The Evil Dead

10/13/2015 20:49

Film: The Evil Dead

Year: 1981

Director: Sam Raimi

Writer: Sam Raimi

Starring: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss and Richard DeManincor



This film I have an interesting past with. I saw Army of Darkness first, then had my mother pick up Evil Dead 2 before finally seeing this one. I don’t think my video store had this so we bought it on VHS as the reason why. It is an interesting way to watch it as both sequels are more comedic where this is more of the horror. I’ve seen this quite a few times now, with the last time being in the theater and my 4K Blu-ray with my wife Jaime. She had never seen this one.

Synopsis: five friends travel to a cabin in the woods, where they unknowingly release flesh-possessing demons.

We start with a group of friends in a car going to a cabin that is in the middle of the woods. The man driving is Scott (Richard DeManincor) with his girlfriend sitting next to him, Shelly (Theresa Tilly). He is a bit of a jerk and likes to play jokes on those around him, some of which are not that funny. In the back is Ashley J. Williams (Bruce Campbell) with his girlfriend Linda (Betsy Baker). Ash’s sister is also along Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss).

Odd things happen from the beginning. The wheel to the car locks and it is aimed right for a truck that is coming. It rips out of Scott’s hands. He blames Ash for it happening, but he tells Scott that he just took it in for a tune-up. They go over an old bridge and along a narrow path to the cabin. There is a porch swing that is hitting the shuttered window until Scott takes the key down from the door frame. It stops moving by itself.

They unpack and settle in. Cheryl likes to draw and is doing one of a clock. Something calls to her to join them from the woods and then her hand is taken over by an unseen force. It makes her draw a rough looking book with a face. They then have dinner when the door to the cellar flings open. They all investigate with Scott going to see what caused it.

Ash calls out to him, but there’s no respond. He then takes a lantern to go find out what is happening. The cellar is dark, damp and weird things are hanging from the ceiling. There’s a backroom with a bunch of odd things. They find a table with a shotgun, shells, a book that has a face and looks odd as well as an old tape recorder along with a long dagger with skeletons on it.

This stuff is brought upstairs and they listen to the tape. The voice is a professor who found this text while doing a dig and has come here with his wife to translate it. The book is the Book of the Dead. It is bound with human flesh and inked in human blood. It contains ways to summon demons and things to this nature. The tape upsets Cheryl and she shuts it off. Scott wants to hear more so he fast forwards it and plays it again. He ends up to a point where the voice is saying an incantation. We then see something wakes up in the woods. Cheryl screams to shut it off and a tree crashes through the window.

It becomes a nightmare as they try to survive the night. Whatever they did woke up an ancient evil that is coming for them, one by one.

That should be enough of a recap as I’m assuming most everyone that is reading this has seen this one. It is a classic in the genre and pretty much created the ‘cabin in the woods’ subgenre. Since I’ve already given my history with this movie, I’ll get into this. This is more horror than the others in the series and even though I know what’s going to happen, it still creeps me out. What is insane though is how low of a budget that writer/director Sam Raimi had to work with. They went far with what they had to bring this all to life for sure.

I should also state that some of the movies that terrify me the most are possession films. I might not be able to necessarily stop a killer, but I have a fighting chance. When it comes to films with demons like this, I wouldn’t know what to do and would probably either die or become possessed before I could. This also does bring a bit of issue I have here. Not enough to affect my rating, but my problem is that there doesn’t really seem to be a rhyme or reason for who becomes possessed. Cheryl gets attacked and I understand her fate. Same thing for Linda and Shelly, but Ash is attacked in similar ways and he seems to be able to resist. It doesn’t get explained either. I have a slight issue when my director doesn’t know and that’s what it feels like.

Then to get back to a positive, I love this idea of the Book of the Dead. They don’t use the name Necronomicon yet, but that’s what it ends up becoming. I like the concept of this book that contains ways to bring these demons to life. It is spooky that they’re just living around us, not bothering us and they seem to be upset when their slumber is disturbed. Or they just need the door open to get into our world. I also like that after what the professor did, they’re subtly roaming the woods and messing with these people. I do want to know if the incantation needs to be read every night to attack or what. That’s something else that is not fully explained either. My interpretation is that the professor gave them power and then they’ve become weak again until it is replayed, making this group a target. I don’t need this fully explained, but it is something that I noticed.

To move away from the story and premise, the pacing of this is good as well. It doesn’t take long for creepy things to happen and we get to meet the characters around it. This is interesting as well, because we get to know them through seeing fear of what is going on. With a runtime of 85 minutes, it doesn’t outstay its welcome and the horrific elements are evenly paced throughout. As I said, it never gets boring either and I like how this all ends.

That brings me to the acting. I will admit, it is quite amateur and I must commend them for going out to do what they did here. Campbell isn’t the Ash that we know and love yet, but you get glimpses. You can also see that he would go on to do great things as well. I like him here as our lead. Sandweiss was fine. She’s a bit hysterical, but I almost think that is due to her being more in tune with the supernatural without realizing it. She is also easy to isolate. DeManincor is a jerk and I think he does well. He got a reaction out of me, so I give credit there. Baker and Tilly are both fine. I did find Baker to be attractive. Everyone also does good when they’re possessed. It is so creepy if I’m going to be honest.

That will take me to the effects, which for the budget look good. They were all done practically. Some of them were clever and still gross me out. The blood we get looks good and I like that the possessed people have almost black blood. I think this is an interesting choice to differentiate. There is a bit of an issue that the blood and gore on characters isn’t also consistent, but that’s fine. There’s a lot to keep stretch and someone who has done script supervising, that can be tough. The cinematography is good. Watching in 4K is interesting though since it showcases the budget. Regardless, Raimi can shoot the heck out of a movie and has an eye for it.

Before I end this, I did want to bring up something dealing with if this is Lovecraftian or not. From what I know from someone I look at as an expert here, Brian, this has elements, but doesn’t fall into that. We are getting the cosmic horror aspect with the use of the Necronomicon, which Lovecraft introduced. We are also dealing with beings that are older than religion with these demons. This is more of a possession movie that is using elements for sure.

In conclusion, this has a lot of nostalgia for me. I can recognize that this low budget effort has flaws, but I’m going to overlook them. They don’t affect anything so there’s that. The demons here are creepy and even after knowing how things play out due to multiple viewings, it still works. I like the Book of the Dead that is used here. There are inconsistent story elements. The effects looked good and the pacing is effective to a solid ending. This is a classic and I believe this to be a great movie.


My Rating: 9.5 out of 10