The Evil Dead: a 34 year review
Before we walk through the woods and enter the cabin, I’d like to take a moment and recognize Sam Raimi. Today is his birthday. Born this day in 1959, Sam has held a distinguished career. He’s directed numerous horror pictures adored by many twisted people and non-twisted people alike, worldwide. He’s got a fan base reaching from the dark Necronomicon fueled world of Evil Dead (1981) all the way past Darkman (1990) into the comic book world of Spider-man (which is still considered by many as the best film adaption to date). He’s even directed a little known western called, The Quick and the Dead (1995). He’s dabbled in television, and I’m not just talking about the highly anticipated return of everyone’s favorite chainsaw welding sassy hero in Ash Vs. The Evil Dead (2015), but also the short lived 90s shows, M.A.N.T.I.S and Legend of the Seeker. And he has also produced some amazing and totally underrated horror flicks, including both 30 Days of Night (2007) and The Possession (2012). And this is just a tip of the iceberg. Sam Raimi, in my humble opinion, is an amazing storyteller, not without his faults. His vision has a unique blend of terror and comedy that is often precarious to mix. Many couldn’t quite jive with his return to form with Drag Me to Hell (2009) with its strange formula of laughs and jolts of absolute fear…well, all but the true die hard fans. I actually loved Drag Me to Hell. It was wonderfully sadistic! In celebrating the macabre directors birthday, I thought it was high-time I reviewed his most legendary and longest lasting cult film, The Evil Dead (1981).
Longest lasting cult classic…? What does even mean? More to point, longest lasting, as in a franchise property in which is still being watched, talked about, and continued, to date. Sam’s Spider-man days are over. There are no more westerns. No more trips to hell. No more over the top 90s television action. No more blown apart scientists with one heck of an anger management problem. His one true lasting cult creation, is Ash and those demon bastards in The Evil Dead. I’m sure you’re thinking, “What a sec? Wasn’t there a remake of Evil Dead?” And though this as nothing to do with our discussion, I do have this to say, there was and there wasn’t. Confused? Good!
We can debate this all day long, and I’ve been in a few conversations on social media about this subject, but in my opinion, Evil Dead (2013) was not a remake or reboot. It was simply another “cabin in the woods, kids find Necronomicon” movie. The 2013 misadventure kept to the familiar themes of the original while maintaining its own story arch and more gritty vibe. To me, that spells continuity, the continuation of the “Evil Dead” mythology through a new cast of characters. Hell, it was even rumored (and still is) that Ash will team up with Mia in some future (probably never going to happen) film. How could they team up if Mia’s story was a reboot of the original? They couldn’t, simple enough. Thus, Evil Dead (2013) was not a reboot of The Evil Dead (1981). It would be easier to argue The Evil Dead 2 as a reboot of the first film then it would the 2013 film. Just saying…stop arguing with me!!!
Again…I’m getting really far off topic here. Can we talk about just The Evil Dead (1981) for a moment?
The Evil Dead first released to theaters in October 1981. It was a low budget film with a no name cast of teenaged-twenty-somethings, shot on 16mm film in the woods of Tennessee for around $350,000. Though not the first “cabin in the woods” horror movie, you could probably give that credit to either Equinox (1970) or The Red House (1947), but you could make a strong argument that The Evil Dead solidified “the cabin” as a pop trope in horror stories. The plot is easy to follow. A group of friends head out to a lonely cabin in the woods for a little R&R. The place is dilapidated, albeit cozy. Its a celebration of friendship and perhaps even a little romance, despite the third wheel. But there’s a eerie presence in the cabin. Strange sounds in the cellar. The boys investigate and discover a nasty looking book and a tape recorder, among other things (including a poster of The Hills Have Eyes on the wall). They play the recording and the archaeologist on the tape recites some of the words he’d translated from the Necronomicon. His incantation awakens something dark and demonic in the forest surrounding the cabin. One by one, Ash (Bruce Campbell) watches his friends get possessed. Before daybreak, he must find a way to survive…or meet the same fate as his friends.
The Evil Dead captures, for me, the potential for horror. I’m talking more in film probably then storytelling, though in storytelling itself you cannot find a more perfect and basic trope to work with than the “cabin in the woods.” As for film, though, The Evil Dead demonstrates the power of low-budget horror with a list of no-name actors but over-the-top effects. I guess today we’d call these indie films, or independent to be frank. Horror, in its long life, seems to have thrived better as independent and low-budgeted. Directors and cast members and producers have to rely on cost effective means, focusing on mood and tension, and maximizing production budgets as much as humanly, sanely possible. And when it comes to horror, such as this film, at a glance they’d need to used more of the budget on practical effects than anything else. The effects for me are what count. Good storytelling, that’s a given. But you’re trying to sale me on horror, you gotta bring the practical gore.
Some might say the effects in The Evil Dead look cheesy, and maybe some parts do nowadays. But in my book, given the budget restraints, The Evil Dead looked and still looks amazingly graphic. Shaky steady-cam and all the buckets of blood. A fantastic wonderland of dark imagery and terror and perhaps even a little humor.
The story isn’t complicated and that’s a good thing. It is friendship and love pitted against the fear of the unknown, the evil taking possession of those closest to us. Not every horror story needs to have some complex AHS plot. Add the practical gore with the simple story, and that’ll give you one hell of an entertaining need to watch movie.
My Rating: 5/5
The New Evil Dead
What? You thought you were going to get away without having me say something about the upcoming DVD, Blu-ray release of Evil Dead (laughs hysterically!)? The most surprising thing for me right now is how its only been about three months since this “new” take on Sam Raimi’s masterpiece was released to theaters. A quick turn around considering the movie is more than likely still showing somewhere. But i’m not complaining. The moment news broke that Evil Dead was going to be released in July, my jaw hit the floor in greedy anticipation. Back in April, and leading up to the theatrical debut, there was a lot of doubt whether the film would disgrace the good work Sam and Bruce had done way back in the 80’s. However, after the red band trailer hit the airways, a lot of doubt was cast aside. Thomas‘ worldwide through in the towel and became true believers, watching the trailer over and over with morbid curiosity. To be honest, the trailer freaked me out, and because there is something fundamentally wrong with me, I became instantly hooked. I needed to see this movie.
If you missed Evil Dead in theaters and are waiting beggarly for Tuesday to finally come around, no worries, i’m not planning on spoiling anything for you. But I will say, the casting was great (lesser known’s could have only pulled this off. Casting an already “famous” person would have been too distracting). The story and script were sound, keeping to the original in spirit, but adding a deeper level of struggle and conflict. And the gore, still so true to Raimi’s unique and unusual tastes. Above everything else, Evil Dead proved to countless horror nerds that reboots can be done correctly and respectfully, keeping as much to the original as possible, whilst also taking it deeper and adding different twists and turns for a newer audience. Back in April, after the credits rolled, in my lounged theater seat, I pondered over which Evil Dead was best. Let me be the first honest fanboy and say out loud that the remake is, in my humble opinion, (slightly) better than the 1981 original. I know, I know, how can I say such a thing? Well, its true. The original is indeed a masterpiece, for its generation. Considering its been over thirty years, this reimagining, against all odds, took Sam’s vision and added to it, sticking to the lower budget feel, but jiving it up for a newer audience. Now, remember, i’m only talking about the 81′ Evil Dead, not the famous chainsaw induced, limb removing sequel, Evil Dead II. Groovy? Okay, moving on.
Here’s a list of special features that will be included in either/or both DVD, Blu-ray release:
- Commentary featuring stars Jane Levy, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Director Fede Alvarez and writer Rodo Sayagues (Blu-ray exclusive)
- “Making Life Difficult” – The Intense and Physically Exhausting Creation of the Film
- “Being Mia” – The Physical and Psychological Transformation into “Evil Mia”
- “Directing The Dead” – Director Fede Alvarez re-imagines a cult horror classic
- “Unleashing The Evil Force” – Exploring the origins and design of the new Book of the Dead (Blu-ray exclusive)
- “Evil Dead the Reboot” – Cast Rehearsals, Bruce Campbell, Deadites and more! (Blu-ray exclusive)
If your asking yourself, “What? That’s it? No ‘Directors Uncut’ version?” Than you and I are on the same page! Yup, looks like this “first” release is just going to be the film and a couple of extras. And I say, “first” release because we all know these guys are going to double dip and release another version sometime down the road. My bet, some time around October. Does this make me instantly hate them? Am I now going to refuse the release and boycott all sales? Nope, not in the slightest. I’m just going to sneer and complain while at the same time purchasing my DVD copy; the Blu-ray can wait till something “uncut” comes out. Yeah, whatever, you know you’ll be doing the same thing!
If you somehow missed all the hype and haven’t bothered to watch the red band trailer, here it is below:
If you’ve seen the trailer and the movie and want to check out what the meager extra features will be, check out this short video below:
Evil Dead (2013) is set to release July 16th, 2013.