Evil Dead

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Oct 04th, 2011

Trying to review this movie is an uphill struggle. If you are in any way a fan of horror chances are you have seen and love this movie. I have always found it easier to criticise something than praise a films merits. That's the reason why I review some quite awful movies but for those I love sometimes im lost for words.

My first viewing of Evil Dead was a special experience that I'll always remember. While Evil Dead 2 will remain my favourite film in the trilogy this is the movie that really thrust my relative obsession with the horror genre to the forefront. That's why this is going to be less of a review and more of my experience watching the movie for the first time.

I never saw Evil Dead in the cinemas. I was far too young and in all truth never even knew the film existed. Back when I was younger I had to rely on the films that played on TV (only four channels back then) and those I could rent from the local video store (of course I got an adult to check the films out for me). Our horror section was quite limited and there was no internet to discover unknown releases (boy do I love the internet).

Each weekend I and my friends would try to find obscure films which we would sit down and watch. A lot of the movies we discovered were not of our own findings but by our parents and relatives as we searched through their old VHS recordings. A lot of these films were part of the video nasty lists and were like visual gold to my teenage pals.

One hot Saturday (during a school break) my friend struck gold finding a tape that was a double bill of violence. As we sat watching the grainy image (something that was perfect for horror) we had no idea what the two films were about. The first was Cannibal Ferox (the most violent film I had ever seen at that point) followed by the Evil Dead.

When Evil Dead began we had little to no interest in it. The reason we were watching the tape was to watch the penis eating madness of the Cannibals and the attention span of teenagers is quite limited. Playing in the background as we began our lunch (chip rolls all round) this low budget shocker drew us in and we all became lifelong fans.

Evil Dead for those who haven't seen it takes place over one evening as a group of friends take a holiday retreat into the woods. In an isolated cabin the five uncover an ancient book and recording that unleashes malevolent spirits. Capable of possessing the living and turning them into a zombie exorcist hybrid our 5 students attempt to survive the night.

Even if you haven't seen the Evil Dead series' most people are well aware of the Iconic status the character of Ash (Bruce Campbell) has gained. While I am a big fan of his position (I can't think of another icon of horror that isn't a villain) and image (I have a statue of his Army of Darkness look) he really is a different incarnation in this film.

As the movie began he was the wussy character that you expect to bite the big one. His reluctance and frightened manor was hardly fitting of movie hero and really drew us in watching the film. His behaviour in the first half of the film really reminded me of the female characters in film who are waiting to be saved. It was original as I had never seen a man displayed on screen that way before. At first we ripped on the character but eventually relished every moment of screen time he had. On the realisation that he was going to be the survivor girl (that's right horror movies tended to have a singular female who survived the horror) we were cheering him on wanting him to make it to the credits.

You'd think from the way that the Ashley characters is spoken about that he is the only saving grace of the film and yet it has so much more going for it. The story is simple and the effects low budget but it manages to create such a feeling of dread and terror that was wholly unique. The Deadites (possessed Humans) are such a terrifying force of evil and the first reveal is one of the creepiest scenes captured on film. I won't ruin the moment here but it's amazing how this film is able to create subtle moments of terror followed by outlandish violence. Unlike the movies that followed the first Evil Dead is pure horror with very few moments of levity.

Another reason why I don't want to detail the scenes that play out is that a lot of the moments on paper can come off sounding ridiculous. The best example I can give is the rape of a character by a possessed tree. It sounds silly but in the context of the movie is absolutely horrible and plausible within the universe created.

It's hard for me to find anything to complain about when talking about 1- a film I love and 2- a low budget production. I could point out the ropey effects (especially by today's standards) but that kind of defeats the point of a low budget movie. This is a true success of what you can achieve on a low budget and puts all those cheaply released straight to DVD movies to shame (all of which have higher budgets than this film had).

Halloween may have introduced me to the genre but Evil Dead showed me what horror was capable of. Back in the 80's nearly all the films I came across were slashers and while they had their place as pure exploitation they were quite shallow rinse and repeat stories. Since watching Evil Dead on a crappy VHS I have bought the film on every format available (three separate versions on DVD) and frequently return to the film. Every time I see it I enjoy it just as much as the first time. A bit violent for some perhaps but perfect for fans of horror.

Other reviews in the series

Evil Dead 2
Army of Darkness

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Movie Details

Movie Poster Here
Director:Sam Raimi
Screenplay: Sam Raimi
Starring:Bruce Campbell
Ellen Sandweiss
Hal Delrich