Evil Dead (2013): Sequel or Remake?

As this post deals with a recent release, I shall do my solemn best not to include any spoilers in the following text. I will just say right now that I am a huge fan of this Evil Dead and I fully recommend it to those fans of horror movies who can stand being grossed out by a lot of fake blood. If gory scares aren’t your thing: stay away.

However, this is not a review but rather an interesting question that entered my mind while I was watching the film. Was I watching a remake of Sam Raimi’s 1981 horror classic or merely a new entry into the Evil Dead series? The marketing has definitely pitched this one as remake. It has the same cabin and same basic plot that The Evil Dead possessed back in 1981. However, as I concluded the movie I became convinced that what I had just witnessed was a sequel and not a remake.

For starters: the title. I know the word “the” can be seen as insignificant yet I feel that this is one instance where it matters. Sam Raimi’s first film in the series is titled The Evil Dead whereas this new film is simply titled Evil Dead. As I stated, I don’t feel this really makes a strong case, by itself, that the new film is a sequel. It is not the first time that a remake/reboot/re-imagining has reworked the title (like all the “re”s in that sentence?). One need look no further than Matt Reeves’ 2010 remake Let Me In, which changed its title a fair amount from 2008’s Let the Right One In. Let Me In, despite the different title, was definitely a remake and it had many more differences in its name than just missing the word “the”. So I will acknowledge that, by itself, this reason falls flat.

Good thing it’s not the only factor supporting the sequel notion. Most remakes recreate the iconic moments that made the original so well-remembered. For instance, while the 2009 remake of Friday the 13th was very different from its original (a lot more Jason this time around), the iconic character of Jason returned. The Magnificent Seven, a loose remake of Seven Samurai, still includes the titular seven defending protagonists. The Evil Dead was known for its main character Ash and his battles with the possessed bodies of his friends. The Evil Dead series is different from other horror movies in the fact that its protagonist is the star. We don’t come to see a Jason Voorhees or a Freddy Krueger, we come to see Ashley Williams blow the snot out of some demons.

Ash is not recreated in this new Evil Dead. In fact, none of the characters in this film share the same names as anyone from the original. The argument can be made that one of the new characters embodies the spirit of Ash from the initial series but the reality remains that this “remake” does not feature the iconic element that made the series so famous. Instead the audience is introduced to a new cast of characters with no prior knowledge of the horrors they are about to unleash upon themselves.

Which brings me to the cabin:

The Happy Cabin.
The Happy Cabin.

This screenshot is from Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead II.

The "new" Happy Cabin.
The “new” Happy Cabin.

Looks kinda similar doesn’t it? Like exactly the same? I know, I know what you’re saying: “it’s a remake, they’re supposed to look the same.” True but it does allow the possibility of the films sharing the same universe. Sam Raimi’s films were all contemporary meaning they took place in the 1980s. In the new film, two of the characters mention the fact that they spent time in this cabin as children (who wouldn’t want to). This would mean that they probably first came to it in the 1990s (they don’t look that old). By that point, Ash has already been teleported out to his medieval world in Army of Darkness. We never see the cabin destroyed or sucked into the portal at the end of Evil Dead II, it could very well have survived only to be discovered by a new family years later.

Now we’ll come to the book. Naturom Demonto (or the Necronomicon if you want to go by the sequels), the book of the dead. We see this book in every movie. It is the wonderful vehicle by which our characters experience pain and suffering. Some would argue that, since we see the book destroyed at the end of The Evil Dead, this new movie is automatically a remake as the book is once again present and completely not burned to a crisp. This is a valid point. Except that Evil Dead II introduces an intriguing idea: additional pages are discovered in Evil Dead II that are believed to belong to the Naturom Demonto. So, if there can be additional undiscovered pages, why not an additional undiscovered book?

The new Naturom Demonto looks significantly different from the book in Sam Raimi’s films. Gone is the face on the cover, leaving instead a rather blank looking tome… bound in human flesh. Why would Evil Dead deviate so much in book design after sticking so closely to the look of the cabin? Possible answer: same cabin, different book. This theory would also explain the slightly altered appearance and capabilities of the possessed in Evil Dead.

Ew. Imagine touching this and not washing your hands immediately afterward. Just ew.
Ew. Imagine touching this and not washing your hands immediately afterward. Just ew.

If the book was a different version of the Naturom Demonto, than the translations would be different and therefore so would the effects of the incantation. The possessed in Evil Dead look different than those in The Evil Dead (they still have pupils for example). Also (and this can be read as a spoiler so be warned) the possessed in Evil Dead do not need to be bodily dismembered in order to stay dead, they drop if you bash the hell out of them (ha, horrible pun).  This could mean that this different version of the book had a weaker translation that the first, meaning that its subsequent demons are not as strong.

Weaker or not, I would not want to be locked in the cellar with this.
Weaker or not, I would not want to be locked in the cellar with this.

As you can no doubt tell, I’ve put way too much thought into this. I’m a huge horror fanatic and I owe it all to The Evil Dead. I grew up with that movie (let the scariness of that fact sink in a bit) and I was initially horrified at the idea of someone other than Sam Raimi taking the reigns. Evil Dead surpassed my highest expectations and whether the film is intended as a remake or a sequel, it’s fun that they allowed enough wiggle room for the idea to be tossed around. I eagerly await any future films from Sam Raimi or Fede Alvarez: both of whom have proven to be masters of The Evil Dead.

PS – If you do see the new movie, make sure you stay until after the credits. There is a scene which may or may not definitively solve this argument.

Thoughts? Comments? Am I full of shit or onto something? Let me know now in the feedback section of this article.

3 thoughts on “Evil Dead (2013): Sequel or Remake?

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