The Evil Dead, 1981
Directed by Sam Raimi
Starring Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Hal Delrich, Betsy Baker and Sarah York
A group of friends are away for a vacation of eating, drinking and general merriment at a seemingly abandoned cabin in the woods. However, as our friends are settling into their new surroundings, they come across a mysterious book and a recording from the cabin’s previous occupant, which when played aloud, unleashes a demonic force that soon threatens to swallow our heroes’ souls.
Among the most gruesome and the most beloved horror films of all time, Sam Rami’s The Evil Dead is the launching pad for many great things. The film catapulted its director into the mainstream, allowing him to direct some of the biggest films in Hollywood. It transformed leading man Bruce Campbell from an unknown actor to the adored B-movie icon that he is today. And it launched arguably one of the most iconic cult horror franchises of all time, with a rabid fan base to match the ferocity of its gory effects.
So join me as we go back to where it all began, back to a cabin in the woods.
At the risk of sounding like a gushing fan boy let me say this, I fucking love the Evil Dead series. It’s easily one of my favourite film franchises, up there with Star Wars in my eyes. This first instalment in the series though is easily the weakest of the series, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time watching it.
The acting for the large part is very, shall we say, awkward, with stilted delivery, hammy characterisation and the fact that most of the cast is replaced half way through with stand ins or “shemps” in various degrees of demon/zombie possession. Bruce Campbell is easily the best actor in the film, but even he is very awkward, with his Ash character being largely useless for the most part, not quite being that arrogant but badass idiot that we all know and love.
The cinematography is stylish and creative, with some now iconic Rami touches, like the rushing demonic force charging through the woods, or the creative overhead shots of Ash which then crane down over his head. You’ll be scratching your head trying to work out how some of these shots were accomplished with the low budget.
Those with a weak stomach or just hate the sight of blood are going to hate this film. We have eyes being gouged out, blood spewing from pipes, heads exploding, limbs being hacked off – essentially the film is bloodier than a butcher’s apron. The effects that bring these gruesome moments to life are outstanding, especially considering the minuscule budget on hand to produce the film, with very creative stop-motion sequences and sound effects guaranteed to make your blood curdle.
The Evil Dead is certainly a fine start to a great franchise, full of gruesome goings on, some unintentionally funny performances from Campbell and company (there’s a reason the sequels became comedies) and some really brilliant visual trickery from Rami and his crew. All these factors, plus, numerous buckets of blood, all brilliantly mix to create a bloody great horror film experience.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★