With the release of Drag Me To Hell, a lot of viewers got interested in Sam Raimi’s earlier works. And I’m not talking about his Spider-Man trilogy but way, way earlier works. Made with a very low budget, The Evil Dead developed a cult status and two sequels in the years to come. The Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness all followed the original recipe with fast-paced action, jokes, a healthy dose of terror, and creativity oozing from every shot. However, the list of elements that make the original such a masterpiece just keeps going on and on. We’ve got demonic possession, a closed environment, slapstick, H. P. Lovecraft, over-the-top gore, boomstick, and fucking Ash!
The story is rather simplistic with five friends driving to a remote cabin to spend the weekend there. They find an ancient book there and things start escalating after that. Blending horror and comedy, The Evil Dead is one of the first movies that tried this approach. To get away with something like this, you have to get both the atmosphere and the cast right. And boy did they nail them in this movie. Bruce Campbell was a perfect choice for Ash, becoming this larger-than-life personality in the years to come. He was only 22 years old at the time of the filming.
What makes The Evil Dead even more astounding is the fact that Sam Raimi shot the movie straight out of film school. He poured all his creativity and skill into it and you can really feel that. It was a true pleasure to watch what a talented director can do with such a small budget. The camera work is stellar and it instantly transports you into these cursed woods. The atmosphere is just so tense and juicy. You feel like this house and the surrounding woods exist in some other realm. So, the sense of claustrophobia is very real. The effects are charmingly outdated but they still do the job.
They’re surprisingly effective in their uniqueness. First, there’s the infamous tree rape scene, something that still, to this day, hasn’t been seen on film. And then there’s the nasty pencil stab into, well, perhaps I should stop here as I don’t want to reveal too much for the first-timers. Suffice it to say that there will be a lot of blood, graphic violence, and creepy creatures.
If you like horror movies, you probably heard all about The Evil Dead. So, I don’t want to bother you too much by going over every aspect of this masterpiece. I will, however, say that I was blown away when I first saw it. And I saw it quite late in my movie-watching career, just a few years ago. It seemed just too silly and pretentious to me earlier. I just needed to mature to fully grasp what has Raimi accomplished here. And once I did, a whole new world of horror comedies opened up to me. Eighties horror comedies, to be more precise.
A genre I’ve been avoiding for the longest time has quickly become my favorite. If you’re looking for movies like The Evil Dead, I suggest you start with The Return of the Living Dead, Re-Animator, and Society. You can then move on to An American Werewolf in London, Critters, Creepshow, and others. Finally, I just want to add that in this sea of creative, funny, and gory movies, two of Peter Jackson’s gems stand in a league of their own. I am talking, of course, about Bad Taste and Dead Alive AKA Braindead.
Director: Sam Raimi
Writer: Sam Raimi
Cast: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Richard DeManincor, Betsy Baker, Theresa Tilly
Fun Facts: The original script called for all the characters to be smoking marijuana when they are first listening to the tape. The actors decided to try this for real, and the entire scene had to be later re-shot due to their uncontrollable behavior.