Editorial: Missing the Mark: Why Evil Dead 2013 Doesn't Work

Editorial: Missing the Mark: Why Evil Dead 2013 Doesn’t WorkThis piece contains some spoilers. When referring to Sam Raimi’s film, I will use “The Evil Dead,” while the remake will dispense of the definite article.

The notion of remaking Sam Raimi’s seminal 1981 splatterfest The Evil Dead was met with derision by many fans as soon as it was announced; the subsequent news that Ash would not be in the film certainly didn’t help assuage their fears. To die-hard fans, The Evil Dead IS Ash, his absence rendering any attempt to reboot the franchise a pointless endeavor. As the film went into production with an untested short film director at the helm, opinions were tempered as news and footage slowly revealed the film to be something to get excited about. It was dark, it was violent, and perhaps most importantly, Bruce Campbell gave the film his blessing, ensuring us that Fede Alvarez had crafted a suitable follow-up to The Evil Dead, yet with a number of crucial changes to distinguish itself from being a mere copy. The final product, however, is a different beast entirely.

Editorial: Missing the Mark: Why Evil Dead 2013 Doesn't Work

Alvarez created a pastiche that, although visually impressive, fails to be fully reconciled with the changes he made to the story. One such change is the set-up, which sees the addition of a subplot surrounding a forced detox, rather than a simple vacation, to get the quintet into the cabin. Addicted to drugs, Mia meets her brother David, his girlfriend Natalie, and friends Olivia and Eric at the cabin in a final attempt to break her habit cold turkey. In the throes of withdrawal, Mia begins to see and hear things, and, convinced she’s losing her mind, makes an attempt to escape before crashing the car into a lake. Meanwhile, the group discovers the Naturon Demonto and, as the resident academic, Eric feels compelled to examine it, unwittingly unleashing the demonic force spoken of in the book. It becomes drawn to Mia, tracking her down and possessing her in cringe-worthy fashion, kicking off a deluge of blood and violence that puts the original film to shame.

Perhaps the most striking difference between the two films is tone. While The Evil Dead is a horror movie through and through, Raimi’s love of The Three Stooges peeks modestly through the fountains of blood to provide subtly comedic elements that are not brought front and center until The Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn. The remake contains some humorous lines (Diablo Cody’s contributions can be pointed out with ease), but rarely is there an attempt to approach everything with the sort of levity brought about by the original’s low budget, its somewhat comical effects, and Bruce Campbell’s natural comedic sensibilities. As such, some of the more objectively weaker parts of the original film can be forgiven, and in some cases seen as an advantage, due to the context in which it was made.

Read our Evil Dead review here!

Related News: Everything About the Evil Dead Remake

Evil Dead is not afforded this luxury. With a $17 million budget at his disposal, Alvarez opted for a grittier and darker aesthetic, amplifying the violence and gore and invoking gravitas over the playfulness seen throughout the original, however subdued it may have been. Raimi and Co. give off the vibe of simply having fun, whereas Alvarez, burdened by the weight of updating an important franchise, dispenses with frivolity in an attempt to craft a serious and dark film. Unfortunately, this amounts to less an update than it is an homage to practical effects, which in turn comes at the expense of story, characters, and dialogue.

Preceded by an unnecessary pre-credits scene to help establish the mythology of the book and the house, the first act comes off as rushed and disjointed, hitting the necessary beats - arriving at the cabin, finding the book, the initial possession - at breakneck speed before getting to what can ostensibly be considered the real reason people are seeing the film: pure, unbridled carnage. This causes the detox subplot to lack any real merit; by the time Mia is possessed, it’s all but completely abandoned in favor of gallons of fake blood. The subplot is essential to the characters’ growth, yet by ignoring it for most of the film Alvarez is diminishing Mia’s struggle and her relationship with David to nothing more than a lazily written pretext to get them into the cabin.



DeadInHell's picture

And I quote: "Okay, I'm drawing a line in the fucking sand here. Do not read the Latin."

Cabin in the Woods is probably the biggest reason why this film doesn't work for me. Cabin was an open challenge to the entire genre to step it up, and Evil Dead is just a dumb, meandering regression. It loses those elements that made the original so successful, while regurgitating every horror cliche that it should be updating instead. It's just a lazy film from some guys who really don't belong in the horror genre at all because they clearly don't get it. This film plays like the creation of a group of people who just found out about horror movies last year. The Evil Dead should have been remade by someone who actually knows the genre and the series well enough to do it justice.

Anyways, it's nice to see a horror site that is calling this like it is. I have a feeling a lot of the praise for this film is coming from uninitiated critics clueless about the genre and initiated critics lying to themselves about the film's quality because they see some potential in it. Horror writers getting way too excited about bad films seems to be a trend lately, and it usually boils down to them pitching it as a "win" for the genre at large. Texas Chainsaw 3D sucked, but it made some money and was #1 for a week so everyone suddenly started talking about it like it was going to revive the genre or something. We need less moderately successful cliched garbage out there, and more films that actually try to take the genre somewhere. Cabin in the Woods played to the genre's strengths while still subverting and/or cleverly acknowledging many of its major tropes and pitfalls. We need more movies like that, because that is what will reinvigorate this genre. Not another crappy remake.

Submitted by DeadInHell on Sun, 04/14/2013 - 10:16am.
nazo's picture


Part of it is personal preference. I like scary horror movies, atmospheric horror movies and comedic horror movies. I don't care about gore and torture in and of themselves. Also, that third act deus ex machina was bullshit.

Submitted by nazo on Sat, 04/13/2013 - 4:00am.

THANK YOU. I don't get the love for this movie. It wasn't as awful as I was expecting, but it certainly wasn't good. I can live with weak characters since the original wasn't Chinatown when it came to the script, but the characters were just beyond stupid. They continually made awful decisions that shouldn't be happening in a movie descended from a franchise like Evil Dead.

As someone else noted, I also felt this owed more to The Exorcist than Evil Dead. These weren't deadites. They were demons. In fact, it cribbed as much from that movie as it dead Evil Dead.

I was also disappointed by changing perspective from a male lead to another "last girl." I don't have a problem that the survivor is female, just to be clear. It just felt lazy and there solely for shock. Evil Dead was unique in that it was one of the few franchises that eschewed last girl conventions.

The only thing I enjoyed, and it's something I think people missed, is the film's humor; and yes, it does exist. People keep calling this film deathly serious in tone but in all honesty it's not. There was a ton of pitch black humor hidden in there. The hipster high school teacher taking cartoonish levels of abuse became so absurd that people were laughing outright as he was getting shot with the nail gun, probably asking themselves, "What else can they do to him?" And my high point of the movie, and surprisingly the most subtle of all the jokes, was Alvarez sneaking a blow job gag into the finale when Mia chainsaws the Anti-Christ in the face. It was a definite WTF moment, because I was surprised that slipped through even if it was done in silhouette.

Submitted by AngryChairr on Fri, 04/12/2013 - 5:01pm.
Rottenjesus's picture

It's like they blended Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2 together minus the creativity and inventiveness then Diablo Cody took a big shit on it and that's how this movie was made.

Submitted by Rottenjesus on Tue, 04/09/2013 - 12:56am.
Legba's picture

Another cool thing about The Evil Dead is Ash really isn't a hero per say. That would come in the slapstick laddened Evil Dead II. Actually until about 2/3 of the way in there's no real way of telling who, if any, will make it out of the cabin in the woods. And of course the ending is one of the great subversions of the happy ending in the history of any genre. Replete with sunshine, chirping birds, and heart string instrumentation. Mia's plight of exorcism is telegraphed early on by the heavy handed dramatic charactericarization, which the film never askews.

Submitted by Legba on Tue, 04/09/2013 - 7:58am.
kiddcapone's picture

I think everyone makes some valid points. I LOVE the Evil Dead movies and I couldn’t wait for this remake, but as I sat there, I actually thought to myself, “Why am I not liking this as much as I should ??!?!?!?!”

Just to reiterate a few things I said in the other thread, the whole Necronomicon for Dummies book was insulting. Did it really need cliff notes scratched onto every page? I didn’t buy the lazy way the hippie evoked the demon, it felt cheesy. Speaking of the hippie, he felt like a ripoff of the stoner from Cabin in the Woods. The girl burned herself badly in the shower and sliced her tongue in two, then after she was buried alive, dug up, had no pulse, she suddenly jumps up without one single scratch or damage done in the previous hour.

The film went from one gag to the next with zero thought as to how it all tied together. The trademark DEADITE look was non-existent. Instead all the possessed had was greenish-yellow eyes like Linda Blair. Plus they shouted vulgarities, talked about moms in hell, and used personal info to get under their skin. It felt and looked like The Exorcist In the Cabin.

It was fun, but lots of wasted opportunities. They killed the dog and it suddenly disappeared from the tool shed. I expected a demon dog, similar to the moose head on the wall in the original, and nothing. And why did they just leave the Necronomicon sitting in the basement anyway?

As a fun horror movie, Evil Dead succeeds. As an entry into The Evil Dead universe, it’s weak and doesn’t deserve to be in the same conversation.

Submitted by kiddcapone on Mon, 04/08/2013 - 9:03pm.
Foywonder's picture

"I LOVE the Evil Dead movies and I couldn’t wait for this remake, but as I sat there, I actually thought to myself, “Why am I not liking this as much as I should ??!?!?!?!”

Had the exact same reaction. Are you sure we're not the same person?

Submitted by Foywonder on Tue, 04/09/2013 - 1:37am.
kiddcapone's picture

We might be the same person... Even listening to the DFF, I feel the same way.

What made the original Evil Dead so great was watching how one man tried to survive the night from hell. He was beat up, mentally destroyed, brutally tortured, emotionally shredded, subjected to the worst types of evil anyone could possibly deal with...this one, completely misses the mark. Yes, it was gory, bloody, over-the-top, but final switcheroo kills it. The main/final chick spent a majority of the time possessed so when she's finally human again, she doesn't go through enough pain to justify the entire Evil Dead experience. She bears no scars from the ordeal and all of the other characters ended with little payoff and served no purpose other than feeling like predetermined gore gags.

Submitted by kiddcapone on Fri, 04/19/2013 - 11:16pm.
nazo's picture

That's a really good point. While watching it, I was really hoping that the teacher would somehow morph into the hero, as he was the only one who seemed to understand what was happening...instead it's the girl, whose entire character arc is completed in the first twenty minutes. The switcheroo also completely undermines the ultimate menace. I was expecting something a little more...apocalyptic, and the final battle felt anticlimactic from that standpoint.

Submitted by nazo on Sat, 04/20/2013 - 12:31am.
Legba's picture

THE Evil Dead isn't really a horror film in the generic sense of the term. It's a work of the grotesque that walks an uneasy line between horror and comedy (which the two both share a commonality) without losing it's ability to disrupt by tipping it's hat in either direction. A true delirious experience that 'tickles' the nerves and flies off the rails. Watching for the first time, although the set up is fairly familiar, it's impossible to pinpoint the ride you're getting ready to experience. Not only is there a dynamic of hyper kinetic mayhem, but there's eddies of restrained fine tuned whispers lurking in the crackles and silent whispers of the woods, and the creaking air of rustic dread and dilapidation within the cabin. Genuine stuff here. It's first and foremost a 'furiously original' survivalist demon saga. Evil Dead is predictably fashionable from the witch like burning prologue forward. All the way down to the trendy money grabbing exorcist formula. It's just a full frontal shock bombardment where you're fully aware of everything transpiring no matter how gruesome. Another formulaic horror film that will soon be forgotten when the novelty wears off after you're desensitized by the next flash in the pan...

Submitted by Legba on Mon, 04/08/2013 - 8:37pm.

It's a well written article and also a well thought out argument, even if I disagree. I found the script to be lacking in both versions. What the original had going for it was its premise of the cabin in the woods not being a tired cliche. Everything about the original in terms of tone and execution was fresh and delivered extremely well for its time. To be honest, Evil Dead started out significantly behind the 8-ball, and I felt it did an incredible job of getting out from behind it. It's undeniably an Evil Dead movie. Watching as a horror fan, I can accept the bad script because its the only department this movie lacked in for me. The gore was purposeful, not for the sake of being gory, but because its what was called for. There was no twist ending. They didn't set up a sequel ending shot. This is a stand-alone, brutal offering that had a script written like an 80's slasher movie, complete with terrible decisions and characters you don't care about. I ended up rooting for David and Mia more than I thought I would. But I had a ton of fun watching this. Maybe I'm a little off, but I thought it had a lot more humor than the original namesake. Carving tool in place of the chainsaw? The spray vomit? Bathroom/toilet scene? I got a good laugh at a lot times during this movie. It's not on the level of Evil Dead 2 in that department, but very few movies are.

TL;DR I see your point, and can also see why you feel the way you do, but the shortcomings of this reboot are not strong enough to ruin the experience and my enjoyment of this movie. I can't wait to bring it home and watch it again.

Submitted by Axeslinger0u812 on Mon, 04/08/2013 - 3:32pm.

I became completely disengaged from the "horror" when Mia vomits up a gallon of blood onto her nurse friend, only for the nurse to say something along the lines of, "She's having really BAD withdrawals!". Are you fucking kidding me?! If the characters on the screen aren't reacting accurately to the "horrific" events at hand, why the fuck should I? The entire thing is one bad joke that's unaware of just how stupid it really is.

How about the Necronomicon for Dummies? Not only does it look visually uninteresting when compared to it's low-budget counterpart, but it pretty much functions as the fucking film script for the characters in the film to skip ahead to. What kind of a stupid fucking movie shows it's entire hand from the get-go? That's a great way to kill off any potential suspense.

To say this remake is on the level with the original is just plain insulting. If this remake was produced by Platinum Dunes, none of the ridiculous shit that's present in this film would get a pass from anyone.

Submitted by LSD Zombie on Mon, 04/08/2013 - 1:18pm.
MonsterMash's picture

Dude. Chill. Bruce Campbell made the first three films fun, yes. Sam Raimi's writing is irreplaceable, yes. However this article is mostly nitpicking why this new film isn't one of those. The characters aren't the most developed, but the acting was great. Sure there's no defined hero, but until the third act, nobody would have seen Ash taking charge in the original. Sure the script is a little rough. Sure some dialogue was goofy. Regardless, this film set a new standard for post-Scream mainstream horror. It was head and shoulders above anything trying to be scary since the 80's. Don't shy away from the red stuff.

Submitted by MonsterMash on Mon, 04/08/2013 - 10:48am.
Brad McHargue's picture

I apparently saw things differently. And I don't see it as nitpicking. I think the original film worked for a variety of reasons, and in the process of trying to emulate them, Alvarez did away with what helped make it work.

But to each their own. Thanks for the friendly comment.

Submitted by Brad McHargue on Mon, 04/08/2013 - 10:56am.
MonsterMash's picture

It is a well-written article.

Submitted by MonsterMash on Mon, 04/08/2013 - 11:26am.
Brad McHargue's picture

And thank you for the kind words.

Submitted by Brad McHargue on Mon, 04/08/2013 - 11:30am.

All these issues about characters, story, etc. and being "a showcase for practical effects" can ALL be leveled at the first movie (and the sequels for that matter). This isn't my favorite Evil Dead movie by any stretch, but I'd actually say the characters in this movie have more to them than the characters in the original.

" Ash is the shy and reluctant hero, madly in love with his bubbly girlfriend Linda; Scotty is the asshole who has absolutely no qualms with chopping up his girlfriend Shelly with an axe; and Ash’s sister Cheryl is the impetus through which Ash naturally progresses from reserved lover to heroic fighter. "

I don't see how these shallow character traits make them better characters than the ones in the remake. You could make the same case for the characters here too. Erik, the asshole, David, the loving yet reluctant brother, Olivia, the nurse who cares about her friends, etc. The characters in the original are every bit as hollow.

"rarely is there an attempt to approach everything with the sort of levity brought about by the original’s low budget, its somewhat comical effects"

I should have stopped reading right there.

Submitted by MouthForWar on Mon, 04/08/2013 - 10:23am.
Sirand's picture

"All these issues about characters, story, etc. and being "a showcase for practical effects" can ALL be leveled at the first movie (and the sequels for that matter)."

Dead-on. And re-reading a lot of the critical reviews for the '81 film, the SAME comments were made back in the day.

The characters in the original were complete blanks and frankly, if it weren't for the sequels, nobody would even remember Ash's name. Both versions of Evil Dead are all style, no substance...but both are carried out with real directorial flare and an obvious passion for hyperkinetic horror that make them great rollercoasters.

Submitted by Sirand on Mon, 04/08/2013 - 11:14am.
Brad McHargue's picture

I presumed I'd be in the minority when it comes to my assessment about the characters, but it's less they were "blanks" and more that they made certain aspects of the original film work. Alvarez copies these beats, but his transposing of character attributes rendered them mostly ineffective.

Submitted by Brad McHargue on Mon, 04/08/2013 - 11:19am.
Brad McHargue's picture

"I don't see how these shallow character traits make them better characters than the ones in the remake. You could make the same case for the characters here too. Erik, the asshole, David, the loving yet reluctant brother, Olivia, the nurse who cares about her friends, etc. The characters in the original are every bit as hollow."

None of which I felt were approached or developed with the same care as Raimi's characters.

Sorry you didn't like it.

Submitted by Brad McHargue on Mon, 04/08/2013 - 10:40am.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.