The original Evil Dead is one of my all time favorite horror movies, if not the all time favorite. I was fortunate enough to see it in a theater when it was released in 1981 and it changed how I looked at horror movies. This one was furiously paced, wildly inventive and delivered buckets of blood and gore, all on a shoestring budget. It launched writer/director Sam Raimi’s career and made a cult legend out of star Bruce Campbell. So, with the remake/re-imagining now here, I thought I’d take a look back.
The film opens as Ash (Bruce Campbell) and girlfriend, Linda (Betsy Baker) are traveling to vacation in a remote cabin with another couple, Scott (Hal Delrich) and Shelly (Sarah York) along with Ash’s sister, Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss). When they get to the rundown cabin they find an old book and a tape recording in the creepy cellar that claims it is the book of the dead and wrapped in human flesh. Thinking it’s all a joke, they play the recording which includes someone reading from the book and find out the hard way that it’s all too real, as they unleash horror beyond their imaginations. The quiet Cheryl is the first to be possessed as she is attacked and literally raped by the trees during one of the film’s most talked about scenes and as the panicked bunch lock her in the cellar, it is only the beginning as they are soon possessed one by one by an ancient evil that can only be stopped by total bodily dismemberment. Let the fun begin!
The first Evil Dead did not have the heavy comic elements of it’s two sequels and what follows is a gore soaked roller coaster ride, as soon Ash finds himself the last man standing against his demon possessed friends. Raimi uses some fantastically inventive camera work and low budget gore effects to bring us Ash’s battle to survive against the people he once loved, in all it’s gory glory. The film is fast paced and once it starts, it never stops as this classic turns the screws on it’s viewing audience with a barrage of scares, jolts and suspense, all bathed in buckets of blood. This was the first of it’s kind to use such a relentless and merciless attack on it’s viewers where most films at the time, like John Carpenter’s Halloween or the original Friday The 13th, used a bit of a slower burn and more of a methodical pace to present it’s suspense and scares. Raimi paces this like an action flick. Carpenter did crank things up in the last act of The Fog a year earlier, but it was still nothing like Raimi’s final act as the outnumbered Ash refuses to “join us”, as his demonic assailants constantly taunt.
Evil Dead revolutionized horror to a degree and inspired some of today’s best young horror directors. Without it, we may not have a Blair Witch, Dead Alive or Martyrs. While we still get the occasional slow burn horror like Paranormal Activity and the films of Ti West and Stevan Mena, which is just fine, Raimi opened the door for horror filmmakers to take a far more aggressive approach and showed us horror can be deliriously scary, delightfully gory and just plain fun. A true classic that placed Raimi amongst the likes of George Romero and John Carpenter!
Check out our review of the remake!
A solid 4 Ash salute!