When you think of The Evil Dead, you're sure to have images of whirring chainsaws, cackling deadites, and buckets of blood and guts spring to mind.
The Sam Raimi horror comedy, released in 1981, terrified audiences upon its release as the grisly flick followed five friends as they travel to a cabin in the woods, unknowingly releasing a pack of flesh-possessing demons.
The group is left to fight for their lives as the demons wreak unimaginable horror among them as only one is left standing to fight the possessed corpses of their friends. It launched the career of many talented people involved with the film, including Campbel, Raimi, and the Coen Brothers, with Joel Coen working as an editor for the production. The film perfectly blended a real sense of dread and unease with laugh-out-loud moments and stomach-churning brutality that made it stand out from the crowd – as well as polarise viewers.
The Evil Dead was banned in the UK, being placed on the DPP video nasties list and therefore amassing a certain amount of notoriety. This, coupled with its low budget and camp flair, amassed a cult following and has seen it lauded as not only one of the most successful independent films of all time but also one of the greatest horror films of all time. The most notable element of the film that is often spoken about in conjunction with this is its revolutionary use of practical effects that shaped the world of horror that came after it.
The subgenre of gore in horror, also referred to as splatter films, is characterised by its penchant for extreme violence and graphic imagery. Every horror fan will have their own ideas about what constitutes gore, but one thing I am sure we can all agree on is that it culminates in blood – and usually, lots of it. And no matter what your personal definition of gore is, the end objective is always the same – to make cinemagoers squirm in their seats.
Gore is an effective way to immerse a viewer in the film as they imagine how the violence on screen would feel should they experience it. It creates a full-body reaction from those that watch it, whether that be absolute disgust or a perverse excitement from being exposed to such danger in a controlled environment.
Gore is commonplace in many modern horror films – as well as in some films that wouldn't fit in the genre – but at the time of The Evil Dead's release, this type of violence was considered taboo.
The Evil Dead certainly has a reputation that precedes it as one of the most gruesome films of its time, and it's one that delivers on its promises with 85 minutes of balls-to-the-wall gore that helped to cement its success.
With such a bloodthirsty and beloved legacy behind it, it is hard to imagine that a remake of the original film – considering remakes are so controversial for film fans as is – is something that could even come close to carrying the torch for the franchise.
Then, in 2013, came Evil Dead.
Directed by Fede Alvarez, the film is dubbed as a ‘reimagining' of the original and acts as the fourth film in the wildly popular franchise. Where The Evil Dead, in all its low-budget glory, alluded to violence and gore while chucking buckets of blood around, Evil Dead took a very different approach by focusing on body horror and close-up gore to chilling effect.
While the violence onscreen is stomach-churning, viewers can find beauty in the blood that adds to the overall terrifying atmosphere of the film that makes it so iconic even ten years on from its initial release.
While not a shot-for-shot exact remake of the original film, Evil Dead takes many of its predecessor's iconic moments, leaving little of the narrative and its nasty moments as a surprise to viewers.
However, what the film did to make up for this predictability was to lean into it, alluding to the horrific imagery viewers knew they would be subjected to early in the film rather than plunging us straight into the guts of the violent narrative.
The gore within the film is foreshadowed early on through the Naturom Demonto and its graphic imagery that illustrates the gnarly ways in which our characters will meet their demise, as well as paying homage to various moments within the wider franchise.
As well as this, when a character uses a nail gun or an electric knife at the beginning of the film, they are focused on in a manner than subconsciously tells the audience they will be of importance later on. Before even showing us a drop of blood – let alone a bucket of it – Evil Dead has us on high alert in anticipation for the inevitable blood bath.
The backdrop for the horror that takes place in Evil Dead is a cabin in the forest, just like its predecessor. But while the settings are the same in type, they couldn't be more different in execution. Soft moss, cascading ferns, sprawling trees, a babbling brook, and sunlight piercing through the early morning fog greet our central characters, and us as viewers. The cabin itself even seems to succumb to nature as the porch is battered and worn by rot in the wood and cobwebs infest the interior.
Japanese horror influences prevail through lashings of rain and scenes bathed in greys and blues to add to the overall eerie mood of the 2013 remake, as opposed to the rustic vibes the setting of the original film possessed. This stylized and polished cinematography juxtaposes starkly against the raw, vibrant reds of the buckets of blood thrust across every inch of the environment, allowing both their time in the spotlight to shine.
The natural elements of both the human body and the natural environment being taken over by an unnatural entity add to the overwhelming themes of body horror within the narrative that are almost too uncomfortable to behold, but too captivating to turn away from as our fascination with the defilement of the natural world, and in extension, our own flesh and bones, is a horrifying yet morbidly interesting premise.
Another way Evil Dead builds our expectations for the gore within it is through character development, letting us get to know our central characters in intimate detail.
Evil Dead also sees five friends travel to a cabin in the woods, but rather than doing so for a fun-filled getaway, the remake sees four friends bring Mia (Jane Levy) escorted to the location alongside her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) and friends in order to overcome her heroin addiction.
The bleak and at-times uncomfortable storyline surrounding Mia sees her lash out at her loved ones in the depths of experiencing withdrawal symptoms while also suffering what could be hallucinations but ultimately turns out to be supernatural phenomena that doom the group.
The use of character building within Evil Dead makes its use of gratuitous gore effective as we care about what happens to our unwitting fivesome, making what they endure at the hands of, well, each other, even more harrowing.
Couple that with Mia's tragic journey, and the film takes us on a nihilistic, nightmarish journey filled with both physical and emotional agony. Mia's journey through addiction culminates in arguably the film's most iconic scene, in which she is forced to fight the paranormal force that has plagued her as it takes the form of her doppelganger. As blood rains down on the pair, Mia must fight her demons – both physically and metaphorically – in order to free herself from certain death.
While gore can often be seen as a tool purely used to shock and disgust the viewer, in Evil Dead and through Mia's narrative, it is used as a poignant tool to visualise her battles with addiction and break the chains that have bound her to substance use. As we journey through the narrative that sees the friends unleash the evil itself, we finally reach the film's blood-soaked core.
Remaking one of the goriest films of all time is a terrifying task, but Alvarez ups the ante in terms of the sheer amount of blood spilled on screen. With the humour of the original left in the past, the gore is an intrinsic part of delivering scares – and boy, does it deliver.
Gore in Evil Dead used in a variety of ways – body horror as Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) sees her arm rot and eventually cuts off the infected limb, brutality as Olivia (Jessica Lucas) cuts her face off, sexualisation during the notorious ‘box cutter kiss' scene, and downright ridiculousness as Mia projectile vomits neon-tinged blood into Olivia's face.
The versatility of the violence onscreen adds to the sheer wonderment of what you are watching and helps the film avoid falling into the trap of using gratuitous violence for the sheer sake of it.
This, coupled with the gore sinister and less comedic approach to the remake's narrative, means the viewers are plunged full throttle into nightmarish scenes of pure evil and given no hope that the characters involved will make it out alive. The gore within Evil Dead doesn't let up for a minute, rather it is a relentless bombardment of blood and guts from start to finish that it becomes almost a challenge to sit through.
And it is here that the splatter in the narrative creates an element that juxtaposes so starkly against the raw, untamed horror that runs wrought – fun.
Keeping your eyes fully open through each stomach-turning scene becomes a challenge you want to face and a badge of honour to wear when talking about the film to your loved ones – why yes, I did manage to sit through THAT scene.
While it is wondrous to experience the brutality of what is happening on screen and the revulsion it causes, what adds an extra layer of awe to the gore in Evil Dead is the way in which it was created.
Much like Raimi in the original film, Alvarez opted to predominantly use practical effects for the film's tribute to pay tribute to its roots.
According to reports in the press, the film used 70,000 gallons of fake blood – with Alvarez claiming 50,000 of that was for the final scene alone. This is compared to the 200 to 300 gallons used in the original. Minimal use of CGI adds to the overall horrifying realism of the piece, while the knowledge that the jaw-dropping gore onscreen was created by hand and not digital manipulation is truly a marvel.
It wouldn't be a bold claim to make that Evil Dead is one of the best horror remakes ever made, or indeed, one of the remakes in film history.
While paying tribute to the iconic original film, it carved itself a legacy of its own by maintaining the charm and originality of the original film, while bringing a bloodier, grittier offering to the table to drag the franchise kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
Gore is often seen as something to be horrified and repulsed by, and while this is the case within Evil Dead, Alvarez created a visual feast for the eyes with blood as his medium and lush, natural imagery as his canvas that is painstakingly beautiful.
And with Evil Dead Rise – the fifth film in the series – promising yet another gore fest, we're sure to have yet another beautiful installment in the groundbreaking franchise to influence a new generation of film.