Reliving the Past: ‘The Evil Dead’ Franchise
Beginning (technically) tonight is Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead. For those unfamiliar, it is actually a remake of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead, which was his first film fresh out of film school. Raimi’s horror comedy (now combined to be called a “horromedy”) helped transform him into a household name. It also spawned an entire franchise that has garnered a cult following.
Before going to see Evil Dead this weekend, here is a quick review of the entire Evil Dead franchise (I’ll try not to be too spoilery):
Made way back in 1981, the low-budget (estimated at $350,000) horror film followed a group of Michigan State students as they made an escape to a secluded cabin in the woods. This probably spawned the trope that is evident in almost every horror movie (it seems). When the students reach the cabin, creepy things start to happen.
Throughout the short film (85 minutes), the group is subjected to some gnarly demons and strange occurrences that you’ll (thankfully) only see in the movies.
What separates The Evil Dead from other horror movies is the sheer absurdity. Plot and character development weren’t on the agenda, and Raimi seemed to only care about scaring and scarring the audience. The blood and gore is completely over-the-top, and the movie is a prime example of a horromedy. In fact, it may be the first of its kind.
And for that, we thank you Mr. Raimi!
Sometimes marketed as “Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn,” 1987’s sequel starts with a quick recap of what you may have missed if you didn’t see The Evil Dead (how could you have not!?). It kind of skews the events that ended the first story, but it sets Evil Dead 2 on an even crazier path. There’s possibly no way things could get any weirder, right?
Evil Dead 2 cares even less about plot and more about stuffing as many oddities into one script. Also directed by Raimi (and written by him and Scott Spiegel), it’s essentially about one character, Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell), again running from the crazy demons in the woods.
At least the movie gives some sort of mythos to the tale by giving a backstory to the Book of the Dead (or Necronomicon Ex-Mortis). Although I previously bashed the movie for having no plot, it at least has this.
For fans that latched onto the so-crazy-it’s-funny part of the original, they’ll eat Evil Dead 2 up. There is a laughing taxidermy moose, a character chocking on a flying eyeball, and an arm replaced with a chainsaw. This only scratches the surface, too.
If The Evil Dead was about establishing the horromedy definition, Evil Dead 2 was about solidifying it as a fun, and sometimes thoughtful, genre.
The third installment in the Evil Dead franchise again takes place pretty much right after the previous one had ended (although it was made five years later). How could the franchise get any wackier, you ask? How about transporting our main character to the Middle Ages?!
I bet you didn’t guess that.
What follows is a deviation most probably didn’t see coming, as Army of Darkness switched from horror to fantasy. Instead of a horromedy, it became a dark fantasy comedy.
Yes, that’s a real thing.
Army of Darkness is personally my least favorite installment, but Raimi (again the director) should get props for creating something different. The franchise got going with the cult hit The Evil Dead, furthered the absurdity in Evil Dead 2, and changed the formula in Army of Darkness. Those in love with the original still get bouts of the crazy gore and some great callbacks. By the end, I’d guess most fans weren’t disappointed with the conclusion.
In all, the Evil Dead franchise definitely is unique. Starting out as a low budget horror film, the franchise morphed into a beast of its own. With a huge cult following (that still persists today), it’s no wonder a remake was in order. From the looks of things, this weekend’s release of Evil Dead is just as gory (or possibly more). It also looks like an update to the franchise, so here’s to hoping the franchise continues to shock their audiences…whether due to fright or not.
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