In 2012 I was sitting in a British Literature class during my senior year of high school when my teacher asked if I had heard about the new Evil Dead remake coming out.
We had spoken about the movies before, I was a massive fan of Army of Darkness and had written an essay on it earlier that year. I responded as almost any fan of the series did at the time- “Why would they need a remake?”
Now it’s been ten years since the film was released and it’s become one of my favorite horror films of all time, as well as a more than worthy addition to the series.
In a time that seemed to be fatigued with horror remakes hitting one after another, Evil Dead beat the odds with both critics and the box office. How did so many moving, dismembered parts come together to turn what should have been set to fail into a cult classic?
Remake? Sequel? BOTH!?
Sam Raimi, the writer, director, and torture maestro behind the series had been speaking about a remake for years before seemingly putting things on the back burner around 2009.
Coming off of Drag Me To Hell (another Raimi classic), and in creative woes with Sony over Spider-Man. At the time it seemed more Evil Dead may never happen.
That was until Fede Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues came to them with their script for an Evil Dead remake.
With some doctoring by Diablo Cody, herself coming off back-to-back success with Juno and Jennifer’s Body, the script enticed the right people and production started not long after.
While marketed as a remake, Alvarez took his opportunity as a director to leave small details here and there as nods to the original trilogy’s events.
In later interviews, both he and Sam Raimi confirmed that the film is a sequel in disguise, with Ash’s original Oldsmobile seen rusting on the property as well as the broken necklace and Cheryl’s cards on the cabin table.
Keeping It Old-School
Alvarez made it a point to use as little CGI as possible, insisting that things be done practically to stay in line with the original series.
This included dumping over 70,000 gallons of blood, with over half of that being used in the final sequence alone.
Committing to the same scrappy, low-budget mentality Raimi captured during his production but with the effects of modern Hollywood, the film was a perfect storm of DIY horror and love for what inspired it.
In turn, that’s what makes Evil Dead hold up so well today. Unless someone has access to time and money on the scale of James Cameron, CGI in a film can look outdated only six months after release, or in more unfortunate cases when the film is in theaters.
Practical effects have the benefit of keeping a film timeless and maintaining the horror in the process.
Flip The Script
The greatest concern for fans, and the greatest hurdle for the creators, was how to make an Evil Dead story without Ash Williams.
If they decided to recast Bruce Campbell it wouldn’t be the same, not to mention the power that man holds over hordes of Evil Dead fans. So Alvarez pulled a bait and switch.
From the start, the audience is given David and Mia, played by Shiloh Fernandez and Jane Levy, respectively. While Mia is the emotional center of the movie, bringing everyone there in her latest attempt to get clean, the audience sees most of the movie from David’s point of view.
Mia is the first to be possessed, giving viewers an emotional attachment to David as he watches in horror as his sister is just the first to fall.
We as the audience write Mia off, seeing that she’s as much a victim of the Deadites as she is of her addiction and the harm it does to her friends.
Setting that expectation let viewers think David would be their new stand-in for Ash. He was resourceful, quick to act, and had the charisma to pull everyone together.
Which is what made his sacrifice and death such a shock. The film’s final climax is a fake-out, snatching David away just before a possible happy ending and shoving Mia back into the nightmare, now forced to confront her addiction personified in the demon that emerges.
Jane Levy delivers as Mia, giving a final girl that’s been through hell and come back stronger.
Her desperate struggle against the demon and loss of her hand (Ash parallels!) cements her as a badass able to stand alongside Ash Williams even before chainsawing the demon in classic Evil Dead style.
Probably the biggest indicator of success ten years later? Fans are still asking for a sequel. Evil Dead left off with a credit tag featuring Bruce Campbell, and a deleted scene was added to the extended cut released in 2019 featuring Mia post-movie. Unfortunately, with Ash vs. Evil Dead prematurely canceled and Evil Dead Rise in constant danger from WB’s current merger, it doesn’t look like anything may happen soon.
Meanwhile, hordes of Evil Dead fans continue to grow, with even more appreciation for the balance of camp and horror in recent years.
Evil Dead Rise will (knock on wood) release this year, with director Lee Cronin taking the horror from a small isolated cabin to a dilapidated high-rise in the city.
If all goes well, maybe fans will get closure on Ash, Mia, and the other characters we’ve come to love.