Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ask JKM a Question #53: The Evil Dead Remake?

A reader named David writes:

“I know you wrote abook about Sam Raimi.  Given this fact, how do you feel about an Evil Dead (1983) remake?”

Good question, David.

I’ve written quite a bit here about remakes before, but long story short: I have practiced and worked hard not to respond with knee-jerk cynicism every time a new one is announced.  I greet each film on an individual basis.

That established, I suspect an Evil Dead remake is probably a difficult artistic proposition, and here’s why:
The original film is all about delivery of the story, not the story itself.

Indeed, check out Equinox (1970) if you want to see a similar story-line vetted, but in an entirely different fashion.

What makes The Evil Dead such a classic, in my opinion, is Sam Raimi’s gonzo, hyper-kinetic, on-the-verge-of-madness direction.  His inspired vetting of the material pounds the viewer to dust, almost literally. Execution is what matters in the 1983 film, not story, and not character, either.  Ash didn’t emerge as an iconic hero, really, until the second film.

Ironically, Evil Dead 2 holds up for roughly the same reason. It’s a virtual remake of Evil Dead, but Raimi’s brilliant direction -- and accent on cartoonish (if violently extreme…) over-the-top humor -- renders it a new and fresh viewing experience.

So the question becomes: can a new Evil Dead somehow tell the same story a third time, and find the key to unlocking the material in a way that feels fresh and also relevant to 2012?  This mission is even harder than it seems since Cabin in the Woods (2012) so thoroughly dissected and subverted the tenets of The Evil Dead narrative.

I’m not saying that it’s an impossible task, only that a truly inspired director is necessary.  Aping Raimi isn’t going to be enough of a distinction, because we’ve gotten a lot of knock-off Raimi film-style since Evil Dead (in the oeuvre of Peter Jackson and the Coen Brothers, to name just a few examples.) 

Instead, the extreme, hyper-kinetic nature of original The Evil Dead needs to be re-conceived and rebuilt for a modern audience.  I suspect this re-invention involves pushing the material into even more extreme, uncomfortable territory.  At least I hope so. The trailer (embedded below) indicates this might very well be the case.

I hope director Fede Alvarez and producers Raimi, Tapert and Campbell succeed here, and I’m absolutely rooting for them to do so. Already one interesting choice has been made: a reliance on practical rather than digital effects.  This is a good sign, because a primary joy of The Evil Dead is how tactile the film feels.  Every character gets doused in blood, goop, ooze, pus, and other varieties of slime, and as silly as it sounds, that sense of being splattered is critical to the movie's (admittedly excessive) creative equation. The movie overcomes you.  It pounds you and gets you dirty. No one escapes unscathed.

Let’s hope that selection to go practical survives the editing process and proves a real boon to the film.  It would be great for The Evil Dead to live again.  More blood floods for everyone...

Don’t forget to ask me your questions at

1 comment:

  1. There are probably fans of the original, who hate remakes, but are probably relieved that Raimi is attached as a producer. Be warned! I, similarly felt relief that John Carpenter was attached to the remake of 'The Fog'(2005), but it was one of the tamest, solidly boring remakes that I have personally ever seen.


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