Hello, and welcome back to The Great Debates where I decide which batch of Deadites deserves decapitation the most.
As big into horror as I am, I only recently got around to watching one of the most celebrated series of them all, Sam Raimi's Evil Dead franchise. In fact, I decided to make this whole month a celebration of the franchise with articles about the movies here on Vocal and a playthrough of the game Evil Dead: Regeneration on my YouTube channel "Cool Media".
Well, it only makes sense to start with talking about the original film from 1981 which is directed by Sam Raimi and stars the legendary Bruce Campbell. However, that movie got a remake in 2013 directed by Fede Alvarez which was very well received, unlike many remakes. Hey, I know a groovy match-up when I see it! Let's grab a chainsaw and carve these films up! We'll see whether the original or the remake makes the bigger mess.
The premise is largely the same for both films. A group of young adults go to a deserted cabin in the woods on holiday. While there, they stumble upon the Necronomicon, the legendary book of the dead with dead flesh for a cover and written in blood. A passage from the book is read which awakens demonic spirits which possess the woods, the cabin, and, soon, the vacationers. Needless to say, limbs and gore start flying in abundance with each party getting whittled down to one survivor by the end.
When it comes to the casts, it's almost a wash. None of the actors in the remake were recognizable to me, not even their names, but the performances were good all the same, especially from Jane Levy as Mia and Lou Taylor Pucci as Eric. The original cast, however, is anchored by the B-movie icon Bruce Campbell as Ash. Sure, he doesn't truly reach iconic status until the sequels (which I'll talk about next time), but he already had more charisma in the original than the rest of the average cast put together. (Obviously, I'm not going to count his post-credit appearance in the remake because that would be cheating.) So, which is preferable, 5 B's or an A+ and 4 C's?
The original Evil Dead was very creative for its time, mostly for two things. First was its camerawork. Sam Raimi liked to make use of many weird shots in his films. The original film had several moments of the characters basically being chased by the camera. I can guess that many of those moments were done that way because of the limited budget, but they looked cool, all the same. The second was Raimi's creative approach to gore. The use of time-lapse and claymation may not look as realistic as how gooey today's movies can look, but they still are fun to watch. By contrast, the remake's shots and gore look slicker but are more traditional. If you took the scene of Olivia (Jessica Lucas) chopping her arm off out of context, it wouldn't look that out of place in another movie.
However, the biggest difference between the two versions is the overall tone. The original film has kind of a split personality. The first half has a very creepy atmosphere, even during the scenes showing the group partying. However, the moment the possessions start, the mood becomes much goofier. Yeah, that's right. The movie gets funnier the moment the gore starts flying. On the other hand, the remake keeps a consistently disturbing tone throughout. The group didn't go to the cabin to party; they went to help Mia through heroin withdrawal. That adds an extra layer of psychological suspense as, ignoring the older film, one could argue Mia's warnings of danger in the woods are just the drugs talking.
This is a very tough decision since both films have their strong points. The original has a bona fide star at the start of his career and plenty of creativity peppered throughout. The remake felt more chilling and more cohesive. That cohesion was the deciding factor for me. The way the original switched from creepy to comical halfway through gave me tonal whiplash. The way the remake kept its feel throughout helped me stay with it. In the end, while the original definitely earned its legendary cult status, I was more absorbed by the remake overall.
THE WINNER OF THIS DEBATE IS... THE REMAKE!
Disagree? Want to threaten me with a boomstick? Let me know! I'll talk about the sequels next time, and check out my Let's Play of Evil Dead: Regeneration on YouTube! Hail to the King, baby!