MOTW: Why "Evil Dead" is One of the Best Horror Films of Its Time

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In the much anticipated remake of the 1981 cult-hit horror film, five twenty-something friends become holed up in a remote cabin. When they discover a Book of the Dead, they unwittingly summon up dormant demons living in the nearby woods, which possess the youngsters in succession until only one is left intact to fight for survival.
Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing
October 7th, 2013

MOTW: Why "Evil Dead" is One of the Best Horror Films of Its Time

"Evil Dead" is the 2013 remake of "The Evil Dead," the cult classic horror film from 1981. In the style of many slasher films, the movie opens with a group of five teenagers who decide to visit a remote cabin in the woods. The cabin is filled with intriguing artifacts that belonged to its previous residents, including a bound book that claims to hold the secrets of the realm of the dead. The group gets far more intimately acquainted with the other side than they would like as a sinister presence in the woods is summoned by the book. As the film progresses, each character is possessed in turn and their bodies are used to enact demonic revenge on the cabin's living inhabitants.

Although the premise may sound familiar, the similarities between "Evil Dead" and other horror films end there. The modern remake largely holds true to the original atmosphere and story while adding a twist all its own. Like the original film, "Evil Dead" is loaded with gory death scenes and fight sequences. An unmistakably ominous atmosphere pervades the entire film as the teenagers begin to realize that their chances of survival are slim to nonexistent.

Thanks to its larger budget—and despite the fact that it uses very little CGI—"Evil Dead" is even gorier and more intense than its predecessor. The filmmakers managed to create even the most brutal scenes using props and stunts rather than special effects, making the horror sequences all the more chilling for their realism.

"Evil Dead" more than fills the shoes of the original film and transcends both the horror movie genre and the slasher film subgenre to become something far more intriguing and influential in the context of current cinema. "The Evil Dead" was by far one of the most influential horror films of its time, and its successor has taken that role for the current generation of horror films. "Evil Dead" manages to blend the tense psychological drama and thoughtfulness of films like "Carrie" and "Psycho" with raw, visceral moments that provide pure shock value.

Another reason "Evil Dead" is one of the best horror films of its time is the performances by its leading actors. It is difficult to manage strong character development in a film that is divided between five leads, but the cast of "Evil Dead" does so with ease. Director Fede Alvarez made a wise if controversial decision when he chose to cast relative unknowns for the roles. It is always difficult to fill the same roles that iconic actors from a previous generation once filled, especially with a film as classic as "The Evil Dead." Choosing fledgling actors and those without big-screen notoriety allows the characters to become their own and makes the viewing experience truly fresh and believable.

In addition to great acting and believable effects, "Evil Dead" has been an instant success thanks to its comedic script. While the film's subject matter is full of blood and gore, the script is full of hilarious one-liners and dry wit. Alvarez chose to emulate the humor that made the original film the cult classic that it is. For a horror film to be truly beloved, it almost always needs to have some element of comedy. The lighter moments of dialog between characters actually serve to increase the tension and drama of the film thanks to the sharp contrast they create. The characters interact with one another believably, making them endearing both as individuals and as a group. Being able to identify with the main characters is an essential ingredient to good horror, and "Evil Dead" succeeds with some of the most sympathetic characters in its genre.

"Evil Dead" may be a remake, but the film has a style and soul that are all its own. While staying true to all the elements that made the original such a beloved horror movie icon, "Evil Dead" manages to create a viewing experience that raises the bar for modern horror. Both modern audiences and fans of the original film will find meaning and enjoyment in this gory thriller with its intense jump scares and riveting characters. In order for a movie to be considered one of the best of its time, it must have wit, great writing, solid performances from talented actors, and a unique filming style. "Evil Dead" more than delivers on all counts.

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