Remakes, specifically remakes of horror films, are nothing new to film goers. Since 2000 we have had remakes, reboots, translations and re-imaginings of (deep breath):
Fright Night, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Straw Dogs, The Thing, Let The Right One In, Prom Night, Black Christmas, The Ring, The Grudge, One Missed Call, The House on Sorority Row, Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Dawn of the Dead, The Hills Have Eyes, Salem’s Lot, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (TWICE), The Amityville Horror, Toolbox Murders, Dark Water, The Hitcher, The Omen, House of Wax, 2001 Maniacs, Carrie, Thi13en Ghosts, When A Strange Calls, Pulse, The Wicker Man, The Fog, War of the Worlds, I Spit on Your Grave, Mother’s Day, The Crazies, The Wolf Man, The Last House on the Left, My Bloody Valentine, The Uninvited, The Stepfather, Quarantine, The Eye, Day of the Dead, The Invasion, I Am Legend, Funny Games, When A Stranger Calls, Pulse, The Fog……………………
… The point is that there has been a lot of them. The list I just made isn’t exhaustive by any stretch and there is a long discussion to be had about why remakes take place, whether they’re justified and whether, at the end of the new product, they were worth it in the first place. I don’t want to have that discussion just now, talking in broad strokes and generalisations, no, instead I want to focus on the most recent – and arguably most sacred – remake that was released this week into British cinemas. The Evil Dead films found their way into the hearts of millions of British horror fans by being one of the first movies to be branded a video nasty. It, in fact, was described by Mary Whitehouse – a leader in attempting to censor free speech in the British media and generally not a lovely woman – as the “number one nasty”. It was the film that shot Sam Raimi – that guy who just directed the multi-million dollar budget Wizard of Oz prequel – into the spotlight and made Bruce Campbell a B-movie legend. The low budget, hands-on effects and pioneering camera work raises the 1982 classic way above many of it’s peers and keeps it relevant even today.
Now decisions have been made to do what many call the unthinkable and try to recapture the magic that a young Raimi put onto celluloid thirty-two years ago. I, unlike many people, am willing to listen to the justifications for remakes. I think, like song covers, different people can bring their own ideas and creative flare to something that already exists and I believe that advancements in technology can help realise ideas that were attempted before their time. Remakes in the horror genre are nearly as old as cinema itself. You only need to look towards the many, many, many versions of Dracula that have been published, allowing these characters to be updated, recreated and therefore exposed to new generations and fresh scares. With all of this in mind I hope to give five reasons to convince you why this new vision is something to be excited for, that you should want to see and that the Grosvenor is the perfect place for you to once again visit that dinky cabin in the woods.
1 – THE DIRECTOR WAS HAND PICKED BY SAM RAIMI
Fede Alvarez, do you know the name? Unlike most of the horror films released in the past five years you will not see over the credits for Evil Dead anything linked to Sinister, Paranormal Activity, Insidious or any of the other close-knit gang of horror distributors. The reason is because this film is being produced by Renaissance Pictures – a company founded by Raimi, Campbell and original Evil Dead producer Rod Tapert. This is not some new bosses searching through the IPs that they own for a new cash cow to milk. It is the original creators investing in it both financially and creatively. A fourth Evil Dead film has been talked about for a long time but, in 2009, Bruce Campbell stated that it was going nowhere. For Raimi then to see this young director with enough potential to hand over his treasured series truly says something. Alvarez was signed up after one of his short films – Ataque de Pánico – became a Youtube hit. This is Alvarez’s first feature length film and it feels like Raimi almost sees something of himself in the young Uruguayan. This decision is not one they’ve ran into. Army of Darkness was released in 1992 so if the original trio were simply wanting to make money from the franchise they could have easily brought in any director over the past twenty years. They did not do that and only passed the reigns when Raimi himself believed that the person to inherit Evil Dead was worthy of the responsibility that came with it.
2 – PRIMARILY PRACTICAL EFFECTS
When Raimi made the original Evil Dead he was on a shoe-string budget without the comfort of CGI so advanced you can create whole worlds from your bedroom. He relied on imagination, camera tricks and a whole lot of Karo syrup and red food colouring. Many horror films have traded in the hands-on style older directors were forced to partake in, preferring to edit in blood sprays later on and perform all sorts of clever green screen tricks to make supernatural events occur. Evil Dead has not done that. Alvarez, in a number of interviews, has said that he feels like practical effects bring out a better performance in the actors. It puts them in the moment and allows them to properly react to what is going on round about them. Practical effects, in many cases, also age far better than CGI does. Carpenter’s The Thing still looks incredible and this looks like it’s going to have some brilliant moments to horrify the viewers. The fact that the director has gone down the more difficult route and against the grain of what most film makers are doing just now only reiterates that this film is being treated with care and respect.
3 – THE 18 CERTIFICATE
Sam Raimi, when setting out to make the original Evil Dead, was advised that the secret to a successful horror film was to keep the blood running down the screen. He used a lot of gore in the original and I think one of the earliest signs with this remake that things were going to be special was the announcement it was aiming for an 18 rating. The rise of the 12A rating in Hollywood has led to many rightfully 15/18 films cut and edited until it is a shell of it’s former self in the name of bigger profits (never better seen than between the 18 rated Taken followed by the 12A Taken 2) so to see this film stand up in defiance and wear it’s (bleeding) heart on its sleeve is brilliant. A massive part of the marketing has relied on the gore-factor and we are practically guaranteed that the film is going to meet and exceed expectations. Will there be a shot, like in the original, when blood literally runs down the lens of the camera? It’s definitely an image to look out for.
Still not convinced? Seriously? Go look at that amazing tongue split again!
4 – NO ASH
Bruce Campbell made his name and secured his legacy with the original Evil Dead trilogy. He won the hearts of millions and created one of horrors most iconic heroes in the shape of Ashley “Ash” J. Williams. So why am I listing the lack of one of the key ingredients in the original success as a reason you should be excited to see this movie? The decision to distance themselves from Ash, and Campbell’s performance specifically, by having a female lead (Jane Levy playing Mia) shows an appreciation and respect for the original films that many remakes have ignored. There is no way to replicate the charisma that Bruce Campbell brought to the part and anybody who found themselves in the part of Ash would only be doing their best impression. Viewers would be watching and scrutinising and nobody, not the paying customers or the studio, want that to be the focus of the film. Instead there is a new lead character so there is no need to draw direct comparisons.
5 – THIS ISN’T A REMAKE
Evil Dead had it’s premier screening at the South by Southwest festival earlier this year and the next day Raimi and Alvarez announced that they had plans to fully canonise both this film and sequels still to come. They announced that an Evil Dead 2 is in the works and Raimi will be helming an Army of Darkness 2 before a seventh and final film which will bring the two universes together. This is an exciting prospect and shows that there is a plan behind this new release that goes further than just money. The team are working hard together to flesh out the world that so many film fans love dearly and none of them want to disappoint. Although there are similarities between the 2013 and 1981 version, Alvarez has hinted that there may be reasons for this beyond simple plagiarism which will hopefully be contextualised either through the new one or the sequels that follow.
I am excited for this new part in the Evil Dead franchise. I think it’s being made from the right place, by the right people and is being treated with care and respect from every angle. From the outside it seems perfect and hopefully the film can live up to the high expectations that comes with the title. Make sure to check it out at the Grosvenor cinema this week – especially because it was there that the original Evil Dead had it’s European premiere. The cinema is a big part of Evil Dead history so what better way to celebrate this new release than by visiting so you can in 31 years when it’s being remade again say that you were there.
No matter what the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis warns you against, you are going to want to keep going, keep watching, and keep scaring yourself. You tell yourself you’re not going to do it to yourself this time, you know better, and yet you just can’t resist.
To wind us up, I’m leaving you with a video made by local Glasgow artist and film buff Ashton Lamont; his own tribute to Raimi’s original. I hope you enjoy it before going out to watch the new film.
Book your tickets for Evil Dead at the Grosvenor Cinema here.
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If you enjoyed Ash’s video you can find more of his work at:
areaoftheunwell.blogspot.co.uk – for more film related stuff
ashsarthole.blogspot.co.uk – for his art