Long before Sam Raimi was directing web slingers and mad multiverses, he had made a name for himself in horror. His Evil Dead trilogy proved to be the perfect blend of scary and funny, as many of the laughs came from just how over the top the violence and gore was. It remains the quintessential “cabin in the woods” horror film.
And as rumors speculated for years about a possible fourth entry, it wouldn’t be until 2013 (19 years after Army of Darkness) that Evil Dead was brought back to the big screen, albeit in a reboot sense. While Sam Raimi maintains that this film remains part of the original continuity (as well as the continuity of Ash vs. Evil Dead which premiered in 2015), it very much works as a standalone.
So in honor of its 10th anniversary, and with Evil Dead Rise about to serve as another “reboot” of sorts, we wanted to take a look back at 2013’s Evil Dead, and how it managed to make this franchise scary again.
Remaking a Classic
Initially, Bruce Campbell was very much against the idea of any remake, especially one in which his character of Ash Williams would be recast. He eventually agreed when he was told that the character simply wouldn’t be featured (more on that later). It has the same basic setup of the original, but adds a layer of drama.
Mia (Jane Levy) is trying to kick her drug habit once and for all, so her weekend stay in the cabin is a way for her to quit cold turkey, surrounded by her friends and brother who will keep her there and keep her from using. As one of her more idiotic friends reads from the Necronomicon (despite several warnings written on the book not to), Mia begins to see things and become taken over.
The addiction subplot works to the film’s favor here, in the sense that Mia is going through withdrawal already, thus her acting strange or “seeing” things is disregarded by her friends as just a symptom of that. It also makes for a much stronger character arc if Mia begins at rock bottom but finds the will to live and becomes a badass final girl.
Granted, it follows many of the same beats from the original Evil Dead, down to certain scenes being replicated entirely. And given its post credit scene, it does seem strange that a movie that technically follows the original would just do the original again. To be fair, that’s largely what Evil Dead II did. Ultimately though, this version’s strong point isn’t what it does with the story, it’s what it does with the tone and style.
Movie You’re Not Supposed to See
At least that’s how director Fede Alvarez described it when he first pitched the project. His goal was to create something that felt very gritty, dirty, and underground, and he very much succeeded at that. From the film’s brutal opening scene showing a father burning his daughter alive to save her soul from the deadites, to the 70,000 gallons of fake blood used (compared to the 300 in the original).
Part of the charm of the original trilogy (especially the latter two movies) was the sense of humor from how over the top everything was. It was absurd to the point that it made you laugh after jump scaring you. Fede Alvarez wanted to take that same basic premise, but portray it in much more disturbing tone that matches the subject matter.
2013’s Evil Dead is bleak, brutal, nasty, and completely unrelenting. In a strange way, it feels like it would have fit better 5-10 years earlier during the era of “torture porn”. Not to say that there isn’t more to it than that, but it definitely has the same vibe. Fans were largely mixed on it. Some missed the sense of humor and groovy personality that was Ash, while others liked seeing a unique approach to the material, even if the plot itself wasn’t very unique.
It takes itself far more seriously than any other film in the franchise, but ultimately it works because it mercilessly assaults your senses when you watch it. It hearkens back to its grindhouse origins and delivers on the gleefully gruesome symphony of sadism. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel for the series, but it gives the wheel a makeover.
Lost in the Franchise
Originally, the plan was to follow this movie up with “Army of Darkness 2” and see Mia and Ash team up for a crossover sequel that brought the whole series together again. Unfortunately, this idea fell through. However, the project would eventually become Ash vs. Evil Dead, so the fans still made out alright in the end.
And as far as a direct sequel goes to the 2013 film, that’s largely been shelved in favor of the upcoming Evil Dead Rise. Based on the trailers, it appears to be a complete reboot with even fewer ties to the original than the 2013 iteration. So it leaves this movie in a strange place where it sort of acts as a standalone, but is technically still part of the larger continuity.
Overall, Evil Dead (2013) is a solid remake that understood the assignment in regards to standing out from the original and being different. In a series that was largely comedic, it managed to use the same material but be creepy and disturbing. And even if it’s never referenced again as the franchise moves in other directions, we’ll always have it to enjoy!
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What do you think of the 2013 remake of Evil Dead? How do you think it will compare to Evil Dead Rise? Let us know in the comments!