Face-Off: Drag Me to Hell vs. Evil Dead 2013

Discovered through his impressive work in short films, director Fede Alvarez was chosen by Sam Raimi to make his feature debut with the long-planned remake of Raimi's breakthrough film THE EVIL DEAD. Alvarez's EVIL DEAD reached theatres in 2013, and this weekend another Alvarez/Raimi collaboration, DON'T BREATHE, is set to be released, so it seemed the right time to have an EVIL DEAD Face-Off. The movie I've chosen to put it against is Raimi's own DRAG ME TO HELL from 2009, his return to EVIL DEAD-esque filmmaking sixteen years after ARMY OF DARKNESS. DRAG ME TO HELL and EVIL DEAD 2013 are very different in tone, but share the common ground of being about young women who are besieged by supernatural forces.
The events of DRAG ME TO HELL aren't set in motion by a stupid mistake or being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Instead, it's a perfectly set up character decision. When the bank threatens to repossess the home of Mrs. Ganush, a sick old Gypsy woman, she seeks the help of loan officer Christine Brown. Christine would normally be more helpful, but she's vying for the assistant manager position and her boss has encouraged her to make tough decisions. She rejects Mrs. Ganush's request for more time to pay her mortgage. Christine's ambition ruins Mrs. Ganush's life and shames her, so Mrs. Ganush curses her to be dragged to Hell by a demon called The Lamia. We see the sides of both women in this issue, and even if we don't agree with Christine's choice we do still understand why she made it.
Only in a horror movie would you see something like this happen. When a group of young people spending some time at an isolated cabin in the woods discover blood on the floor and strange things in the cellar, like dead cats hanging from the ceiling, they don't leave or call the cops. They just clean the place up and go on with their plans. Among the strange things is a book wrapped in plastic and barbed wire, its pages covered with warnings not to read its demon-summoning passages. So what does school teacher Eric do? He snips the wire, tears open the plastic, ignores the warnings, and takes pencil rubbings of the passages so he can read them and speak them aloud. This guy really goes out of his way to make a stupid decision and cause a whole lot of horrific trouble for himself and his friends.
Christine Brown is not the pure heroine you usually expect, in fact there are some who say she deserves everything she gets in this film. Not only does she cause a sick old lady to be thrown out of her home because she wants to impress her boss and her boyfriend's family, but she also does some terrible things while trying to save herself. Christine is a deeply flawed, selfish character on the run from her lower class upbringing and there are moments when she's not very likeable, but it is nice to have a heroine with so much depth.
Mia is a flawed character as well - the troubled girl's brother and friends have gathered together at her family's rundown cabin to help her kick drugs cold turkey. The first to be possessed, she looks to have missed her chance to be heroine for much of the film, but good does eventually triumph over evil in time for her to face off with the demonic forces in the climax. It's equally silly and badass as Mia, wielding a chainsaw, dropping one-liners, and tearing her own crushed hand off, goes to extremes to make up for lost heroine time.
Said to be the most feared of all demons, The Lamia likes to toy with its victims for three days before claiming them, lurking around as a shadowy figure and a violent invisible force. It gives Christine terrifying visions that disrupt her interactions with people and nearly drive her mad, and in one sequence communicates with her through a talking goat and possessed characters who can levitate and seem very much like the Deadites in EVIL DEAD II and ARMY OF DARKNESS. This film definitely exists within that world, and it's great to see Raimi deal with things like this again.
Compared to the Deadites in Raimi's EVIL DEAD films, the possessed characters in this movie are a disappointment. Deadites before had been cackling, taunting maniacs, and here they're just bland zombies who want to inflict harm rather than eat people. When they do speak, lines are lifted from THE EXORCIST. The invisible force is back to lurk around in the woods again, and a new wrinkle is added to the story in the form of The Abomination, which will rise from Hell when the evil claims five souls. It's a letdown when The Abomination does rise and is just a demonic version of Mia.
Raimi crafted this film to be a fun ride that delivers laughs, screams, and disgusting sights. The sickly Mrs. Ganush spews phlegm, a corpse releases fluid into someone's face, a character gets the worst bloody nose of all time, there's a Looney Tunes-esque image of a head being crushed by an anvil, and faces get covered in bugs and maggots. My favorite disgusting sight is when Mrs. Ganush tries to bite Christine on the chin, but her dentures have fallen out so she just ends up gumming her.
Fede Alvarez's EVIL DEAD is a film designed to hurt and disgust you. It looks filthy, and it confronts you with so many cringe-inducing visuals that you almost become immune to it by the end. Blood, piss, and vomit flow across the screen while characters suffer horrible injuries, losing life and limb. Blades split flesh, needles get broken in the skin, nails are driven into body parts, blunt objects bash people into bloody pulps. This film has something to unnerve and gross out anyone.
Christine doesn't just sit back and let the curse run its course, she desperately tries to stop it. She attempts to make things right with Mrs. Ganush, but after finding that the woman has died she has to seek other help. A fortune teller leads her to a medium, a séance is performed, and in the film's most talked about scene Christine even offers a blood sacrifice to The Lamia, killing her kitten. She soon realizes that the only way to rid herself of the curse may be to pass it on, but who can she pass a Hellish fate to and still retain the audience's sympathy?
There's really not much you can do to get rid of a Deadite problem. The Ash character from Raimi's films is still fighting them in every episode of a TV series thirty years later. After finding that the evil book can't be burned, this group finds possible solutions within its pages: live burial of the possessed, bodily dismemberment, and purification by fire. All of these options are pursued in one way or another, with one character MacGyvering a questionable defibrillator to help the live burial subject, but none of them are particularly promising.
While I think EVIL DEAD is one of the better remakes to come out this century, it also comes up short in some areas for me. When in competition with DRAG ME TO HELL, I have to give Sam Raimi's film the edge over Fede Alvarez's Raimi remake, because I find DRAG ME TO HELL to be a much more entertaining and better written movie. I get more wrapped up in Christine's plight than I do in what's going on with Mia and her cohorts.

Would you have given DRAG ME TO HELL the win, or do you enjoy EVIL DEAD 2013 more? Are you looking forward to DON'T BREATHE? Let us know your thoughts on the works of Raimi and Alvarez by leaving a comment below. If you have suggestions for future Face-Offs, those can be sent to me at [email protected].



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