Five friends take a vacation in an abandoned, isolated cabin in the woods, only to find themselves at the mercy of the supernatural. A simple premise, but loaded with potential. Sam Raimi’s 1981 film, The Evil Dead, began there, then grew with two sequels, Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness, plus comics and video games, and kicked off careers for not just him but Bruce Campbell and Robert Tapert.
The Evil Dead has five Michigan State students, Ash Williams, his girlfriend Linda, his sister Cheryl, their friend Scotty, and Scotty’s girlfriend Shelly, on spring break. They decide on an isolated cabin in the hills of Tennessee*, but the journey there isn’t uneventful. After a near-collision with another motorist in the downpour, the group barely gets across a bridge before it collapses.
At the cabin, things keep getting odd. Cheryl, while trying to draw a clock, draws a demonic face, her hand and arm possessed at the time. She dismisses what she did as just her imagination playing tricks after the long drive and near death encounters on the road. In the main room, though, a trapdoor flies open. Ash and Scotty go down to investigate and find a book, the Book of the Dead, with unusual bindings and a tape recording. The recording is gibberish to them, but is an incantation to summon evil spirits. Upstairs, a tree crashes through a window, causing Cheryl to become hysterical and leave to her room.
Cheryl, though, hears voices from outside. She goes out to look, only to be attacked, held, and assaulted by trees. Cheryl escapes, but no one believes her story. Trees don’t move like that. Ash, though, does agree to take her back to town. The only bridge connecting the cabin to the rest of the world is gone, trapping everyone.
The demons go to work. They first possess Cheryl, making her warn the others that they’re doomed, then having her stab Linda with a pencil. Cheryl gets locked up, but Shelly is the next to be possessed. Shelly attacks Scotty, who defends himself with an axe. He buries Shelly’s dismembered body, then, still shaken, goes out to find another way to escape the cabin.
When Scotty returns, Linda has been possessed, though she never tried to attack Ash. Scotty has found another way out, but falls unconscious before he could say what it is. Linda and Cheryl convince Ash they’re not posessed, but he doesn’t fall for the trick. Cheryl remains locked up in the cellar and Ash locks Linda out of the cabin. As he tends to Scotty’s injuries, Linda gets back in the cabin and attacks with a ceremonial dagger. Ash turns the tables and stabs Linda. He buries Linda, but isn’t able to dismember her as Scotty did to Shelly. The demon possessing Linda takes advantage and bursts out of the grave. Ash decapitates the possessed Linda with a shovel.
Back at the cabin, Cheryl has escaped the cellar and Scotty is now possessed. Ash finds a shotgun and wounds Cheryl, but needs to reload afterwards. He locks himself in the cellar to look for more shotgun shells. The walls seep blood and voices call to Ash. Cheryl and Scotty break through the door. Ash spies the Book of the Dead and throws it into the flames. Cheryl and Scotty fall apart. Ash returns upstairs as dawn breaks. The final shot is a from the view of an unseen evil being rushing through the woods and leaping at Ash.
The Evil Dead was a low budget horror movie by a first-time feature film director. Raimi kept the production at the isolated cabin, adding more problems as shooting went on. All the effects are practical, with workarounds made to make up for the lack of expensive equipment. Dolly zooms**, the shots where the focus pulls in on an actor while pulling the camera away, were done using a long piece of wood covered with Vaseline because proper dolly cameras weren’t available. The movie became a cult hit despite getting an initial X rating from the amount of violence and gore and, as mentioned above, spawned sequels and a musical.
Raimi and Campbell had wanted to remake the movie over the years, but the idea was on hold in 2009. In 2011, though, Campbell revealed during a Reddit AskMeAnything that there was a script for a remake, one that blew him away. While not directed by Raimi, he chose Fede Alvarez to direct the 2013 Evil Dead, making the movie his feature film debut. Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues co-wrote the script, which was then cleaned up by Diablo Cody to fix the dialogue.
Evil Dead starts with a young woman being kidnapped by two men in the woods and taken to a cabin. She recovers to find herself chained to a post and held in place by barbed wire. Along with the men who kidnapped her is her father, who is trying to tell her its for her own good, and an old witch who is ordering the father to pour gasoline on the woman. The woman pleads to be let go, but as her begging falls on deaf ears, the demon possessing her starts berating her father. He sets his daughter on fire, then shoots her.
Years later, five college-aged friends arrive at the cabin. David and his girlfriend Natalie, along with their friends Eric and Olivia, who is a nurse, have gathered to make sure that David’s sister Mia kicks her heroin habit cold turkey. The isolated nature of the cabin should ensure that Mia isn’t able to obtain more drugs or run off. As the group settles in, Mia smells something off, like something died. Olivia dismisses it as withdrawal symptoms, but Grandpa, David and Mia’s dog, also smells something coming from under a throw rug. The group removes the rug to find a trapdoor and bloodstains leading to it.
The group investigates, finding corpses of animals, a shotgun, and a book wrapped in plastic and bound with barbed wire. They take the book and shotgun back upstairs. Eric, either through curiosity or because the book called to him, removes the barbed wire to start reading. The book, Naturom Demonto or Book of the Dead, is filled with writing and illustrations, along with warnings to not read further. The illustrations are of either demons or their human victims. One page has been heavily scribbled out, but Eric makes an impression to get the original words, which he reads aloud.
Mia senses the awakening of an ancient evil. She tries to get the group to leave, but, again, Olivia dismisses it all as withdrawal symptoms. Mia grabs her car keys and leaves anyway. On the road, she sees a girl in ragged clothes too late to brake. Mia swerves instead, sending her car off the road and into the swamp. The girl reappears, following Mia. Mia runs off into the woods, but is caught on a thorn bush. While it first appears that Mia was just unlucky, the vines grab on to her, holding her in place for the girl. The girl shoots black ooze from her mouth. The ooze writhes along the ground and up Mia’s legs.
David and Olivia have followed Mia, finding her car off the road. They search for her and do find her in shock with a number scratches and thorns. Back at the cabin, Mia tries to warn the group, who, once again, passes off her babblings as withdrawal symptoms. Mia withdraws. David, working outside, finds a trail of blood that leads to his now mortally wounded dog. He storms back in, looking for his sister, who is off taking a shower. In the shower, Mia is fully clothed and turns up the heat. David breaks through the door as second degree burns appear on Mia. Eric recognizes the scene from the Book and finally speaks up about it. David takes Mia with him in his Jeep to get his sister medical attention, but the only way in and out has been washed away, forcing him to return to the cabin.
Back with the others, Mia’s possession goes full-demon as she picks up the shotgun and shoots her brother. David dodges enough so that only his arm is hit. Mia then tells the group, in a voice that isn’t hers, that all five will die, then passes out. Olivia tries to retrieve the shotgun, but Mia recovers and overpowers the nurse, covering her in a vomit of blood. The group manages to push Mia into the cellar and lock her away. Olivia heads to the bathroom to clean up. She sees a distorted view of herself in the mirror just before it explodes. Outside the bathroom, Eric hears an unsettling sound. He heads into the room to see Olivia, now also possessed, cutting her cheek with one of the mirror shards. She sees him and attacks with everything she has, mirror shard and hypodermic needle. Eric fends her off long enough to pick up a heavy piece of porcelain to bludgeon her.
As David tends to Eric’s wounds, Eric explains that everything that has happened is in the Book. The extra notes tell of how to cleanse the evil from the possessed, including dismemberment, live burial, or burning. The Book also tells of how the Taker of Souls needs five souls in order to release the Abomination. Mia and Olivia were just the first two.
The possessed Mia is working on the third. Natalie hears Mia crying in the cellar, confused about what happened to her. She opens the cellar to talk, and discovers that Mia is still possessed. Mia bites Natalie’s hand, but Natalie escapes. In the kitchen, Natalie discovers that her hand is moving of its own accord. Scared that she’s getting possessed and hearing Mia’s maniacal laughter, Natalie does the one thing she can think of to stop the infection – she severs her arm with an electric knife.
David and Eric arrive as Natalie’s arm falls to the floor. They wrap up the stump, then try to work out how to stop Mia. David is unwilling to just kill his sister. During the debate, Natalie picks up the nail gun and attacks the two men. Eric takes most of the nails, and distracts Natalie long enough for David to get the shotgun. David shoots his girlfriend’s remaining arm off.
David pulls Eric outside, along with the gasoline can. The plan is to burn the cabin with Mia inside, but she begins singing a lullaby that their mother sang to them. David’s Plan B is to bury his sister alive. He returns inside and into the cellar, but is surprised by Mia. Mia is surprised by Eric, who knocks her out but is fatally wounded by her box cutter. David carries Mia out to the shallow grave. He gives her a sedative, then buries her. Mia wakes up and taunts him with every shovelful of dirt he adds. With Mia completely buried, he waits several moments, then digs her back up. Mia is dead, but David has built a makeshift defibrillator using items in the cabin. It works, and Mia is herself again.
David returns to the cabin to get the keys for his Jeep. He’s attacked by Eric, who is possessed. David realizes that he can’t survive his neck wound, so gives Mia the keys and pushes her out of the cabin. With just him and Eric inside, David grabs the shotgun and takes aim at the gas can. The fireball kills both him and and the re-animated Eric.
Outside, Mia stares in horror at what happened. As she stands watching the flames, a rain of blood starts. Five have died, and Mia’s clinical death counts. The Abomination awakens. Mia tries to run, but the Abomination keeps up, calling her name in a harsh whisper. Mia realizes she can’t keep running and looks for a way to fight back. Her eyes fall on the chainsaw. It takes a number of attempts to get it started, all while keeping away from the Abomination. It is only while hiding under the Jeep that Mia gets the chainsaw started. She cuts the Abomination’s legs out from under it. Mia can’t get away from the Jeep fast enough, though. The Abomination topples the vehicle on its side, trapping one of Mia’s arms under it.
Horror movies are difficult to remake. Fans of the original have certain expectations, but a shot-for-shot remake means all the twists and scares are known. With an cult classic like The Evil Dead, there are elements that are needed in a remake to keep the feel. Evil Dead managed to keep those elements while still being fresh. The original used camera tricks like dolly zooms and long, low, fast shots through the woods while still being in a cramped environment. Those same tricks return, adding to the oddness of the cabin. Changing the names of the victims also helps. Ash Williams would be expected to survive in a remake. No Ash, no foreknowledge of who, if anyone, survives.
Some things, though, shouldn’t be changed. The trap door, the Book, the chainsaw, the rape-trees, all were key in the original and all return in some form. For an added bonus, Sam Raimi’s 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88*** returns, as an abandoned car at the cabin. Everything that made The Evil Dead the horror classic it is returns in Evil Dead. Helping to keep that feel are the producers, Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and Robert Tapert, all resposible for the original. Raimi may not be at the helm, but he chose Fede Alvarez. Alvarez delivered a movie that uses the techniques of the original to deliver the chills of the original while still being its own film.
The end result is that Evil Dead is The Evil Dead with a better budget but a tighter film.
* Production filmed in an isolated cabin near Morrison, Tennesee, adding a touch of cinéma verité to the movie. Raimi was known to be happy when his actors bled.
** Also known as Vertigo shots, after the Alfred Hitchcock movie.
*** The Delta 88 has appeared in every movie and series that Sam Raimi has worked on, including Spider-Man as the car Peter’s uncle drove and even in an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess.
Thunderbirds are go! Again!
A new Thunderbirds TV series is set to launch. The show will forego Supermarionation for a mix of CGI and live-action models. The debut is on the 50th anniversary of the original airdate of Thunderbirds.
Next Terminator movie a reboot.
According to Jay Courtney, who will play Kyle Reese, Terminator: Genisys is more of a reset than a reboot. Other than Arnold Schwarzengger, an all-new cast will play the familiar roles. Two sequels have already been scheduled.
Warner announces DC Comics movie line up.
Batman versus Superman: Dawn of Justice leads off the ten, but has been moved to avoid competing with Captain America 3 in 2016. The other movies announced are Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, Justice League: Part One, The Flash, Aquaman, Shazam, Justice League: Part Two, Cyborg, and Green Lantern. All should be released over the next six years. Warner also announced a trilogy of films based on JK Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a text originally found at Hogwart’s.
Knights of the Dinner Table in post-production.
Knights of the Dinner Table, a comic about tabletop gamers, will have a live-action movie based on the strip. The adaptation is in post-production and is looking for backers to help get the movie done.
Transporter: The Series started October 18.
Slipped past the radar here, but the new TV series based on the Jason Statham movies has aired on TNT. François Berléand returns as Inspector Tarconi, while Statham’s character Frank Martin is now played by Chris Vance. The series hopes to dig into why Frank got into his profession.
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic movie confirmed.
Hasbro’s Allspark Pictures has the green light for an animated Friendship Is Magic movie. Release date is expected to be in 2017. Allspark is also producing the live-action Jem and the Holograms film, due out in 2015.
Dredd webseries has animated trailer.
Adi Shankar, producer of Dredd, has released a trailer for his “bootleg” animated series continuing where the movie left off. The series will look at the Dark Judges arc of the comic.
John Carter of Mars rights return to Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.
The rights, formerly held by Disney, have returned to Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. The Disney film, John Carter, foundered in theatres with most problems traceable back to the studio, from a bland name to poor timing. The rights are now available to anyone willing to pay.
Fox developing Archie series.
Riverdale will be a drama featuring the Archie Comics characters. Greg Berlanti, of Arrow and The Flash, is on as producer while Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the creative mind behind such series as AfterLife with Archie, is writing for the series. The series will look at the weirdnesses surrounding small towns and may not resemble the Riverdale you grew up with. However, current readers may be familiar with the setting. Archie Comics have taken risks in the past decade, including the horror series AfterLife with Archie, having Archie and Valerie becoming a couple, and not only introducing an openly gay character, Kevin Keller, but giving him his own title.
Riverdale may get weirder.
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, creative director of Archie Comics and writer of the new series, has compared Riverdale to a teen version of Twin Peaks. He has hinted at an Afterlife with Archie episode as well. Current continuity will be part of the series, too. If the series survives the, “But this isn’t *my* Archie!” fallout, it’ll pull an audience just through sheer audacity.
Clerks 3 confirmed.
Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes will be back as Jay and Silent Bob in the sequel. Shooting for the film will start June 2015.
The Six Million Dollar Man being remade.
To account for inflation, the name is being changed to The Six Billion Dollar Man. Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg, the pair behind Lone Survivor, are taking on the project for Dimension Films. The original Six Million Dollar Man was itself an adaptation of the book, Cyborg, by Martin Caidan, and ran from 1973, with several made-for-TV movies before becoming a regular series in 1974, until 1978.
Latest rumour in the Spider-verse has Aunt May getting a movie.
Sony is apparently mining out the Spider-Man license if this rumour is true. Other rumours include a Venom movie, a Sinister Six movie, and Glass Ceiling, which involves the female characters from the Spider-verse coming together. Of these, Venom seems more likely to gather an audience. Then again, I’m not at Sony.
In more solid news, Evil Dead greenlit as a TV series.
Starz will air the Evil Dead TV series starting in 2015. Sam Raimi will be the executive producer and will also write and direct the first give episodes. Rob Tapert is on board as well as an executive producer. Bruce Campbell will return as Ash, older but not necessarily wiser. Groovy.
Jonathan Nolan adapting Foundation for HBO.
Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series is being adapted as a TV series on HBO. The epic series covers centuries over the course of the books, with the cast of characters changing over time.
Fifth Tremors movie in production.
The movie, expected out direct-to-video in 2016, will star Michael Gross, recreating his Burt Gummer character. The original Tremors, starring Kevin Bacon, became a cult hit and has spawned three direct-to-video movies and a short-lived TV series. The movie in production will see Graboids appearing in South Africa.
Movies cannot contain the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Thanks to the popularity of the film, Marvel will be adding an animated series and a new comic aimed at kids to the announced sequel. How the animated series fits in with the cinematic Marvel universe is in dispute with the production staff of the sequel, but the series may just go with the team already together.