With the remake of The Evil Dead on the horizon, now seems as good of a time as any to talk about one of the best franchises that horror film has to offer.
Fans have been clamoring for years for a fourth installment to the Evil Dead franchise, the last film of which premiered just over a decade ago. Instead of getting another sequel featuring Ash (played by the B-Movie king Bruce Campbell) hacking through monsters with his chainsaw hand while spewing one-liners, fans are instead going to be treated to a remake of the underrated first film of the series. Fans seem to be split between disappointment (an Ash-less Evil Dead film being the main cause) and excitement.
The oddest thing about the Evil Dead franchise (I guess I can’t call it a trilogy anymore?) is it’s inconsistency of tone. In the first film, five friends head to a cabin deep in the woods where they awaken an ancient evil. What follows is a series of gruesome moments: a book bound in human skin is found in the basement, a woman is raped by trees which cause her to be a host to some sort of demon, possessed individuals are disposed of by bodily dismemberment, Bruce Campbell is thrown into every bookshelf in the cabin, and ending it all is a disgustingly beautiful stop-motion scene of decay. Despite the hilarity to be found in some of the movie’s situations (seriously, he is thrown into every bookshelf) the tone is pure horror; the tree rape is still high in my list of most disturbing movie scenes.
Then comes the sequel, which isn’t even as much a sequel as it is a reboot. I have to admit to some head scratching as a kid, the first time I watched this one. Here the film opens with Ash, driving to the cabin with Linda (who doesn’t make it through the first one). What follows is a ten minute rehash of the first film, with a cast of two instead of five. It’s also apparent from the beginning that the tone has taken a severe shift. This isn’t a horror film, it’s a comedy horror and while this is not a bad thing, I was off put the first time I watched it, as I was expecting terror instead of laughs. Although the film contains a few creepy moments, and will make you jump once or twice, it’s not really scary at all. The possessed are goofy, and laughable, instead of vulgar and disgusting as in the first film. Instead of possessed being dismembered while spewing blood and some sort of milky substance, Evil Dead 2 has Ash doing battle with his own hand, and laughing deer heads. This tone continues into Army of Darkness, which also works as a direct sequel. The highlight of the two later films is Bruce Campbell’s portrayal as Ash. In the first film he was bland, but it seems he was reworked to be a badass, chainsaw-wielding king of one-liners. He truly is a riot to watch, and without him I don’t think the latter films would have found much success at all, and success they have found, as they remain the more popular films in the series.
So what can be expected of the new entry into the franchise? From the teaser it is very clear that this one will not offer many laughs. Don’t expect to see Ash fighting some of his usual enemies like his possessed hand, or mini versions of himself. As a matter of fact, don’t expect to see Ash at all. The entire group seems to have been re-worked, and now features a female in the lead. The lack of Ash seems to be the main source of disappointment for fans, all of whom have hungered years for his return. Others (myself included) are looking forward to the film revisiting its grisly horror roots.
Although I love all of the films, I’ve always held a fondness for the first, and while it might seem blasphemous to Evil Dead fans everywhere, I’d even go as far to say the first was my favorite. As much as I love horror comedies, sometimes I just prefer my horror to simply be horror. I want to be frightened. I want to be disturbed. I want to have trouble sleeping the night after I watch the movie. Watching the first film left me glad I wasn’t going on a weekend getaway to the woods, while the latter films left me with a head full of fun quotes.
So with the redband teaser now online, fans can get their first taste of what it’s going to be like. Expect to see another tree rape scene, and although the glimpse of it we are shown is tiny, I have a feeling it’s going to be even more disturbing this time around. The setting looks nearly identical to the original film. As for as the possessed, they look even more disturbing. It seems someone thought it was a good idea to add masochism to the mix, and as many times as I’ve watched the teaser, my gut still clenches with the final shot of the girl sawing her tongue in half with the razor blade. A copious amount of gore is definitely a requirement that is being fulfilled.
So what’s the final verdict? Horror remakes are typically pretty awful, although over the years a few have managed to be good, and a few have even been better than the original (The Thing, The Fly, Invasion of the Body Snatchers). When I first heard of the remake I just kind of shook my head, and muttered something to the effect of “why don’t you just leave good films alone?” My trepidation decreased when I heard that Raimi and Campbell were signed on as producers. The two of them being involved seemed like a sort of safety net for the film. With the redband teaser now released, I now feel actual excitement. As much as I’d love to see Ash return and do his thing, it’s great to see the remake honoring the first film, which always seemed sort of “left behind”. And as long as a chainsaw and the necronomicon are both involved, it can’t be bad.
So what are your thoughts on the Evil Dead remake? Are you excited, disappointed, or a mixture of both? Comment below!