Why the Evil Dead Remake Isn’t As Good As the Original

Martyn Conterio

Two kinds of director produce remakes: eager-to-please first-timers or iconoclasts that don’t give a damn and see something in the material to say afresh.

Remakes aren’t inherently crap, but a lot of the modern-day horror ones are utterly cynical vehicles based on a ‘brand’ name and ability to abuse it. Because flogging remake rights is big business.

Brave/Fearless/Mad (you decide) Fede Alvarez has gone and produced a rehash of Sam Raimi’s iconic shocker The Evil Dead. Here are five solid gold reasons why the original will always rule.

1. Ash.

This seems the most obvious one, so it’ll go first. There’s no Ash character in Alvarez’s redo. We do get a hot junkie hero named Mia (Jane Levy). But it’s just not the same deal.

Bruce Campbell as lantern-jawed survivor-turned-hero Ashley J. Williams is pretty much adored by ‘the fans’. The one-liners and overt slapstick didn’t arrive until the later movies, but he’s still our boy. At the beginning of The Evil Dead, any of the young – and unknown – cast could have been Final Boy/Girl. That’s a mark of how well the film works. Who will live? Who will be dead come dawn? Ash made it out alive and became a legend.

2. The original is scarier.

You’ve got to admire the chutzpah of the new Evil Dead to have emblazoned on its poster: “The most terrifying film you’ll ever experience”. Only it isn’t. Sure, it’s gore galore. But terrifying? Yeah, maybe, if you’re a big girl’s blouse and want your friends to make fun of you for the rest of your life. There isn’t a single true fright in the entire movie. The Evil Dead, by comparison, ratchets up the fear factor with aplomb and 32 years on, and after repeated viewing, still produces an acute sense of dread and creepiness. For all the gruesome mutilation in the remake, nothing tops Linda (Betsy Baker) getting a pencil jammed into her ankle. 

3. Joel Coen acted as Assistant Film Editor.

Not many low budget flicks come with Joel Coen as an assistant editor. He did work on a film titled Fear No Evil (1981), but who remembers that one? Campbell once quipped that Joel’s responsibility was primarily to fetch him and Raimi their coffee. So inspired by his time with the duo, he got together with his bro Ethan and together made their own instant classic, Blood Simple. (1984).

4. No lame references to other movies.

Alvarez’s ‘requel’, to use the term he coined to describe his flick, is packed to the rafters with explicit references to the original. Which is dead boring, let’s face it. Oh look everybody, there’s a character playing with a deck of cards. Mia has a necklace just like Linda’s. Look out for a guest appearance from Raimi’s beloved car (an Oldsmobile Delta 88). It’s all terribly dull. Not only that, Alvarez takes the iconic opener from Mario Bava’s Black Sunday (above) and pays homage to that too.

The Evil Dead used reference points cleverly. The book that unleashes the demons is based on H.P. Lovecraft’s invention, the infamous Necronomicon, found originally in his short story ‘The Hound’ (1924). The slapstick elements, given a splatter makeover, were inspired by the filmmaker’s love for The Three Stooges. Russell Crowe once called Raimi, whom he worked with on The Quick and the Dead (1995), ‘the fourth Stooge’. Is that an insult or praise? You decide.

5. The original was properly controversial.

The UK played a major part in spreading the word about The Evil Dead. During the Video Nasties scare, the film became, effectively, the poster child for all that was wrong with horror cinema in the eyes of, well, people that hated horror movies. Mary Whitehouse led the Panic Brigade and decided the low budget shocker needed to be sent back to Hell. It was all rather bizarre when you place it next to titles like Cannibal Holocaust (1980) and SS Experiment Love Camp (1976). The film – which does contain a notorious raped-by-tree scene – was only released uncut in 2001. Of course this cause célèbre helped Raimi’s burgeoning career no end. Fast forward to 2013, and he’s just released the Disney-backed Oz the Great and Powerful. Take that, haters!

Follow Martyn on Twitter: @Martyn_Conterio  

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