Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Evil Dead (1981) Review

The Evil Dead posterDirector: Sam Raimi
Stars: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Betsy Baker, Hal Delrich, Theresa Tilly
Genre: Horror

The first entry in the Evil Dead series, directed by Sam Raimi and the film that sent Bruce Campbell towards horror movie stardom. A necessary film to watch for any horror fan.

The plot is fairly simple. Five friends go out to a cabin in the woods to have some fun but they instead end up unleashing some sort of demonic force that tries to possess them all into murderous demons. Pretty standard horror fare.

Though a pretty simple plot and only one real location (mostly due to budget limitations), The Evil Dead still manages to stand out from the rest. 

In Sam Raimi's feature length directorial debut he does a wonderful job with the film. I've always said, and still believe, that The Evil Dead has the best cinematography in a horror film. Ever. Not only the series' signature swooping camera movements, but really just about every shot is unique in its own little way; whether it be a POV shot from the cellar or Bruce Campbell beating up a deadite while his friend bleeds to death in the background.

You have to somewhat admire their choice to not make it a typical slasher film, which many were doing at the time and would have probably been much easier to pitch to a production company or distributor. Instead they opted out to focus more on the victims rather than a super jacked up villain. Though the film still falls into many horror genre conventions. After all, it is just a bunch of kids in the woods trying not to die.

Every character has their share of stupid decisions, and Bruce Campbell's fiercest foe in here seems to be shelves. All the characters in here are pretty dumb and stereotypical, including Bruce Campbell as Ash, being that this was before Bruce turned into the badass hero in many of his later films (including the following two Evil Dead films). Not to mention the acting is nothing really exceptional, but of course Bruce can make any film enjoyable. 

The cabin in the woods from The Evil Dead

The atmosphere however is pretty damn awesome. There is a lurking suspense the entire time and I can honestly say it's kind of scary. There are a few cheap scares and fake scares, e.g., a friend scaring another friend, but that really wasn't as big of a cliche at the time. But I can honestly say this is genuinely scary. The deadites are spooky as hell (ha, get it, from hell) especially during that singing part.

The film does a good job making you feel as if they're actually trapped in those woods, as if there truly is no way out. You may very likely often wonder just how in hell they'll get out of there alive. It definitely uses it's setting to its advantage, making the woods itself an actual enemy. Even the fucking trees are trying to kill them. This allows for not only an internal threat (the deadites in the cabin, which are just themselves possessed) but it also adds and external threat, i.e., the trees.

Bruce Campbell as Ash with a bloodied face in The Evil Dead

There's also a scene where a tree rapes a girl. Yeah, you read that right. A cinematic first I'd assume.

The effects and make-up are pretty awesome. The deadites look very scary, but more importantly they actually look demonic, possessed, and completely twisted. The stop-motion effects used toward the end are very obviously stop-motion but this, for me, makes it even creepier. Because it looks so unnatural it just makes you a bit uneasy.

This film is more of a traditional horror film than its two sequels which are much more comedy focused. There is some comedy in here though. Black Comedy mostly, and it's pretty subtle but it's definitely not unintentionally funny. It seems as if the director wanted a bit of comedy in here. And it works. It works well.

The deadite demon in the cellar from The Evil Dead

An intense, scary, and occasionally funny film that is required viewing for any horror lover. Five unknown actors in a film directed by an unknown director (at the time) managed to make a staple in the genre. And that is what true horror filmmaking is all about.

Recommended for: Bruce Campbell fans, fans of horror

4/5 stars
Pros:
+Bruce Campbell
+Awesome camera angles and cinematography
+Good atmosphere
+Creepy effects
+Always stays interesting
Cons:
-Average acting
-Falls prey to many genre conventions

Remake: The Evil Dead (2013)

Purchase The Evil Dead: Blu-Ray - DVD - Stream
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