The Evil Dead Movie Review
The Evil Dead is one of fans most praised movies in its genre, having gathered an immense cult following. It is also the film that started Raimi & Campbell’s careers.
Genre: Fantasy / Horror
Director: Sam Raimi
Cast: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Richard DeManincor, Betsy Baker & Theresa Telly.
Run Time: 85 min.
US Release: 15 October 1981
UK Release: 16 January 1983
German Release: 10 February 1984
As a set-up for my Ash vs Evil Dead review, I decided to make a series out of it and review all original Evil Dead movies this week. The Evil Dead was Sam Raimi’s first real feature-length film and is nowadays a cult classic in the genre of horror. Raimi obtained a meagre 350 to 400 thousand dollars as a budget for the project, with the movie making successful 2.6 million at the box office but the filming process proved to be very uncomfortable for cast and crew. With the praising review of horror author Stephen King, it finally managed to garner the interest of New Line Cinema, which acted as the film's distributor. Despite its cult following and the good reviews, though, I am not a big fan of this first flick.
— WARNING, THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS! —
The story takes place in a remote cabin, where five young adults in their twenties decide to spend the weekend and party. The group of friends consists of Scotty (DeManincor), the alpha male of the group and his girlfriend Shelly (Tilly), Ash (Campbell), his girlfriend Linda (Baker) and sister Cheryl (Sandweiss). The cabin and its surroundings, though, differ from what they originally imagined; it's spooky, dark and has a supernatural vibe. Soon paranormal activities within the cabin lead the group to find a recorder with an old incantation, which sets free an old evil that starts possessing one friend after another. The Evil Dead is the horror shocker that catapulted the careers of Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell in Hollywood. While the movie had a good premise and skilfully balanced between comedy and horror, it was the incredibly cheesy and terrible written dialogues as well as the stupidly developed characters that damaged the story as a whole. Apart from Bruce Campbell’s Ash, it was hard to sympathise with any of the incredibly clichéd horror victims, as the characters made one wrong decision after the other.
That said Sam Raimi’s love letter to horror flicks was a game changer for the genre, as it included a great setting, atmosphere and incredible violence. This is a fantastic achievement for a director's first feature motion picture and also impressive, considering the very small budget and the trouble actors and film crew experienced while filming. I also liked how this movie ended, leaving the outcome of the last scene open for the viewer to interpret. Not a lot of directors have the courage to end their projects like that, especially during those years were cliffhangers weren’t well received.
The characters were my biggest issue with this pic; especially the way women are portrayed in it. I am not talking about the rape scene, which served its purpose as a shocking element, but rather the fact that they got possessed first (suggesting a weaker mind compared to the male leads) to become solely objects of gore for the male to inflict violence upon, in the most creative ways.
Bruce Campbell played Ash, a well-mannered and humble character compared to his friend Scotty. He is shocked when the mayhem begins and disgusted at the violence that Scotty displays, when he is in danger of getting chewed to death by his girlfriend. Campbell plays his part well, but the overdramatic scenes and the extreme blood displayed on screen turns his persona into a goofy survivor. Interestingly enough, it is that dopey vibe that turned his character into an icon of the horror genre. Scotty, on the other hand, was my least favourite character as he was a despicable human and an egoistic jerk.
The most impressive aspect of this movie must be the use of camera, which was fantastic! Raimi took a lot of shots from the first person perspective, and thus not only managed to rise the tension but successfully integrated the camera as part of the story. One of the best shots taken in the film was where he swept the camera along the floor and following Ash, who is himself dragging a body along the wooden floorboards. The visual and special effects, as well as the makeup used for this supernatural gore-fest, are surprisingly good considering the limited budget - but it is still dated by today’s standards. Now, the problem this movie has is that it uses gore, as the defining aspect of the narrative when it should have been used as a tool instead, just as is the case with CGI in this era of filmmaking.
Verdict: The Evil Dead might be a cult-classic today and it surely did raise the bar for modern horror flicks, still, I would not count this as one of the better movies in its genre since it did suffer from some severe plot flaws, such as cheesy dialogues and seriously underdeveloped characters. It showcased impressive directorial skills though, given the low amount of money obtained and the fact that this was Sam Raimi’s debut as a regisseur, setting new standards for horror films. The cinematography and makeup were astonishing and the few special effects used looked good for its time, but look dated nowadays. So considering the problematic with the narrative which clashes with the brilliant camera work, I will give The Evil Dead a 7.0 out of 10.
Thank you very much for reading my review! You are welcome to leave your opinion of the movie in the comment section below. My review for the sequel/reboot Evil Dead II will follow tomorrow.