Sequels tend to be the re-used tea bags of film—reminiscent of earlier, stronger experiences now weak and watery. Remakes can be even more dangerous, especially when the original material is revered. There are some instances where the remake is superior (the U.S. versions of The Ring and The Grudge outstrip their original Japanese incarnations, for instance), but you might have trouble counting off two hands worth.
Which means that many horror fans may be looking with trepidation towards this weekend’s debut of the new Evil Dead movie.
The original films, especially the second and third, are considered classics of horror camp, so many fans aren’t anxious to see this particular deadite escape from the basement—or at least they weren’t before they saw the trailers, which promise that this is one remake worth seeing.
So, if you’re unsure about whether you’re seeing the new Evil Dead this weekend, or if you’ll be there and want to learn about the film, here are the things you need to know:
- It’s A Reboot, Not a Sequel—This version takes the basic elements of the original (in which there was relatively little comedy, remember)—a group of friends go to a cabin in the woods, unleash demons, horror ensues—but it’s not a sequel. Instead, it’s a retelling of the original story set in the present day. There’s no in-story relationship between this film and the 1981 version.
- It Might Be the Scariest Movie Ever—At least that’s what the marketing would lead us to believe (however much we should believe the marketing). That said, check out this red band (i.e. NSFW) trailer. That looks legitimately terrifying.
- An Early Version Got an NC-17—Another marketing stunt? Almost certainly. The filmmakers knew what they were submitting and did it to hype the intensity of the film, but the R-rated version should be grueling, and the uncut Blu-ray may be memorably punishing.
- Diablo Cody Wrote It—Yes, she wrote Juno and Young Adult, but she also wrote the Megan Fox/Amanda Seyfried demonic possession film Jennifer’s Body. In the case of the Evil Dead, she didn’t write the full script. Instead, she polished an earlier draft written by non-native English speakers, director Fede Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues.
- There Are No Computer Effects—The original Evil Dead is famous for the ingenuity of its low-budget effects. In keeping with that spirit, this version is (reportedly) eschewing the computer. So the girl slicing her tongue in half? Real! Well no, but because the film uses real props, the horror should have more tangibility than graphics.
- It All Began Within the Woods—While the 1981 edition is often referred to as the first in the series, an earlier film—1978’s Within the Woods—saw director Sam Raimi, star Bruce Campbell, and many of the core crew members working on a movie about demonic possession at a cabin in the woods.
- The Key Players Are Back—One of the great failings of many sequels and remakes is that the people who made the original so good aren’t invited back. Not in this case. Raimi and Campbell are executive producing this one, and Raimi handpicked Alvarez as director.
- The Male Lead Was Nearly a Sparkly Vampire—Shiloh Fernandez is new to me (though not to fans of Jericho, The United States of Tara, and the recent Red Riding Hood movie), but apparently he came awfully close to winning the role of Edward Cullen in the Twilight films, with the story being that only Kristen Stewart’s advocacy of eventual sparkler Robert Pattinson tilted things in his favor.
- The Director Has Never Made a Feature Film—Fede Alvarez has made a handful of short films, including this pretty riveting SF tale, but he’s never helmed a feature. If the film isn’t as good as its trailers advertise, that could be a culprit. On the other hand, a success could herald a major new genre talent.
- Ash Has Been Swept Out—Bruce Campbell’s character, Ash Williams, is the face of the Evil Dead, but you won’t find Ash anywhere near this version. The character’s name doesn’t appear in the IMDB listings. The question, of course, is whether that means Campbell will be absent too or if we should keep an eye out for one of his trademark cameos.
- There’s Already a Sequel Coming—According reports of conversations with Alvarez at SXSW, at least. I know what I said about sequels earlier, but that the next edition is underway before the first installment premieres seems to promise one hell of a film.