The Evil Dead (1981)
US (dir. Sam Raimi)
Cast: Betsy Baker, Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Richard DeManincor, Theresa Tilly
Synopsis: Five friends travel to a cabin in the woods, where they unknowingly release flesh-possessing demons.
Review: “The Evil Dead” is the example of how to make your first, low budget horror movie right. By keeping everything nice and simple, Raimi turned an uncomplicated horror story about 20-somethings in a cabin in the woods into one of the most recognizable and celebrated horror franchises ever. “The Evil Dead” shows us that with a shoestring budget, some no-name actors/actresses and a little ingenuity, making a great horror movie is possible. Though the sequels would have bigger budgets and more complex story lines, they wouldn’t quite be at the same level as “The Evil Dead”, which has continued to be the best installment in the franchise. Raimi essentially captured lightning in a bottle when he made “The Evil Dead” in 1981. He may never hit the mark in the same way as he did with “The Evil Dead”, but at least we always have that one movie to show us that greatness and innovation in film-making is possible even when faced with extreme limitations.
I have never been more terrified when watching a horror movie then when I first saw “The Evil Dead” in high school. When I first found the VHS copy of the movie sitting in a dollar bin at Wal-Mart ($1!) with that awesome cover showing a handsome looking Ash standing over a grave with an axe and a shotgun, I was all like “woah!” And with a rave review courtesy of Stephen King on the back cover, claiming that “The Evil Dead” was “the most ferociously original horror movie of the year”, I was smitten.
“The Evil Dead” scared the shit out of me when I first saw it, and still kinda does! I cannot watch it without getting the willies when I see demon-possessed Cheryl getting all gross and levitating and screeching and banging at that trap door and stuff.
By the time the climax rolls in and the movie basically becomes an all out horror-fest with blood and guts and weird mashed potato looking goo flying everywhere, I’m terrified. Even despite the obvious claymation in the climax, I get pretty messed up watching it (proof that CGI isn’t the final word or the best option when it comes to special effects). Without flashy CGI at his disposal or expensive special effects, Raimi made do with what he had. He even innovated a recognizable style of cinematography by basically running around with the camera attached to something like a zip-line in order to get the effect of the Candarian demons roaming the forests for bodies to possess. Even the frenetic music is terrifying. It sounds like the musical equivalent of nails on a chalkboard or the sounds someone completely insane would hear in their head at night. Joseph LoDuca captured the sound of “The Evil Dead” impeccably.
“The Evil Dead” is the perfect compliment to Halloween, and I often find myself re-watching this classic whenever October 31st rolls around or any other time in between really. “The Evil Dead” has essentially become one of the most important horror movies of all time, often emulated but yet to be surpassed in general awesome-ness. “The Evil Dead” spawned two sequels, a musical adaptation, comic books, countless parodies, rip-offs, and tributes – everything from television parodies to music videos by the Foo Fighters and Strapping Young Lad – and basically built a career for Bruce Campbell. It has become almost like a holy tome for horror movie filmmakers and a revered classic for horror movie buffs like myself. It is an absolute must see, and one of my favorite horror movies of all time.