Evil Dead Comparison (1981 vs. 2013)

Joe Humphreys

evil-dead-remakeYou 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.


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      1. Ugo Fredette April 28, 2013 at 2:41 pm

        I am a Fan since 1981. What happened to the white possessed eye and the scream in slow motion? And the corpse levitating in the air and also screaming? Thy lost it with the Book of the Dead… To burn the Deadites, or buried the bodies alive, so they will come back normal!!! What the F”””!!! Ash did it with Linda in the original, and she came back Eviler than ever… Fede Alvarez is verry hot to do short film on the net (Panik Attack), but he is clearly not a Fan since the beginning… I am sure that, when Raimi call him to do the remake, he rush himself to see the 2 movies and deliver the merchandising in time… I am a assistant filmmaker in Quebec… Give me a Budget. I will give you what Fan really want

        • Joe Humphreys May 1, 2013 at 2:59 pm

          Hearing interviews with the 2013’s lead Jane Levy annoyed me too, constantly winging about how hard it was for her to always “act” hysterical and mad. Someone should tell her shut up and just do her job.

          I bet she wasn’t whining and complaining when she received all that dollar.

      2. Tiago Almeida April 28, 2013 at 5:19 pm

        I agree with you. It is a good movie, but nothing compared to the original. I do agree it relies too much on gore, and it is not fun as the gore from the original.
        I still believe that Friday the 13th the remake, is the best 80’s remake till date, I know people hate that movie, I just think it is correct, and felt like Friday 13th for the new generations…

        • Joe Humphreys May 1, 2013 at 2:54 pm

          To be honest I didn’t really like the remake of Friday the 13th, that’s me though. I feel like if the movie worked back then and is still watchable (even though slightly dated, very dated in some cases) now then just leave it alone! It’s fine, stop your money making schemes and invest in some original material. Thank you for your contribution though.

      3. Ugo Fredette April 28, 2013 at 5:47 pm

        I completely agree with Tiago for Friday the 13th. Micheal Bay (Big box office Amytiville and Texas chainsaw massacre and Freddy remake, Transformers and Armageddon) and Sean S. Cunningham (the original since the first movie) are the producer!!! Texas Chainsaw and Friday the 13th 2009 are the best remake since the industrie of horror remake started.

      4. Midnite Marauder April 28, 2013 at 10:18 pm

        Modern remakes as a whole have not been all that good. To suggest FTTH and TCM are the BEST current remade horror films would be a rash overstatment IMO. Especially when there were also terrific versions of The Hills Have Eyes, Dawn of the Dead, The Crazies, The Ring, Toolbox Murders, Mirrors, Black Christmas, Piranha 3D, and to a slightly lesser extent than FTTH/TCM but still entertaining nonetheless, there’s Last House on the Left, The Grudge, Let the Right One In, House of Wax, Rob Zombie’s Halloween, and My Bloody Valentine 3D. I’m not discounting either the FTTH or TCM remakes, but merely suggesting that there are other modern remakes besides FTTH/TCM that were certainly far better than its original counterpart or at least greatly improved (either due to the story/concept/effects/directing/reimaging) from the original version. Of course these are the more recent remakes from 2000 to present, I didn’t mention or include any remakes from the 80s/90s since those would be more than a decade older. At least to me, this Evil Dead remake falls right into that second tier of “watchable” modern horror movie remakes. Its not a total flop as a horror movie, but still it just didn’t live up to all the hype surrounding it.

        • Midnite Marauder April 29, 2013 at 4:32 am

          Meant to say ‘Let Me In’ (the remake) as ‘Let the Right One In’ was the original. Also forgot about some other decent remakes to have come out the past couple years, namely Fright Night, Quarantine (although the original, aka REC, was vastly superior and their sequels were completely different from each other, The Uninvited, NIght of the Demons, Silent Night Deadly Night, The Wolfman (new story, same gimmick), The Woman in Black, and The Thing (2011 prequel, it was supposedly set before Carpenter’s The Thing ’82 but was conceptually a remake of that version). Each of these were okay and worth a watch…….

      5. inflictious April 29, 2013 at 7:22 am

        I just went and seen this today before it left my town. I will say , To me anyways .. It truely felt like an Evil Dead movie.
        I went in expecting Nothing and rather enjoyed what i was given..Looking forward to a next chapter.

        If they take into account on the next one of what so many Fans of the originals were expecting ..Is it to late for that change now?
        ( New younger views have seen what they did and will expect that, People my age 40+, Just might be turned off enough to not bother! )

        But i will go back just because of Bruce Campbell’s contribution to the franchise.

      6. Nathan A. Hassall April 29, 2013 at 11:26 pm

        This is yet another review seemingly coming from the perception that the world is unable to produce good movies anymore and of course nothing is ever as good as what came before it.
        You sound like an old disgruntled bitter audience who (I think) is likely unable to enjoy anything
        coming out of the last 10-15 years without comparing it to something better made when you were younger…trust me whoever you are…..your standing is anything but original or interesting
        and it was easy to skim through your review and know exactly the type of reviewer you are.

        • Joe Humphreys May 1, 2013 at 2:50 pm

          If I had a penny every time I’ve been called a “disgruntled bitter” old man, I’d be swimming in riches, I’d have £50 notes coming out of my eyes. However, this isn’t entirely the truth. I am merely particular, there are films I love just as much as there are films I hate, it just so happens the new Evil Dead fell predominantly in the latter category. And how can I not compare this to something previous when it is a clear remake?

          I am British though, so stereotype me all you like.

        • Lucy Stuart February 20, 2014 at 2:41 am

          Hi, I’m a 16 year old kid who agrees with the review, jus’ sayin’…
          Not sayin’ the remake ain’t good or anythin’ cos I loved it. The predecessor was jus’ better.

      7. John Mather April 30, 2013 at 6:51 pm

        @Nathan A Hassall I agree with the review,and I dont think the world(movieworld at least)knows how to make scary movies anymore. Im not disgruntled,I thought recent movies Cabin in The Woods was very good and The Others,Session 9 also.To me the makers of Evil Dead remake went for gross out gore and violence instead of scares and suspense. It claimed to play it straight yet had cast members who could sustain multiple injures with iron bars and nail guns yet still walk around normally,ridiculous! One thing to homage the original but it also destroyed it’s atmosphere.Evil Dead remake whilst not a bad movie could have been so much better had the director reigned himself in a bit.

        • Joe Humphreys May 1, 2013 at 2:51 pm

          Here, here!

      8. Graeme May 1, 2013 at 1:22 am

        I’ve just seen the new Evil Dead film about an hour ago. It was fantastic! For this to be released after Cabin In The Woods, which totally turns the ‘cabin in the woods’ concept on it’s head, I felt that Evil Dead proved that this genre of film still has a lot of life (or death) in it.

        The non-CGI effects were mind blowing and really touch a nerve with me. They left me squirming in my seat, reeling in shock, and gasping for more, which is slightly disturbing in itself 😉

        I understand that people will compare these films, and rightly they should, but for me, these films each standalone with qualities I love. The dark humour/cheesiness is great when Bruce Campbell is involved, but this new film, with a new darker tone, needed a more grittier set of actors/actresses. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Bruce Campbell, and this whole Army of Darkness 2 crossover film idea does sounds incredible, but I honestly don’t think he could’ve pulled off the themes in this film (without the cheesy one liners anyway).

        In this day and age, we didn’t need another Army of Darkness to get the Evil Dead ball rolling. We needed something that wasn’t PG13, something that would shock an audience and prove that there is still a lot more blood and GUTS (double meaning there ha! ) in this franchise.

        Mission Accomplished! :) …Roll on Evil Dead 2 and AoD 2.

        • Joe Humphreys May 1, 2013 at 3:00 pm

          That’s good, I’m happy to hear that it is working for some people :)

      9. Alexandra May 11, 2013 at 4:44 am

        I just saw this tonight, and I really enjoyed it. I grew up with the original and was looking forward to this….I was satisfied..It had to be different, but balanced nicely with the references to the original. Made me feel nostalgic. I happen to enjoy the gorier aspect to it, it’s very over the topness of it made it hilarious to me and I laughed the way I laughed in the original, and am happy there was no Ash this time….there can be only one Ash.

      10. steffan May 12, 2013 at 1:53 am

        I was really excited about this film being a big fan of the original. It just didn’t have an inpact like the original. In a industry full of torture porn i wanted something different and this was not. I wanted something a little more atmospheric. The beginning of the film took me right out and the stupidity of the characters. Give me Sinister or The Inn keepers again those were good films full of suspense and charm.

      11. steffan May 12, 2013 at 1:56 am

        Oh, The Loved Ones was really good aswell

      12. Defoe July 4, 2013 at 6:47 am

        @John Mather, I’m a big fan of Horror and to a large extent also believe there has been a general lack of ‘good’ horror fare in recent times.. However, as a few here have already stated there is a lot of quality to be found amongst all the crap.. I watched this movie on my own with all the lights out (and I live alone in a little forest), so the effect was intensified… And yes, I rather enjoyed Evil Dead..! A lot of nods to the original, and a definite seat-squirmer once it gets going..! I’m a big fan of the original, but I try not to use it as a measuring stick… I liked the tone in this one (although I was a huge fan of the humour in the original).. As a horror movie it doesn’t let down at all.. I felt Joe Humphrey’s (as Nathan stated) sounds a little too nit-picky, but everybody deserves their opinion…

      13. AkDisciple July 5, 2013 at 8:07 am

        I’ll be the one to say it then. Bitter old man…maybe. Sure that the last 2 generations suck. Without a doubt. There generation lacks any form of original thought or creativity. What have they created! Nothing! Living off of what others have already designed, developed, created, produced and directed. From the internet, movies, tv or books. Prove me wrong. Do something that hasnt been done yet. Stop all remakes of anything for a decade and show me you can do something without riding on the coattails of people who have proven themselves creative.

        • AKA July 26, 2013 at 4:03 pm

          You think that the current generation is the one behind these films? No, the people pushing these things forward are the suits in the board room, who are by and large 40+ year old white men looking for an easy cash-in.

          And they have a point: young kids aren’t likely to go search out a 30-year old horror film. You’ll be much happier if you learn to accept that remakes happen and the originals stand unchanged. Remakes are not a new thing: they’ve been happening for decades now, and Evil Dead was fine.

          As far as saying that the last two generations have failed to create *anything*, that’s such a ridiculous and retarded statement that it doesn’t even dignify a response. Yes, NOTHING original has been made in 30 years, sure.

          I mean, the film this was a remake of was made within the last two generations! What the fuck are you talking about?

      14. AmorBavian July 6, 2013 at 6:08 pm

        I have never heard a horror-fan whine about the disgusting scenes in a movie – until I read the above comparison. I mean, how can the tree-scene be “a problem” that needs to be fixed?
        Furthermore, you criticize the group for not seeing the cellar door even though there is blood all around it. Remember that it was covered by a big rug?

      15. JeeperCreeper July 9, 2013 at 1:19 pm

        As an avid horror fan, from way back (starting with the original Amityville)
        I was not so impressed with the trailer I saw on Evil Dead 2013, but decided to watch it anyway.

        I was utterly disappointed. Extreme gore, and very typical cliché in almost every way throughout the movie. I was able to predict the ending already halfway of the movie. Not scary, no suspense, utterly boring. Even I with amateur video recording skills could produce something more terrifying.

        It’s obvious already in the beginning of the movie that the director has little to non experience in making proper movies, or with proper details. Taking an original plot and trying to make it his own fails, epicly.

        The extreme gore does not make up for the big piffalls this movie torments the viewers with. If they want to attach a proper director , take hints from such directors as William Friedkin, Ruben Fleischer, Christopher Nolan, to mention a few (and yes, I know they’re not all horror makers, but, I meant for the details, atmosphere..)

      16. Johnny The Ninja July 17, 2013 at 2:48 am

        Its was good better than many horror movies nowadays.
        Was hoping Ash had a cameo like they said.

        Now for HC3, lol.

      17. Johnny The Ninja July 18, 2013 at 3:34 am

        And if this movie makes you feel dirty than watch A Serbian Film.

      18. Maz August 18, 2013 at 9:26 am

        For me, personally, I thought the Evil Dead 2013 remake was crap.

        Don’t misunderstand, I am a big fan of the original Evil Dead’s and the Army of Darkness.

        That said, I probably went in to this movie with the wrong expectations.

        I saw Sam was on board, I saw Bruce was on board, and I thought to myself, wow, we are going to be in for a treat!

        But what did we get? Just over the top gore and not much more.

        To me, and many other fans I know, Evil Dead was never about the realistic gore or demons, it was more about the Slap Stick comedy and how well it was integrated into the story.

        So me and a few of my friends sat down and were ready to sink our teeth into some real comedy horror delivered to us by the masters themselves!!!

        Instead, we got crap… sure, realistic looking crap, but the same old crap we could get from any other horror movie out there.

        We were so utterly disappointed.

        The only thing we could do to cheer ourselves up that night was to re-watch the original three Evil Dead movies, which, ended our night on a high.

        As for the new Evil Dead movie, that pretty much was thrown in the bin as it doesn’t belong in our Evil Dead collection.

        No offence to anyone out there, but if you are a true fan of the Evil Dead franchise, you’ll see where we are coming from and what we were looking for in a remake.

        If you haven’t ever seen it, and are new to the franchise and just want to see scary demons, young teens in a cabin, over the top gore with no real plot, well, besides a thousand other films just like this one, you’ve come to the right place and they’ll deliver just want you want. Pointless gore with no real laughs.

        Such a shame. And to think both Sam and Bruce had input on this pile of rubbish?

      19. Maz August 18, 2013 at 10:05 am

        Also getting tired of the extremely loud screams or whatever they use these days to attempt to scare people.

        What ever happened to real suspense and build up and real terror?

        Not saying the original ‘Evil Dead’ had real terror, but it certainly did have suspense and built up the moments.

        Today they just seem to lower all the volume of things happening in the scene and then at the moment they want you to jump, they’ll release the ‘loud sound’. I don’t think we had to rely on that much in the past, but it seems all the new horror films do.

        I guess what the original review poster says might be true, today’s generation just seem to bore quickly and need things to happen quicker for them or they tune out. I guess it’s the generation of the mobile phone ring indeed, anything longer than a mobile phone tune and they’ve forgotten what it was about. So sad.

        Bring back the suspense. You don’t need lots of gore to make one squirm. In fact, several scenes, if you just hear what is happening rather than seeing it happen, it can be way more scary and squirmish.

        In any case, I’m sure the new Evil Dead will gain some new fans and they may even go on to make a sequel which will be even gorier. If they do, I know I won’t be one of the people seeing it.

      20. Soheyl May 10, 2014 at 11:35 am

        I thought that Tom Savini’s remake of Night of the Living Dead was also quite decent

        • Mario April 28, 2018 at 8:41 am

          It SUCKED! The only thing I am scared about is lost time and money! Horror is dead, tried to return, so I shot it in the head!

        • Mario April 28, 2018 at 8:44 am

          Surely better than Evil Dead remake.