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‘Evil Dead’: Sorry, but the 2013 Remake Is the Best Film in the Franchise

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Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead films are iconic in the horror genre. The first film, released in 1981, took the “cabin in the woods” trope and turned it into an intense splatterfest which introduced us to Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell), a hero who would become as legendary as the 80s biggest villains, like Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and Freddy Krueger. Six years later came Evil Dead II, which served almost as a remake of the first film, but with the gore, scares, and jokes turned up to eleven. In 1993 came Army of Darkness, where Ash goes back to medieval times. It’s a premise that could have been a disaster if not put into the deft hands of Raimi and Campbell. As great and important as those films are, I’m just gonna say, consequences be damned…the 2013 reboot is even better.. RELATED: New ‘Evil Dead Rise’ Clips Turn Alyssa Sutherland Into a Deadite Monster. Image via TriStar Pictures. For twenty years the Evil Dead franchise sat silent. Throughout the 90s, there was talk of a potential Freddy vs Jason film (which finally happened in 2003), but there was also talk of pairing Ash up against a classic 80s slasher villain. It never came to be, however — nor did Raimi and Campbell push for a fourth film. For two decades the franchise just sat there, and when it did come back, it was in a way that most fans had dreaded. Evil Dead was going to get rebooted. Throughout the 2000s, so many horror classics got the reboot treatment, from Halloween, to A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Some were okay, some were bad, but none came close to their original. There was no reason rebooting Evil Dead should have worked either, especially since Raimi wouldn’t be directing, but served only as a producer. In fact, his replacement, Fede Álvarez, had never even made a feature film before. And then there was the biggest sin of all: neither Bruce Campbell nor his character of Ash would be back. How in the heck can you have an Evil Dead film without Bruce Campbell?!. On paper, it seemed like a disaster waiting to happen, but what Álvarez and company envisioned was a bold new take. Not everyone liked it because of how different it felt, but that’s the point. Evil Dead had already rebooted itself with the second film. There was no reason to do that again. To have Bruce Campbell in an Evil Dead film twenty years after the last, with a new director and a new cast, would have felt like a nostalgic cash grab. It happens often in horror now, but to decide to let your big hero rest and tell a different story took guts. Álvarez’s film didn’t want to look back at the past and try to relive past glory, which would have been impossible. The new Halloween films have showed us that. Jamie Lee Curtis might be a stellar actress, but no film in the latest trilogy holds a candle to the original 1978 film, and forty years from now, we won’t be talking much about them. Ash didn’t deserve that. Thankfully, we got three seasons of a wonderful Ash vs Evil Dead television series a few years later to give his character the proper goodbye he deserved. It was a fitting format for an extended story, where a movie’s limited time wouldn’t have been as impactful.. Image via Sony. Removing Ash wasn’t the only thing a new Evil Dead did. It also rips away the humor. There are a few jokes in the finished film, but it’s far from a comedy. Álvarez’s film aimed to be straight-up horror. It’s pure nightmare fuel, made to get under your skin and make you squirm and look away in terror. Many horror films use humor as a release valve. It’s a way to give audiences a break and to catch their breath. Álvarez’s vision does not do that, which is smart. Ash was a great comedic character. To take his sense of humor and give someone else his snappy one-liners would have felt like a cheap imitation, so Álvarez skips it. Instead, he shows us the frightening bits and makes us stare at them. There is no time to stop and relax while you wait for the rollercoaster to have the next big drop. This one grabs you, and once it kicks in, refuses to let you go.. The 2013 film is a bloodfest. Literally. As revealed by Blood-Disgusting at the time, the 2013 Evil Dead set the record for most fake blood used in a film. 70,000 gallons would end up being used, with 50,000 of it going just for one scene in the third act. It surpassed anything done in the original trilogy by far. While the film still sought to give hardcore fans what they wanted in gore, any film could shoot fake blood out of a hose. There had to be more to it than just blood. Thankfully, there is. The practical effects scenes are some of the most well done in horror history. There is no CGI here, outside of a fire scene. That dedication to showing the audience something real is what helps to make everything so scary. The original trilogy did that too, but some of those effects, such as the stop-motion dancing Linda in Evil Dead II, while being creepy, also doesn’t look real. The 2013 version tops everything that came before with its uber realistic looking mayhem. You don’t need any context to be scared when you see someone cut off their own arm with an electric knife, or watch someone else split their own tongue in two. You can giggle at stop-motion Linda, but there isn’t one bit of body horror in the 2013 that’s anything but fear- inducing.. It doesn’t get enough credit, but the Evil Dead reboot stands out from its brethren due to its outstanding score from Roque Baños. The scores from the original trilogy are great, but Baños give us something not only chilling, but big and bombastic. His score pounds so hard that it makes the film feel that much larger and more important. It takes any scene and makes it seem like the fate of the world is at stake.. Jane Levy Gave Horror Fans a Fascinating Take on the Modern Final Girl. Image via Sony. Gore, special effects, and a great score are all integral to creating a classic, but none of it matters if you don’t have characters and a story to make you care about all the blood and mayhem. That’s where this version really shines. We don’t have Bruce Campbell anymore, but instead the impossible task of creating a new hero for the modern age falls to Jane Levy, who was only 23 at the time. She was perfect casting straight out of the box simply for not being a well known star. At the time she was the star of the ABC series Suburgatory, but it wasn’t a highly popular one. In 2013, Levy had also only been in two other feature films. This mattered because when you looked at her, you didn’t see a big movie star whose presence would immediately take you out of the horror because your brain’s immediately telling you that everything you’re seeing is fake. Instead, when we look at Jane Levy here, we only see her character, and what a character it is.. Levy plays Mia Allen. She is a heroin addict, and in order to overcome it, her friends take her to a cabin in the woods to help her get through the withdrawal. We’re given an untraditional hero who we can’t easily get behind. She’s multi-layered and not just a stereotypical final girl from a horror movie. We can’t cheer for her and believe in her until she cheers for and believes in herself, and that’s going to take a while, because these people have picked the wrong cabin to stay at. Some horrible things have happened here and there just so happens to be an evil book in the cellar which should never be opened and read from.. Image via TriStar Pictures. Levy’s interaction with her brother, David (Shiloh Fernandez), is a masterclass in acting and storytelling. We see a brother and a sister who love each other, but a relationship that also has a lot of pain. It’s not always said in words either. A look of frustration from David or one of anger or shame from Mia says so much. There could be no demons at all, and you’d still have the ingredients for a powerful drama. We so badly want Mia to make it, which makes it that much more tragic when she becomes possessed. Levy’s portrayal of the demon is a stark difference from her human character. As the demon, she is terrifying to the max, from her look to the evil words that come out of her rotten mouth. The theme of addiction, of having a demon overtaking your body being like a drug overtaking your body, is a fascinating look at the flawed human condition. The original Evil Dead trilogy overwhelmingly succeeds at being fun. This movie does what the best horror films do and goes deep with a message to rattle your soul.. The 2013 film is bookended by two of the most “holy shit” scenes you’ll ever see in horror or anywhere else. In the beginning we see a girl possessed, the demon spitting filth at her father, as her father pours gasoline on his tied up child and sets her on fire. Right off the bat, you know you’re in store for something different. The ending sees David sacrificing himself for Mia. With her brother and friends all dead, Mia has nothing to fight for but herself, something which she has not been good at. She is forced to battle her evil doppelgänger, as if she’s battling addiction itself. In a wink to what came before with Ash’s weapon of choice, Mia finds a chainsaw and goes ballistic against her tormentor. She cuts off its legs and then jams the saw into the demon’s head. The blood flows by the thousands of gallons in what has to be the goriest death ever filmed. As the blood gushes, Mia rids herself of her demons, literally and figuratively. In blood and death, she is reborn.. The original trilogy is a good time, and will never fail to leave a smile on your face. The 2013 Evil Dead goes for more. It wants to be a truly horrific horror film that might make you smile at its brilliance, but leaves you chilled by the memory of its story. Evil Dead Rise is going to have a lot of work to do to top it.. Evil Dead Rise hits theaters on April 21 

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