Directed by Sam Raimi
Starring Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss and Betsy Baker
Five friends looking to party in a cabin in the woods accidentally release ancient demons whose idea of partying is more about possessing their victims and torturing their souls for all eternity. Bummer.
So yeah, maybe you’ve heard about this little movie before. It helped kickstart the careers of a couple of now well-known names in the movie business: Sam Raimi who went on to do the original Spider-Man trilogy of films and Bruce Campbell, B-movie actor extraordinaire. The film had an incredibly low budget but had tons of creativity (and blood) poured into every frame, and although it isn’t perfect, it’s still great thirty years after its original release.
Five friends in a beat up car travel to the hills of Tennessee to hang out over the weekend in a little cabin out in the woods. Through a series of odd circumstances, they discover several items in the basement cellar, particularly a book with strange writings and an old-fashioned tape recorder. They play the tape and discover the cabin was used by a professor who was deciphering the book that he calls, “the Book of the Dead.” The book was used by ancient Sumerians to resurrect demons who are able to possess the flesh.
A hidden evil in the woods comes alive and relentlessly attacks the group and ultimately winds up possessing most of them until only one is left: Ash. The first half is comprised of supernatural attacks on the group but the second half of the film is squarely on the shoulders of a poor guy who just wanted to have some time away with his girlfriend but winds up losing his girlfriend, sister and friends and must fight off their possessed bodies lest they do the same to him. It’s a great and simple story to tell and gets pretty intense at times thanks in part due to the creative camera work of a young Sam Raimi.
Raimi moves the camera around like few others. In the film’s few quiet moments the camera stays as still as the air but whenever the evil is afoot, the camera is furiously going after the actors in POV scenes that Raimi and company have creatively put together (sometimes it just takes some tape and a 2×4 to get an interesting look.) As the film progresses, the quiet moments are still tense with oddball camera angles that tell the audience that all is not well for poor Ash.
If there’s one knock against the film, it’s that the effects don’t stand the test of time. Thirty years ago they were nice and grisly, and some effects are still well done, but the majority of them aren’t terribly great. The second half of the film features the victims being possessed but it looks like they’re wearing masks some of the time (admittedly, had to be done that way when most of the cast didn’t come back after production wrapped up to film any additional scenes requiring what Raimi called “fake Shemps” in order to complete the film.) The stop motion animation isn’t great, though better than what you would see in Basketcase. This was the best the film could do at the time, it just a knock that they don’t hold up well all these years later. The film is still grisly enough for the gore hounds out there with crazy dismemberments, gun shots, stabbings and tree rape. Bleh.
In a time where most filmmakers were on the gravy train of slasher films or failing at trying to recreate the success of earlier demonic possession films like The Exorcist or The Omen, the Evil Dead was a shocking and refreshing bit of fun in horror films. Buckets of blood and gore, plenty of tense moments and peppered with jump scares, and Bruce f’n Campbell make it easy to see why Evil Dead remains a horror classic after all these years.
Story: 8 – Simple but effective, kids accidentally raise demons and must fight to survive and save their souls.
Blood: 7 – Thirty years ago people were screaming that the movie went too overboard. It certainly has some great moments but many of the effects don’t stand the test of time. They should remake it with updated make up effects someday.
Nudity: 2 – A bit of side boob action from one lovely lady early on and bare breasts shown during the infamous tree rape scene. Not much to get excited over.
Overall: 8 – It may not be perfect but it still kicks ass though if you aren’t a fan of older movies, maybe you can check out the similarly awesome remake that just came out a few years ago. They’re both great!
-In the basement you can see a torn up poster of Wes Craven’s “The Hills Have Eyes.”
-Funds ran out halfway through completing the movie. The producers (Raimi, Campbell and Robert Tapert) took out loans, borrowed money and called local businesses for help. Campbell even put up his family’s home as collateral so that Raimi could finish the film and blow it up to 35mm for theatrical release.
-The demonic resurrection passage read aloud on the recorder are in Latin and one verse translates as “Sam and Rob are the hikers on the road.” Early on in the film you see the car drive by a couple of fishermen on the road and it’s Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert!
-Evil Dead film prints were seized in Germany due do the amount of violence on screen. The film wasn’t released uncut until 2001.