The Evil Dead
The Ultimate Experience in Grueling Terror.
Year of Release: 1981
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 85 minutes (1:25)
Director: Sam Raimi
Bruce Campbell ... Ashley 'Ash' J. Williams
Ellen Sandweiss ... Cheryl
Richard DeManincor ... Scott
Betsy Baker ... Linda
Theresa Tilly ... Shelly
Ted Raimi ... Fake Shemp
Sam Raimi ... Hitchhiking Fisherman / Evil Force (uncredited)
Robert G. Tapert ... Local Yokel
Ever-present, ever-listening, the Evil Dead lie in wait for the one ancient incantation that will give them license to possess the living. Watch in horror as five vacationing college students unwittingly resurrect these slumbering demons, and are forced into battle with the supernatural forces that occupy the forests and dark bowels of man's domain.
The Evil Dead has some important life lessons, best not learned the hard way. Example, is it really a good idea to go out in the woods, at night, alone, unarmed, in the middle of nowhere, without telling anyone where you're going, after a noise? The best you can hope for is not finding the noise, which you can do without going searching for it. Also, instant change in a person is almost universally bad. People don't change, for the better at least. And if the first lesson mentioned wasn't obvious enough, at least don't do exactly what the first person did, after they were raped by the forest. But what I've chosen to discuss out of these equally worthy facts of life is this; anything worth doing is going to be difficult. Our guy, Bruce Campbell, is put in a bad spot in the movie. The only way to kill the demon possessed bodies is through FULL BODY DISMEMBERMENT. Now for the average guy, that's no small order of business. Worse still, you must dismember people you know, friends even. And if that's not rough enough, he's gotta take out the ole Stihl an buzz saw his girlfriend into Kibbles 'n Bits. Unfortunately, Bruce never can bring himself to do it unless he's in immediate danger, but if he had been able to, he'd have never been in that danger to begin with. Horror movies, like life, require nerve and adaptability. You know what you have to do, so do it. No curling up into the fetal position an rocking back an forth hoping for the best. You've gotta do what you've gotta do, that's evolution. The strong and/or smart survive, the rest end up possessed by demons, or worse, on welfare. So the next time you're in a difficult spot, don't let yourself end up like Bruce. Take action. You know what has to be done, whether it's as simple as intervening when someone you know is on a bad path or as difficult as pulling the plug on a relative when you know that's what they would have wanted. Just think to yourselves, what would Nike do? Nike would JUST DO IT. So, having been sufficiently warned, don't whine to me when demons eat your faces.
The movie begins with a group of twenty somethings traveling down a mountain road in a car that looks like it's been drawn an quartered by horses, with a female in the passenger seat singing so badly that the car actually steers itself into the path of an oncoming car to try to end its misery. The group finds it odd that the car could gain sentience but otherwise doesn't blame it for its decision an continues on toward their destination. Just before they reach their cabin they have to cross the bridge to nowhere in a car so long an clunky that it may well exceed the three ton limit the sign warns is the maximum weight allowance. Just before they make it across, the car, fearing the girl may start singing again, busts through the bridge in an effort to end it all, but the driver is able to get the car out of the hole an get across. Having arrived at the cabin, Scott, after several moments of wondering why the rest of the group is so scared shitless that they won't even come to the door with him, is able to find the key an get the door open an proceeds to look around, while the sissies unpack the car. Once everyone's gotten settled in, Cheryl is sitting in her room drawing a picture of the grandfather clock, when suddenly the clock stops. But she's used to clocks stopping when she looks at them, so no harm done, until her hand becomes possessed by some outside force that makes her hand play Pictionary against her will. It draws a somewhat cryptic picture, of what we later will realize is that of an extremely angry looking book. Later still, the group is having dinner an talking about the kind of things young people talk about before the world crushes their spirit, when the cellar door suddenly flies open. As the alpha male, Scott heads down into the cellar to scold the people under the stairs for making so much noise while he's trying to eat, but doesn't come back up and doesn't answer when called. So Bruce goes in after him an after a fruitless search Scott scares the bejezus out of him, cause that's more or less what jerks do. But instead of punching Scott in the dick like he should, Bruce just wanders around the cellar pretending to not be bothered until he finds an angry looking book and a tape recorder.
The tape contains the account of an anthropologist who found the angry looking book in some old ruins an came to study it at the cabin, free from the hassles and accusing stares that accompany studying something bound in human flesh and inked in human blood. The recording contains passages that, when read, can summon demons, not to mention scare your date bad enough that you can get to second base. So they play the tape until the leaves in the front yard start glowing an spewing out so much smoke you'd think Cheech & Chong had dug a foxhole down below until the girls get the heebie jeebies an make em shut off the tape. So then Cheryl is in her room pouting about being a big sissy when she hears a strange noise coming from the woods. She goes out to investigate an before long the forest grabs ahold of her, tears up her clothes, rubs her face in the dirt and unceremoniously... well, basically she gives the forest wood and it uses it on her without permission. She's able to break free an get back to the cabin just before the spirits are able to get ahold of her for round two an by this time she's more than a little bit frazzled. She wants Bruce to take her back to town so she can get into the abortion clinic an get the little Sycamores out of her uterus before they start getting too pokey. So Bruce agrees to take her back to town only the bridge looks like Kirstie Alley an Oprah Winfrey used it for a trampoline an that pretty much puts the kibosh on that. So they head back to the cabin an Bruce starts listening to the recording again when all the sudden Cheryl's eyes turn white an she starts pimp slappin' everyone around the room an stabbin' people with pencils so they have to lock her up in the cellar so she can think about what she's done. Then the spirits bust into Shelly's room through the window an Scott goes to check on her, only she's gone demon on him an he has to pitch her into the fireplace so she'll quit tryin' to chew his face off, but then he starts feeling guilty an pulls her out an she starts shredding his face with her nails some more until he stabs her with a creepy voodoo dagger. But it don't bother her none, she chews her hand off an by this time Scott's finally had enough of her back talk an he axes her up into Oscar Meyer sandwich meat.
Scott's done with having his pretty face chewed up by demons so he takes his chances with the forest an leaves Bruce to fend for himself, but then Bruce's girl goes demon on him an sits on the floor cross legged giggling at him until Scott falls back in the door lookin' like he just parachuted into a briar patch an had to chew his way out. Scott tries to get Bruce to shoot Linda but he can't do it cause she's pretending like the demon has left her, even though Jason Miller an Max Von Sydow are nowhere to be seen. So Cheryl (who's been stuck in the cellar this whole time) tries the same thing an tricks Bruce into getting close enough to grab ahold of him an poke fun at his wimpyness. Then Linda goes demon again an Bruce decides to drag her giggling carcass outside so he can hear himself think for a minute. But Bruce still hasn't learned his lesson so Linda gets back in the house an stabs him. About this time it seems like Bruce is maybe finally getting the picture an he shoves her down on top of the creepy voodoo dagger an she spits 2% milk all over the cabin like a busted sprinkler pipe. He carries her out to the shed where he chains her down an revs up the ole Stihl, but he realizes the necklace she's wearing is just gonna dull the teeth on his saw so he puts it away an decides to bury her instead. But once the hole is dug she won't go quietly an turns his leg into Spam an lunges at him. This time, however, he's finally learned his lesson an takes the shovel blade to her neck an her head goes flyin' like a Patriot missile. Meanwhile, Cheryl's busted out of the cellar an starts goin' for Bruce's jugular again an he has to mash her hand in the door an squish it with the butt of his shotgun to get her out of the house so he can call time out for a minute an catch his breath. But then he realizes he's low on shells so he heads into the cellar to grab the box an pretty soon the whole damn house starts bleeding all over him like an exploding blood bank an the record player's turning on an the film projector kicks on an blinds the hell out of him an Scott suddenly goes zombie an tries to eat his brains an well... this is where we cut it to prevent spoiling the ending, but suffice it to say, Bruce has earned the Klondike Bar.
The Evil Dead is classic. It's what every low budget horror director strives to make, but very, very few are able to deliver. It has the look and feel of Texas Chainsaw Massacre in every respect. It's a little shaky at times, a bit grainy, uses unusual shooting angles and just comes off as though this could really be happening. Aside from the subject matter which is not like Texas Chainsaw Massacre at all and isn't all that realistic in terms of whether or not it could really happen. Doesn't matter though, it isn't supposed to be, an what's more, it doesn't want to be. This movie has as much heart as any you'll ever see. A crew at least as dedicated as Texas Chainsaw Massacre, if in a different way. Yeah the shooting conditions were pretty bad, but even more than that, these guys basically mortgaged their entire lives to make sure this movie was completed, their way, and was able to get into theaters. When the money ran out, they did everything you could imagine to make sure it came to fruition, because they believed in what they were doing and they knew it was good. You don't see this kind of thing anymore. Then again, you don't see movies this good anymore. The acting is decent, if you wanna be hard nosed about it, I'd say the acting is great, considering the budget they had to work with. The special effects are fantastic, if a bit over the top. In any other movie, if you were to use clay-mation like this on the end sequence it'd probably ruin the entire movie, because even well made claymation just looks silly. But it somehow fits here. Up to that point the whole movie had been a bloody, mushy, soggy mess and the clay-mation comes off as borderline natural, or even expected. An example of another movie that used clay-mation an really had it blow up in their faces would be Basket Case. Now I love Basket Case, but that clay-mation monster doesn't jive with the rest of the movie and it comes off really badly because of it. And the shooting location? Probably not a better one in the history of the genre, it's perfect. This is what every horror movie that took place in a cabin should have striven for. Authentic. The highest praise you can give any prop in a movie. It's authentic.
Overall, The Evil Dead, simply put, must be seen to be believed, no review(er) can do it justice. It's a text book example, right there with Texas Chainsaw Massacre about what a group of enthusiastic, intelligent film makers can do if given the chance. Intellect trumps budget every time. When you don't have a budget, you have to figure out different ways to make/do things. Sometimes these low budget movies even come up with ideas that are better than the conventional way of doing things. Many times they find ways that are at least as good, but significantly cheaper. That being said, if the crew isn't all that into what they're doing, or don't have the necessary drive, low budget movies end up like Manos: The Hands of Fate. Fact is, they usually do, because the crew is in it to make a buck, above all else. So these really low budget movies that turn out this well are extremely rare and are generally placed upon the pedestals they so richly deserve. Obviously, with this much talent an determination, our guy, Sam Raimi, was destined for much "greater" things than low budget horror movies and has long since moved on. But he seems to be a pretty down to earth, humble guy who remembers and embraces what got him to the dance, and that's all I ask when the really talented guys move on to high income jobs. The Evil Dead was what you'd call a "video nasty" back in the days before you could just get a DVD copy of anything readily on Amazon.com, where copies were rare and many times the video stores didn't even have them. It was banned in the UK, Germany, Finland, Ireland, Sweden and Iceland for years before the rest of the entertainment industry caught up to it and made it more "on par", where it was previously above and beyond what people were used to seeing, or in the eyes of their respective governments, capable of handling. This censorship crap is all nonsense of course, lunatics are lunatics. Something is going to set them off at some point, trying to prevent it by banning things in your society only punishes the good citizens of those respective countries, who otherwise would never do anything detrimental, movie or no movie. Final verdict, if I have to explain the verdict to you, you probably weren't able to stay focused on this much text for this long anyway.