So with a director finally attached, is the new 'Evil Dead' a sequel or a remake?
I'll be honest… I don't really want an "Evil Dead" sequel or a remake, and no matter what you think you want, I'm willing to bet you don't either.
Sure, I know the mere mention of more "Evil Dead" of any sort is a guaranteed draw for traffic, but at some point, fandom's going to have to start to absorb some hard lessons and really reconsider what it is they demand from studios.
I'm going to offer you two benchmarks to keep in mind as you consider the idea of a return to "Evil Dead." First, I want you to consider the remake of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." And then, I want you to consider "Indiana Jones and The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull."
And then I want to you admit to yourself, even if it's difficult, that the odds are strong that any return to "Evil Dead" is going to end in tears.
I know there are those of you out there who actually like Nispel's "Chainsaw" remake. There is a word for people who like that film, and that word is "wrong." I'm not even sure how anyone can make it through that thing more than once, but compared to the original by Tobe Hooper? It's unconscionable to me that people give that movie a pass when the blueprint was so crystal clear. Hooper's film isn't just one of the great horror films of the '70s, it's one of the great American indie films of all time. It is a film that embraces all the things that could be limitations and turns them into distinguishing features. It is unbelievably low-budget, but that makes it feel like a snuff film. There's a dirty, nasty reality to the film that makes it more of a persuasive nightmare than horror films a thousand times more slick and polished. Nispel's film is all about phony art direction and pretty twentysomethings. It's hollow and stupid and a direct violation of what makes the original matter.
The original "Evil Dead" is about as unpolished as the original "Chainsaw," and like that film, it embraces its budget as a virtue. That film feels handmade, and there is an energy to it that which comes from hunger, from chasing the high of pure invention, and it comes through loud and clear when you watch it. The same is true of "Evil Dead 2," as well, which was still a fairly low-budget affair. Those films may have a huge reputation now, but when they were released to theaters, they were true cult items, word of mouth movies that never had a chance against studio movies. They only became popular over time, thanks to home video. They were films that people got to discover for themselves or that were passed along, friend to friend. I may not love "Army Of Darkness" in the same way, but at least there are things to like about it. For me, it's too jokey, a push too far in the wrong direction for the series. And looking at "Army Of Darkness" now, with its sensibilities toned way down in an effort (ultimately futile) to earn a PG-13 for a sequel to a film that couldn't even get an MPAA rating.
From a pure business standpoint, it makes perfect sense for Sam Raimi and his Ghost House Pictures to get back into "Evil Dead." This is where Raimi got his start, and it's also where Bruce Campbell began his ascent into Cult Movie God status. But if those guys get together now to make an "Evil Dead" movie with Campbell reprising his role as Ash, I am truly afraid of that law of diminishing returns kicking in, and "Army Of Darkness" felt to me like an indicator of which way things were headed. I don't just want Bruce Campbell firing a shotgun and bellowing variations on "Groovy!" That sounds awful to me. I don't want them to have to struggle to strike a tone that was sort of a thrilling accident the first few times around. I really liked "Drag Me To Hell," and there were definitely signs in that film that Raimi is still capable of this sort of mayhem, but I don't believe for a second that Columbia's going to take Raimi off the leash and tell him to make an unbridled "Evil Dead 4." Ever.
That's not really a concern, though, because I don't think this film that we're hearing about is a sequel. I think it's pretty much a straight-up remake. I think there's a chance there are elements which tie this to the earlier stories, but more in the sense that the mythology is the same between the original few films and this new one, which will now apparently be directed by Fede Alvarez, who first gained attention last year with this short film, called "Panic Attack!":
There's a reason people have been reluctant to label this new film a straight remake or a direct sequel. It's something in-between, I'm betting, building on what's come before but without really trying to replace it. And I want to believe. I really do. Sam Raimi, after all, is Sam Raimi. And the guys at Ghost House aren't faceless bad guys out to ruin movies. They're good guys who really do like horror movies. Good intentions aren't what I doubt. It's the sort of luck that allows something like "Evil Dead 2" to exist. Going back to the well and expecting that sort of luck again... it's just asking a lot of anyone, no matter how good their intentions.
I'll say this... with Alvarez directing, this is going to be a very different animal in many ways than anything we've seen in the series before. I'm not sure I believe that "Evil Dead" is a big commercial brand, but obviously Sony Pictures believes it, and obviously Ghost House believes it, and so they're going to do this thing. They may even shoot at the same time as Sam Raimi is making "Oz The Great And Powerful" in Michigan, which would allow him some direct input. Right now, it's the horror press paying the most attention to this one, which is why Bloody-Disgusting and Dread Central nailed this down instead of the trades.
I just can't help the feeling that an "Evil Dead" movie without Bruce Campbell as Ash is no "Evil Dead" movie, but at this point, even an "Evil Dead" movie with him might not be the real deal, either.
Whatever the case, we'll be paying attention, and we'll have more for you as the story develops.