Thursday, July 21, 2011

Weighing in on the Evil Dead Remake

You can hardly blame the horror community for going into a collective tizzy over the announcement of an Evil Dead remake. After all, how many times have we been burned by Platinum Dunes trouncing all over our most sacred genre films? But I, for one, am stoked about this particular remake. It is second only to Hellraiser in my list of low-budget horror flms that deserve a new treatment with modern special effects.

Consider this: how many people would argue that the Star Wars prequels wouldn't have been better off if Lucas had limited himself to a producer role, while turning the reigns over to a new generation of artists with a passion for the material? It seems that Lucas made the prequels solely to appease his fans, rather than out of any burning need to continue the story that made him legendary 20+ years prior. And do I need to mention the fourth Indiana Jones film?

It seems that Sam Raimi has taken a lesson from Lucas and Spielberg and has allowed his original vision to be reinterpreted by those eager to do it. I've seen many calls for him to make another sequel, rather than a remake, but if Raimi had another Evil Dead story to tell, he'd be doing it, right? The fact is, Raimi has new interests, and the prospect of revisiting the work from his youth simply doesn't appeal to him. I'm satisfied that he made the right call, and is allowing for a reinterpretation of his horror classic rather than trying to recapture the magic. And really, what is more disappointing, a remake that doesn't livve up to the original, or a half-hearted sequel that reveals the original creator's disinterest in the material?

I orignally saw the Evil Dead trilogy in reverse order. After a hilarious-looking preview, I made a point to catch Army of Darkness in the its original theatrical run. I didn't even know it was a sequel to anything. I adored it, and when I found out about the Evil Dead movies, I immediately sought them out. My local video store didn't have the original at the time, so I watched Evil Dead 2 next, and fell in love with its mix of goofy slapstick and horror. After a few years, I tracked down the original and was vastly disappointed. It seemed to take itself too seriously in light of the other films, and I chalked it up to a mediocre first attempt.

Years later, I've grown to appreciate the original, especially given its historical context. Few had seen that level of gore before, and while the acting was slightly cheesy, and the special effects were severely dated even a decade ago, I now appreciate the creepiness of the concept, and enjoy the film more every time I watch it. But the prospect of a remake excites me. I see in my mind's eye what the movie could be, if given the proper respect.

A lot of people are up in arms about Diablo Cody's involvement with the project. While I'm not too big on Jennifer's Body, I thought Juno was a fine film. Yes, the dialougue is a bit over-the-top, but coming out of Ellen page's mouth, it makes sense. It's a film about some very intelligent, quirky people, and I think it succeeds admirably. With Jennifer's Body, I thought the dialogue sounded overblown and unnatural, but I've never been certain whether that was a defect in the script, or if it was just beyond Megan Fox's ability to pull it off.

And no, the dialogue is not realistic, but that's kind of the point. The first movie I saw that had completely realistic dialogue was Matty Rich's Straight Outta Brooklyn, which I hated because rather than meaningful dialogue that pushes the plot forward or is entertaining in its own right, it seemed to use dialogue mainly to fill space. People in general are pretty inarticulate, so realistic dialogue must necessarily consist of way too many "ums" and fragmented sentences. One of my best Shakespeare professors used to relate the story of his decision to become a Shakespeare scholar. His father's main objection was that, "people don't talk like that anymore." His response was that people never actually talked like they do in Shakespearean plays. The dialogue is stylized and idealized, and that's the point.

And while Cody's writing style may not seem ideal for a serious remake of The Evil Dead, take comfort that she was brought in merely to "punch up" the dialogue. She didn't write the whole script, and I'm pretty confident that if she goes overboard with too-clever dialogue, it will be corrected by the producers and the director.

Bottom line: Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, who made their careers on these films, will be involved, so we're in good hands. Nobody wants to see this movie fail. And for every The Haunting and Prom Night remake out there, there's also a Dawn of the Dead, The Hills Have Eyes, and The Ring. While I'm trying not to get my hopes up too much, if I could pre-order tickets right now, my eight bucks would be spent.


  1. I'm hesitant to get excited. As much as I want it to work, I'm sick of remakes and unnecessary sequels. Sigh.

  2. I definitely get the sense that Raimi and Campbell know they are indebted to the series and will no doubt learn from the god-awful remakes we've seen of other films.

    Even if it's a "failure" it will at least be an interesting one, rather than a paint-by-numbers affair.

    I'm totally excited.

  3. The charm of Evil Dead is quite unique and very much a product of its time, so I don’t think it’s a great candidate for remaking.

    And Diablo Cody is a strange choice for screenwriter. Regardless of whether you like her or not, I don’t think her wordy unnatural dialogue is a good fit for Ash and the other Evil Dead shemps.

    All that said, curiosity will get the better of me and I’ll probably fork out my hard earned cash to see it when it’s released. Which, of course, is exactly why these remakes keep getting made.

  4. I would bet that there won't be an Ash character at all. I suspect that Sam and Bruce will agree that Bruce's Ash is the definitive Ash, and it would be better not to touch it. I think the basic premise will be the same, but everthing else is out the window. At least that's what I'd hope for.

  5. Remaking Evil Dead is not a good idea. I am really tired of EVERYTHING getting remade or rebooted or whatever. There has to be some people that have good original ideas for movies, why rehash old, fun, campy horror movies. The reason Evil Dead is awesome is because it is cheesy, campy, low budget, bad acting, silly, goofy gory special effects and what not. To remove all that and make a modern, slick version sounds awful. But, a lot of people will see it, so from a money making point it makes sense. And by the way, Diablo Cody is terrible and her involvement in any movie will make the project suffer.


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