Before I go into this review and try comparing it to the original film, I wanted to give you, the reader, a little background about the most personal/favorite set of films to me.
THE EVIL DEAD TRILOGY & ME
The first film I saw in the trilogy was 1993’s Army of Darkness. It was 1995; I was 5 years old when I saw it. My Dad had recorded it off the television and tried a number of times to have me watch it. At that time, I was scared of almost everything that was about ghosts, skeletons, and pretty much anything that was scary. Horror films and I did not mix for those reasons and for a number of years I didn’t like them. In my Dad’s eyes, having me watch Army of Darkness would help me face my fears on all things scary because you had this hero, who I could relate to as the audience, as he’s fighting off skeletons with a shotgun and a chainsaw for a hand. The ending result was a complete failure, Army of Darkness scared me quite a bit and I ran to my Mom saying, “Mom! Dad’s trying to give me nightmares!”
Flash forward 5 years later. I’m 11 years old, horror films and all the things scary still scared me. My Dad was searching through old recorded VHS tapes and he finds Army of Darkness again. When my Dad began to play it, I remember saying to myself, “Was this the movie that scared me when I was younger? Why would I like it now?” So I began to watch it again. I guess five years can make a difference, it didn’t scare me as much, but there were things that bothered me long after the film had been playing. Those scenes were Ash was splitting in two and Evil Ash coming back together after lighting strikes his grave. Overall, it was alright at the time. But something told me to watch again. In my mind, by watching it more, I wouldn’t be scared by horror films like this anymore; it worked. It spoke to me and I kept watching it over and over. At 11, it was one of my favorite movies and I became a big Bruce Campbell fan. I began to do research on Army of Darkness and soon Evil Dead and Evil Dead II.
I was also 11 when I saw Evil Dead. I had gotten it as a Christmas gift, but my Dad hadn’t seen it, so he watched a few scenes before I had the okay to watch it. I ended up walking into the end scene of Ash throwing the book into the fire and watching Cheryl and Scotty melt in stop-motion. Some of the images in that scene alone made me afraid to go to bed for the next few nights. A week or so later, by that time it was 2002 and I had turned 12 on the 26th of December, I finally had the courage to watch it completely, this time with my brother; who was less scared of things than I was. To say the least, Evil Dead scared the hell out of me; I thought for sure I was going to have nightmares. Luckily, I didn’t. It was a new beginning for me; I could watch horror film without having nightmares.
A few months later, I got my Dad to pick up a copy of Evil Dead II. I remember we all sat down to watch it and it scared me a little bit, but it did not stop me from enjoying the film. I remember I instantly cheered when Ash strapped the chainsaw on for the first time, I loved it! (For more on Evil Dead II, I had written a detailed analysis found here: http://mjcummings.tumblr.com/post/6747825459/evil-dead-ii-film-analysis-by-michael-j-cummings )
As the years went by, and watching these films a lot, I realized that my favorite film from the trilogy wasn’t Army of Darkness anymore, but Evil Dead II! It has stayed that way ever since. The Evil Dead trilogy speaks to me like no other set of movies ever have or ever will, with Evil Dead II being my favorite movie from the trilogy without hesitation as well as my favorite film of all time.
In 2011, official word had come out saying that there was a remake in the works. As a fan, I had heard this for years. Since it was official, I really didn’t know what to think. I was just skeptical for years. In October, a trailer had been released for the new film, but it only raised my skepticism. When the second trailer came out, they had shown more footage and the skepticism lessened, maybe they’ll do the original films justice. When it was released earlier this month, I was nervous. I walked into the theater not knowing what to expect…
THE 2013 FILM & HOW IT COMPARES
“The Most Terrifying Film You Will Ever Experience” Is the tagline that reads for the 2013 film, Evil Dead. One cannot help but be reminded of the 1981 original tagline, “The Ultimate Experience In Grueling Terror”. Looking at both taglines, you can already tell that they’re related; they’re similar yet different, and that’s what the 2013 film was striving for and achieved it completely and greatly in my opinion. With a tagline like that, the movie has big shoes to fill while trying not to step on the trilogy’s toes and deliver its promise to the fans of the Evil Dead films and general movie goers alike. Sam Raimi said recently in an interview/trailer online, “It’s true to the original in spirit, but it’s really got its own voice, its own intensity and its outrageous just like the first one was.” (Side note: Sam Rami, the director of the original Evil Dead is one of the producers for the new film along with Rob Tapert, the producer from the original and Bruce Campbell, who famously played the iconic Ash character from the Evil Dead films.)When trying to compare it to the original, there is really no easy way to decipher it. Evil Dead (2013) is basically Evil Dead Jr. It’s a lot like its father, Evil Dead (1981) with elements of its uncle, Evil Dead II (1987) but overall, it is its own entity.
Other than to trying to compare it, I’m going to discuss further the film. Things I’ll be discussing: Characters, Story, and Effects. **SPOLIERS AHEAD**
We have a new group of people heading to the cabin (No Ash character this time around), and for different reason too (More on that later…). Personally, I think this was a smart decision on the director because it would make it a new experience for fans and the general audience. The characters are: David (Shiloh Fernandez), Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), Mia (Jane Levy), Olivia (Jessica Lucas), and Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore). (Trivia: Take the first letter of each name and it spells another word: DEMON.) The two actors that really stand out in the film are Jane Levy and Lou Taylor Pucci.
Levy’s performance is the one to watch the most due to her character arc; starting off as a drug addict quitting cold turkey, to becoming possessed, and ultimately the hero of the film; this film rests on her shoulders, while she knows it, she handles it without any problems. There are two scenes, to me, that show off her acting very well. The first one I want to mention is where she’s in bed, looking worse for wear, pleading to David to get her out of the cabin. She’s shaking and wide-eyed and you can believe whole-heartedly that she’s going through withdrawals and saw something lurking in the woods. The other scene is when she’s at the bottom of the cellar crying, asking Natalie why they didn’t look after her. This scene works very well because Levy expresses effectively, the suffering and torment of Mia. Also, she was capable of being upset to being possessed in a matter of seconds. Granted, you have the tension that’s building up for the scene as well as special effects and sound effects, but it’s really Levy’s performance with the reactions of Blackmore that make that scene work as one of the more creepy moments of the film.
While some people laughed at his performance or even questioned it, Pucci as the tragic hero, Eric is one of my favorite parts of the film; Out of anyone, he takes the most punishment. From getting stabbed with multiple objects to getting shot with a nail gun many times; you think he’s a glutton for punishment. You could argue that he deserves all of it because he unleashed the evil by accident; I feel that he knows the grave mistake that he made, and tries everything in his power to redeem himself by trying to stop the evil, which I feel that he did.
When it comes down to Fernandez’s, Lucas’ and Blackmore’s characters, they don’t take away anything from the film, but they come off as stock characters of any typical horror film and seem to be there so they can end up being fodder for the demons. Fernandez’s performance as Mia’s brother/somewhat another hero of the film, David, comes off wooden and sometimes walks around the film in a trance spouting more than once “Everything’s fine.” With Lucas and her role as the nurse, Olivia, she gives off an adequate performance; but she’s more of a benefit for the demons than her human counterparts, ultimately being a character that the audience doesn’t care for. As for Blackmore and her performance as David’s girlfriend, Natalie, ends up being one-dimensional and suffers a similar fate to Olivia. There are points during the course of the film where Natalie is nowhere to be seen, but is somehow there for the important parts of the film. Maybe there’s more to the story we just don’t know yet, the filmmakers had to cut out a bunch of scenes so they could get an R rating.
This section, besides the effects, could be the only parts where I could compare it to the original film.
Both films have the basic premise of five characters going to a cabin in the woods. In the original, Ash, Linda, Scotty, Cheryl, and Shelly go to the cabin to have a good time that turns into bloodshed. This time around, David, Eric, Natalie and Olivia go to the cabin to support and help Mia with her drug addiction and quit it cold turkey, but ends up turning into bloodshed as well.
There is another part to compare in both films and that is the tree attack/rape scene. I want to start off by saying that rape is no joke, but I do understand why it’s in both films. To their defense, having that act in the film can make the film far more freighting for women than what is shown in your typical horror film. Sam Raimi has stated in the past that he regrets having that in the film because he got a lot of backlash towards that scene, not to mention that half the women that saw the film walked out after that scene took place. With the 2013 film, it wasn’t in the original draft, but later put back in by the request of Raimi. They tried topping what was shown in the original, but I feel ultimately that the original is by far harsher and longer than what was shown in the new one.
First and foremost, special effects are not the end all and be all of films that certain people claim that it is. The original Evil Dead had decent special effects for the time and budget that they had. It’s joked around by the filmmakers and fans alike about how bad the effects are, but I feel I’m one of the few who really appreciates what they were trying to accomplish, and they accomplished greatly. With the new film, it’s able to pull off its great practical effects (Very little CGI was used, which is a good thing!) that occur during the film thanks to the budget that combines the original trilogy’s budgets together. This is only aspect, I feel, that can be argued that improves on what the original did.
Another effect I want to talk about that has been a huge debate with some of my friends, is the eyes of the possessed. In the original, whenever anybody was possessed, their eyes would be completely white. In the new film, the eyes of the possessed are similar to the style of 1973’s The Exorcist. The way I see it, the completely white eyes are by far scarier than The Exorcist possessed eyes. By having their eyes completely white, that means, by a story standpoint, that there is no soul and humanity left. There is no way of getting them back, and they need to be dismembered. With the new one, as creepy as the eyes are, they don’t have the same effect on me.
2013’s Evil Dead, like its predecessors, is a very entertaining horror film. It’s a hard thing to pull off and this is thanks to new-comer director Fede Alvarez, who does an excellent job with the material. I hadn’t been entertained like that by a horror film since 2012’s The Cabin In The Woods. Even though I still prefer the original trilogy, by far, I thoroughly enjoyed the new entry of the Evil Dead series which I’m glad that I saw twice in theaters, so much so, that I’m really looking forward to when they release the uncut blu-ray of this to add it to my Evil Dead collection.
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
Never in my life thought I would see the day and see the title “Evil Dead” at my local theater.
I’m still gathering my thoughts on the film, but overall, as the die-hard fan that I am of this series and who’s been waving the flag for this series, all I can say is that I’m glad I went. People who have seen the originals should see this one too. My review/comparison of this will be out soon, I promise.