A Cult Classic Remade: The Evil Dead (1981) and Evil Dead (2013)

the-evil-dead-posterPublished in issue 22, Craccum Magazine, 2016

A lot of classic horror films have been remade over the years, usually to the despair of diehard fans. Nine times out of ten, the remakes are shite. Better quality, sure; better special effects, definitely. But a better film? No sir. You can’t beat a classic, even with a bigger production budget. So when I found out that Sam Ramie’s 1981 cult classic The Evil Dead was being remade, naturally I was not happy. When I later found out that Raimi and the original’s lead actor Bruce Campbell were producing the remake, I felt slightly better. Okay, they were on board – so it couldn’t be that bad, right?

The 1981 version was great (still is) because it was original. There had been nothing like it up until that point (or so my dad, who was actually alive when it came out, tells me). He saw it in the cinema and said that there was a mixture of “nervous laughter and screams.” That pretty much sums up my first experience with The Evil Dead. It’s funny, because from a 21st century point of view it is just terribly terrible – the awesomely dreadful acting (sorry Campbell), the horrendous script (“she’s your girlfriend, you take care of her” – seriously?) and the fake blood and guts (creamed corn, apparently). But these are also what make it so entertaining, unique and just great. You’ll be laughing (nervously) and then that jarring, eerie music will start playing and just like that, you’re scared. The film mixes (unintentional?) humour with good old-fashioned tension and frights that don’t rely on special effects to be…effective. The Evil Dead also has some of the most creepy moments in horror film history, such as the basement scene – that broken record player and the lightbulb filling up with blood still gives me shivers. Plus, lets not forget dear Sheryl and her wonderful rhyme. Now’s the time to look that up on Youtube if you haven’t seen it. 

On top of all its weirdness, The Evil Dead is also just a great 80s horror flick. It’s got all the stereotypes down-pat: a group of teenagers, an old cabin in the woods, a storm which destroys the only bridge out, a scary looking book and a recorded message warning not to read said book… What. A. Classic. 

Then there’s Fedi Alvarez’s 2013 remake. It actually isn’t bad. In fact, I liked it. If you can step back and separate it from the original, watching it simply as a horror film and not a remake of a horror film, then yeah, it’s enjoyable. Comparison-wise, it’s basically a strictly-scary version of the original. No humour this time, kids, just straight scary. The story follows pretty much exactly the same structure as the 1981 film, and includes all of its predecessor’s most notable moments: the Book of the Dead reading; the finding and using of the famous chainsaw, and of course the “there’s something in the woods” scene. It also uses the same groundbreaking filming techniques that Raimi established in his version, mimicking the camera-chases-actor effect that was so chilling.

As far as remakes go, this is a good one. While it isn’t as great as the 1981 version, it doesn’t tarnish its memory either. If you haven’t seen The Evil Dead then this is just an enjoyable horror movie, and if you have, you can appreciate Alvarez’s nod to Evil Dead’s father film. Maybe, hopefully, this remake will inspire a few more people to go and watch the original. You know you want to.

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