The Evil Dead remake is tough to compare with the original film because it is a very different movie—even a very different kind of movie—despite having the original creators involved. It’s also not a true remake as it does not tell the same story but is instead about a new group of people who come to the cabin and share many similar (and some entirely new) experiences. In fact, there are plenty of clues in the movie that it could easily serve within the continuity of the original film. So the remake is still more of a soft reboot, but it is close enough to the story of the original to draw comparisons—much like Evil Dead II, actually.
THE EVIL DEAD (1981)-
The Evil Dead is an amazing experiment in low-budget filmmaking. It accomplished so much with so little. With no budget, they relied on innovative filmmaking techniques, pushing the envelope, and telling an original and scary story. It set out to do all of these things and it did, and that’s why it is remembered as a classic. The core cast is simple and they’re the only characters in the movie, so we get to spend plenty of time with them.
Ash is our lead character and we don’t get to know too much about him at first (and even still his personality comes through a lot more in both sequels) nor really any of the characters except Ash’s perpetually nervous sister, Cheryl.
They get to the cabin, which apparently is just a place that they heard was currently abandoned. They don’t even know who owns it. But they make the most of it and the place certainly could have been in worse shape than they found it in.
Things start getting weird fairly quickly. Cheryl knows that things are wrong from the get-go, even when she subconsciously draws a book that they later find in the fruit cellar and screams for them to turn off a tape recorder that recites ancient passages from said book. When she tries to escape the cabin, she is attacked by the trees themselves.
From that point on, everything is absolute insanity. It’s gory, it’s nasty, it’s scary, it’s fun. One by one, Ash’s friends are possessed by the ancient evil within the woods and he is forced to dispose of each of them. The level of gore is insane, large enough to scare and unnerve the audience but also so over-the-top that they can have fun with it.
When Ash emerges from the cabin in the morning, we’re happy that he made it through everything he made it through, all of the horror, because it is really presented as a ride for the audience. Once you’ve made it through, you’re almost tempted to cheer. We’re not thinking about the emotional torment as much, or thinking about everything he’s lost. It’s happy and almost hopeful—right up until the last second.
EVIL DEAD (2013)-
Right off the bat, there’s one standout issue with the latest incarnation of Evil Dead and that’s the way that the gore is handled. Like the original, this is incredibly violent. Bu the gore is different now, there’s no slapstick element to it. It’s meant to be disturbing and gag-inducing and that prevents the audience from having the same kind of fun with it that they had with the original.
The characterization is better here though, at least for the protagonist, Mia. They’ve returned to the cabin to help Mia kick her addiction and they won’t leave until she’s gone through her withdrawals and has kicked her addiction. She just lost her mother to cancer and during that time barely saw her brother at all. As far as she’s concerned, he abandoned both her and their mother. He’s here to show her that she can count on him and the brother/sister relationship becomes the core of the story.
This is a much more professional looking movie, but it actually has that going against it when compared to the original film. It is, in many ways, too clean. But on its own, it’s very well put together. It’s a beautiful looking film. It’s not nearly as amateurish, but there are a lot of appreciated visual throwbacks to the first movie.
The possession comes on slower than the original, but once Mia is possessed (like Cheryl in the original) the pace quickens and never lets up. The demons dish out the same emotional torment as the demons in the original film, which is good to see. And it is a brilliant twist on the original movie to take the first film’s iconic image of the possessed girl in the cellar and turn her into the film’s protagonist. While these are new characters, they do match up with characters in the first film and to take the character standing in for Ash and kill him off is an extremely bold move. But as it happens, it was one of the best things that this remake did.
The ending is also smartly handled, when Mia overcomes her possession and takes over as the protagonist. The demon takes a human form and it is essentially a demonic version of Mia herself. And this is smart given the context of the film. Like the original film, the demonic force does not have a form of its own so it appears to choose what Mia is mot afraid of—that being herself. Given that she came out here to overcome her addiction, her battle has been with herself all along. She’s literally overcoming her demons. It’s a little more thoughtful, but it still packs the visceral punch that horror fans crave. Nonetheless, it ends on a little more somber note than the first and you can actually find yourself thinking about all that she’s lost, so in some ways the thrill ride and adrenaline rush of the original is gone.