Sunday, January 22, 2012

Horror Film Review

The Evil Dead (1981):  I know what you're thinking and you're wrong.  I did not just watch this classic flick for the first time.  It's one of those you need to watch every once in a while to remind yourself how horror should be done.  And since I saw again recently, I figured it was high time to give it the full treatment.  In case what I'm about to write isn't clear enough, I'll spell it out for you now:  SEE THIS MOVIE.

There are films that come around every once in a while that are game-changers.  George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead, Hitchcock's Psycho, Dario Argento's Suspiria, and John Carpenter's Halloween to name a few.  Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead is also such a film.  It's the original cabin-in-the-woods scarefest that so many other movies unsuccessfully imitate.  That quote on the movie poster pretty much says it all.  "The most ferociously original horror film of the year."  Who wrote that, you ask?  Nobody important.  Just Stephen King.

Okay...Let's get to it.  Ashley (Bruce Campbell), his sister Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss), his girlfriend Linda (Betsy Baker), his roommate Scott (Richard DeManicor), and Scott's girlfriend Shelly (Theresa Tilly) head to a remote cabin in the woods for a vacation.  An investigation of the basement reveals an old tape recorder along with an older (and weirder) book.  We learn the book is the Necronomicon (Book of the Dead) and the recording is of the cabin's previous occupant reading from it.  So of course Ashley and the gang play it, not knowing that by doing so, they're releasing evil spirits.  Later, Cheryl starts hearing and seeing things and gets a little squirrelly.  She wanders out into the woods, freaks out, runs, and ultimately gets, um, raped by a tree (it's not graphic, so settle down).  So she's now possessed by a demon (a deadite) and things go downhill fast for the rest of the group.  In the end, it's up to kick some demon ass.

Today, 30 years down the road, this film stands the test of time.  It still looks innovative and somehow manages to still feel very relevant.  Unique camera angles, seriously spooky music, and the backwoods location blend to keep you on edge and off balance.  And the famous perspective shots of the evil running through the trees is simply too cool.

The Evil Dead and its sequels, Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness have reached an unprecedented cult status and launched the career of Sam Raimi, not to mention turning Bruce Campbell into a B-movie icon.  Or, as some may contend, a god.  If you want all the grisly details about how The Evil Dead was made (including the story behind how the movie poster came to be), pick up If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor by Campbell.  It's a most groovy read.  By the way, a remake is in the works.  Yeah, I know.  I'm worried, too.  But both Raimi and Campbell are involved on some level, so it may not suck.  Just today, Campbell tweeted that he was on his way to a casting seesion for ED4.  Fingers crossed...


Acting:  If the film has a weak spot, it would be the acting and even then, it's not terrible.  I've seen so much worse.  Campbell (the future Sam Axe on Burn Notice) is the best of the lot.
Story:  Mr. King said, "ferociously original."  Think I'm gonna argue with Stephen King?
Direction:  Raimi was determined to do things differently and so he did.  Other than a few scenes in Act 2, he kept up the manic tension beautifully.
Production Values:  Budget?  $375,000.  But since the whole thing, interiors included, was shot on location at the cabin outside Morristown, TN, they made it stretch.  I mean, you can tell it's low-budget, but it doesn't feel cheap.  Seriously, read Campbell's book.  It's a real eye-opener if you're curious as to how low-budget films are made.
Gore/FX:  In 1994, the MPAA had another look at The Evil Dead and gave it a rating of NC-17.  That's a clue.  But if you compare it to torture porn flicks like Hostel, which is rated R, the NC-17 rating makes no sense.  Yeah, there's a lot blood and nastiness but they show worse on network television.  The demon make-up was ahead of its time and even by today's standards looks pretty good. 
Scares:  Well, duh.  All kidding aside, you will jump out of your skin and maybe even wee yourself.
The Ending:  You know those endings where you think the hero's won the day but then the thing trying to kill him suddenly pops back up?  You know...the endings I hate?  Well, Raimi might not have invented it, but he managed to use it in a way I don't hate.  Actually, it really works well.
The Verdict:  Well, duh. 

My Rating:  5 out of 5 stars.


  1. A true piece of horror cinema, top notch effects for its day, I rather have this horror effects than the CGI "cartoony" effects of today's horror flicks. By the way, I thought "Drag me to hell" was a comedy, I laughed all the way through, until I found out it was suppose to be a horror movie.

    I give The Evil Dead 5 screams out of 5, since this movie made Bruce Campbell a horror legend, right up there with Price and Lorre.