Film Face-off: 'The Evil Dead' (1981) vs. 'Evil Dead' (2013)

Film Face-off: 'The Evil Dead' (1981) vs. 'Evil Dead' (2013)

Apr 08, 2013

It's our first ever Film Face-off with an original versus a remake. The teacher is now the student, or the pupil is the master, or something like that. Before we find out who is the most evilerist, I should fully explain my relationship to these films. Before this rewatching, I hadn't seen The Evil Dead since high school. The only thing I truly remember from that viewing was Bruce Campbell and constantly waiting for him to put a chainsaw on his arm. I was aware of the franchise, having recently seen Army of Darkness and understanding it was "cool" to like these films. I didn't have an older brother showing me the way, and I didn't start working at a local video store until the following year (kids, go ask your parents to define "local video store" if you're currently confused).

I fully admit to remembering that I was a little disappointed with the entire franchise. With a tagline like "the most terrifying film you will ever experience," I got a little nervous about its remake, Evil Dead. Horror movies "work" on me, which means I easily get nervous, and can't fully figure out if I like the experience or not. I decided writing this article would be a way for me to view the films and distance myself from the scares. That's right, this is buffer writing. Since the plot is almost exactly the same -- "five friends go to a cabin in the woods, where they unknowingly release demons" -- we're going to break this up into three categories: cast, gore, scares. Let the eviler, deadlier film win.

Cast

 

The Evil Dead (1981)

Bruce CampbellEllen SandweissRichard DeManincorBetsy Baker and Theresa Tilly are our first five. While you all know who Campbell is, that doesn't mean he's well-known. Trust me, my wife has no clue who he is. As for the others, they haven't done anything as big as be a part of this film franchise. Raimi remembers them though, all three ladies are credited in Oz the Great and Powerful as Quadling Women.

Evil Dead (2013)

Jane LevyShiloh FernandezLou Taylor PucciJessica Lucas and Elizabeth Blackmore are our faithful five this time around. It would be very impressive if you could name five projects they've done besides this film. Unless you're familiar with TV shows like Legend of the Seeker and Suburgatory or see every movie, and remember every face, this cast is new to you.

Winner: The Evil Dead (1981)

It doesn't matter what the cast of Evil Dead amounts to with their careers. There will never be another Bruce Campbell (and yes I'm forgiving the unibrow he's sporting in this film). It's more likely that Levy would go on to become the next Julia Roberts and Fernandez the future George Clooney than either of them to have the career of Campbell. Every success Campbell has had is a cult hit at best. The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. wasn't supposed to only last 27 episodes, but that's the curse and glory of Campbell. Even when he's in blockbusters like Spider-Man and Oz the Great and Powerful it's because Raimi gave him a cameo that some of us enjoy. Based on any acting chops I saw in Evil Dead my money would be on Levy and Pucci being around the longest.

Scares

 

The Evil Dead (1981)

The opening scene is camp, right? It definitely thinks it's a comedy for awhile, like referring to the bridge as "solid as a rock," as it crumbles apart. It reeks of a student-film vibe for a while, and the word "hokey" could easily be used. For some of you, that's the glory that is The Evil Dead. It's like it's making fun of The Cabin in the Woods, which I realize is impossible. Rami's direction and the musical score overtakes potential scary moments like a cellar door popping open. Demon POV is cool, but not scary. The two scariest moments were Scott searching for Shelly and then Linda, after she's possessed, acting like a little girl in clown makeup saying, "We're going to get you."

Evil Dead (2013)

The beginning of Evil Dead doesn't scare, but it does provide just a hint of the extremes to come. The jolting moments come with a car crashing in the water, reflections from a TV screen, walking on old steps and arm grabbing, lots of arm grabbing. You've seen many of the other moments in countless horror films like demon eyes, or things crawling out of the ground. The biggest scare of the film for me was Mia and David sitting next to each other on a bed. Doesn't sound like much, right? It's one of the few moments where you don't know if someone is possessed. David walks in to his sister's room, and I was ready to look away.

Winner: Evil Dead (2013)

This is closer than you think because neither film really dives deep into the scares. How do you best define "scary movie" besides using adjetives like "creepy"? If I'm nervous to walk around in my dark house after watching the film, it's scary. That's my definition. This definitely isn't the case with either Dead. The reason for the remake winning is because the mood of the film provides for the possibility for scares better, plain and simple.

Gore

 

The Evil Dead (1981)

The gore in The Evil Dead is the reason it has lived on, the reason it could even consider a remake. Tree rape is... funny? That's the only uncomfortable moment in the first 37 minutes of the film. Don't remember what happens after that? We get a pencil in the ankle. It's gross and also the kickoff for things to come. After that Scott gets finger-nailed, there's burning flesh, chewing a wrist off and subsequent spewing of white gunk. It doesn't end there: we also have fun with an ax, bones sticking out of Scott, eye gouging, and blood--more blood than you can imagine. The goriest? A possessed Linda claws at Ash's ankle.

Evil Dead (2013)

Oh good, more tree rape. Sorry if you feel I spoiled that for you... wait, let me check, no I'm not. It's clearly thrown in as a nod to the first film, but feels much more forced than the Michigan State sweatshirt that also appears. The beginning starts with dead cats, burning flesh and a shotgun--sorry, I mean boomstick. That's nothing, I repeat, nothing compared to where we eventually end up. Arms fall off, people are stabbed with needles, tendons are torn, skulls are cracked, there is black goo and even more blood than the blood you couldn't imagine in the first film. The goriest? For me it was the first big moment in a bathroom with broken glass. After that you're slightly desensitized until a classic tool is found in the shed.

Winner: Evil Dead (2013)

I applaud the efforts of the original with not using any CGI. Oh, CGI didn't exist back then--well, I still give them some points. The Evil Dead made me cringe. Evil Dead made me squirm and cackle. Yes, I laughed at the insanity. You have to otherwise you have to start to think about all of the horrific images you are adding to your history of thoughts, and exactly why you are doing it. Evil Dead had to be gorier to justify a remake, and it succeeded.

OVERALL WINNER

Evil Dead (2013)

The student beat the master. Wait, I can do better than that. The student pulled out the master's tongue and then cut his legs off with only a nail file, which is one of the few things you don't see in Evil Dead. The Evil Dead is about noticing Raimi's technique and how he improved upon his craft with Evil Dead 2, Spider-Man 2 and Drag Me to Hell. The plot and character decisions are a little rough in the original. One example would be Cheryl's willingness to leave all of her friends behind after she knows something is out there. Also, if it is a joke that Ash gets knocked into shelving units and can't get up, you need to sell it better. Evil Dead attempts to explain its story a little better, and most importantly they have a reason to stay in the house (kicking an addiction). Far too often horror movies don't give a good explanation why people stick around. For me, neither is a classic that must be honored until the end of time. Evil Dead wins where it counts, in the gut, a very bloody gut.

Categories: Features, Geek, Horror, In Theaters
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