t care what the director says, it is a re-make) ever. I’ve heard countless interviews with the director (Fede Alvarez), stumbled upon a heap of advertisements and read a few reviews.
Topping box office charts globally it seems to be a successful modern-day horror re-make, yes successful. Which got me thinking is it a good “retelling” of Raimi’s classic? How does it compare to the original? You can see where I’m going with this…I recently watched both the new Evil Dead and the 1981 original, so if you’re all sitting comfortably, let the battle commence.
Firstly, a few words about the 2013 Evil Dead – a mini review if you will. I saw this with a group of friends and honestly I think that is the best way to enjoy this graphic gory romp. As soon as it gets going it doesn’t stop – saying it was over the top would be an understatement, saying it was nasty would be an understatement, which says to me already that it is very different to the 1981 original. If I saw this on my own I doubt I would’ve had as much fun as I did, a definite future sleepover film. This says to me that it is a bad film, and to be honest it is. It wasn’t scary and I just found it to belong in the same family as all those modern-day torture porn horror films, yukky and horrible. It was a bit jumpy but when watching I always anticipated a bigger jump or scare that never came.
Even though there are a few comedic moments (which aren’t entirely funny) it more ridiculous laughter, the majority of this film is played dead pan and serious. Personally, because of the amount of gore I would’ve preferred it be a little more funnier and still full of scares (like the original) as the seriousness made the gore seem too much and a tad gratuitous. This was neither funny or scary. It was a good move for the filmmakers to use only make up and no CGI for the special effects, however that said, perhaps the level of realism in the special effects (for me) made the amount of severe gore suffer. I found myself wincing at cuts and stabs more than limp tearing and flesh sawing.
After watching the 2013 “re-birth” I took a look back at the 1981 original and side by side they have their similarities and differences, naturally there are more similarities. The 2013 Evil Dead is violent, brutal and hysterical in comparison to the 1981’s The Evil Dead which is creepy, sexual and features some good juxtaposition comedy. Raimi always said he thought of it as the Three Stooges but instead of custard pies it was gore. The eye contact scenes that pop up in Raimi’s version are incredibly funny, moments like this made The Evil Dead (1981) different from other horror films. This is one of the issues with the 2013 Evil Dead, it looks like any over horror film and fails to stand out.
By not focusing on comedy, I think Fede Alvarez wanted to make his version as original and different as he could, but still cramming an awful lot in there to remind you of Raimi’s original. In a recent interview I heard Alvarez state that he intended to make it as dead pan as possible and that Raimi himself said that the original wasn’t meant to be funny, Alvarez was right about one thing. The new Evil Dead is dead pan serious – which could be its downfall, the seriousness just makes the gore seem idiotic, the film generic and the story-line ridiculous. I know what you’re thinking, Evil Dead is silly and ridiculous, and you’re right it is. When played along side funny reaction facial expressions and the Charleston it’s funny, when played along side character back story and gruesomely realistic body dismemberment, it makes the audience lose interest.
There are quite a few clear differences between the two take the fact that in the 1981 version, the story sees a group of friends head to a cabin in the woods for good times and fun, a sort of vacation. Whereas, the 2013 version sees a group of friends head to an old cabin in the woods (which they use to stay in when they were younger) to help their friend and sister, Mia, go cold turkey.
The fact that in the 1981 version the cabin is seen as a place of uncertainty, mystery and possible danger because they have never been there before, compared to the way it’s seen in the 2013 version, a place of comfort and nostalgia says a lot. It shows you that the 2013 version is taking itself slightly more seriously, it’s focusing on the characters and story-line and gives the audience more to think about by adding psychological aspects. In the 1981 Evil Dead, you know next to nothing about the characters or why they chose that cabin in the woods in particular.
Another clear difference is how the book is introduced and the part it plays in both films, in the 1981 version it is a simple case of them finding a pile of artifacts and amongst them an intriguing book, cassette and cassette player. The protagonist, Ash, plays the cassette that reads the words that awake the demon, as for the book he opens it and scans the pages, the book is important in both films but for different reasons. In the 1981 version destroying the book ends the terror and sends the flesh-possessing demons to sleep. Destroying the book is tried in the 2013 version but to no avail, the book is believed to be indestructible (an attempt to make it scarier). The 2013 cast come across the cellar underneath the cabin that they never noticed before (hard to believe yes, especially when the cellar door is surrounded by smeared blood), they find an ocean of dead cats hung from the ceiling and in the corner of the room lies the book wrapped in barbed wire inside a black bag.
Something tells me that there were signs not to open what was inside. If the barbed wire wasn’t clear to them then the inscriptions inside saying “LEAVE THIS BOOK ALONE” may have been a warning. The character of Eric, the nerd, deciphered the books text and reads the magic words aloud, I guess it was only fitting that he suffered the most pain throughout the film. Ever that or he is just as indestructible as the book. The 2013 version uses the book as a sort of guide, pictures of things in there that match what is happening in reality confirm Mia’s hysterical ramblings about the forest attacking her. These changes also result in the film having more flesh-curdling violence, different from the 1981 film which seems to flow better in the element of crazy enjoyment.
There were some other similarities and nods to the original in the 2013 film, the Michigan sweater, sweeping camera shots through the woods, body dismemberment, “join us”, charmingly horrible quotes from the possessed and obviously the “tree scene”. I’m sure there are a few more but I’d have to re-watch the new film again. The tree scene in both is a definite talking point and an important point in the films, the tree scene to me always seemed unnecessary perverse and immature, surely there are other ways of possessing your victim. I found it incredibly uncomfortable to watch in both films though, which means the 2013 version failed to fix that problem. When watching the 1981 tree scene, I felt disgusted with myself, as if by watching it I was condoning and accepting it, it was slow and steady and seemed to last for an eternity, a horrifying scene. The use of nudity and the way Raimi made it look overtly sexual and seductive added to the disturbing nature of the scene. The 2013 tree scene was far more violent and dirty in an aesthetic way, it was much shorter and even though it was toe curling, it didn’t quite make me want to take an hour long shower like its predecessor did.
All in all I feel that the 2013 Evil Dead, in terms of horror re-makes/re-births, is probably one of the best I’ve seen but that isn’t really saying an awful lot. Both are mental though and non-stop, after watching both I felt exhausted. In the case of the new one, I feel that the seriousness was misjudged and the gore was overdone. Much like many modern day horror films the 2013 Evil Dead relies on jumps rather than creating atmosphere and building scares like the original did. This is because the modern day (horror) film audience has so many demands, they get bored easily and if they have seen something before they instantly switch off. This results in films like the Saw franchise, films which are utter shit but seem to sell out at the box office and are always crowd pleasers. Obviously this doesn’t apply to all of us, some of us (even the gore lovers) find these kind of films less engaging. It seems throwing loads of pointless gore in a film is just a better investment in appeasing the masses.