Most of my friends are horror fans, but for those rare few who are not, I am watching one horror movie a day during October, culminating in the Walking Dead premier on Halloween. Hopefully, these reviews will help you find some missed gems that may be perfect for your Halloween parties.
The Evil Dead
The ultimate experience in grueling terror!
1981 – Directed by Sam Raimi
Give me the gist of it…
5 friends rent a cabin in the remote woods of Tennessee for a weekend of partying, and find some mysterious artifacts in the basement, including a cruel looking knife, a tape recorder, and of course, The Necronomicon (although in this movie it is called (Nyturan Demonta). They bring all the stuff upstairs, and after listening to the tape recording that contains passages from the text, evil spirits are awoken in the woods that begin to possess the living.
Care to get a little more in depth? (spoilers)
There actually isn’t much more to it than that. After the demons awaken, they begin picking off the survivors one by one. Sheryl is the first victim. She hears something outside, and when she goes to investigate it, is actually attacked and raped by the woods themselves. Yes, you read that right. Fighting off her attackers, she makes it back to the cabin, and begs Ash to take her home. On their way out, however, they find the bridge they crossed to get here is now out, and there is no way to escape! Bum bum bummmmmmmm!
To be honest, there’s not much more worth talking about. The plot here is largely immaterial, as it is all about the ride.
So who’s in it?
Bruce Campbell as Ashley Williams (Ash). Bruce is a living legend in horror, and has been in Evil Dead 2, Army of Darkness, and Bubba Ho-Tep as well as countless others. You may also recognize him from television in The Adventures of Brisco County Junior, and Burn Notice.
Ellen Sandweiss as Cheryl Williams. After this movie, Ellen seemed to quit acting altogether, but then in 2005 showed up in Satan’s Playground in a leading role. She then showed up in Bruce Campbell’s My Name Is Bruce and has done a few low budget affairs since then.
Betsy Barker as Linda. Like Ellen, she vanished from acting for years after this movie, but began a comeback in 2007, appearing with Ellen in Brutal Massacre: A Comedy.
Theresa Tilly as Tilly. Theresa also disappeared from acting, doing only a few bit television roles form time to time. She also had a minor role in Brutal Massacre and had a recurring role in Dangerous Women.
Hal Delrich as Scotty. Scotty did one other movie, Crime Wave under a different name and that’s about it.
So what works in this movie?
The production quality is excellent, especially considering this is a low budget film produced in the 70’s. Sam Rami was obviously a perfectionist with an eye for detail, even at the beginning of his career. For starters, most of the shots are just fantastic. He manages to let the camera linger for just the right amount of time, and avoids the confusing jump-cuts that so many directors seem to utilize. This leads to a very tense and dark atmosphere that lets you lose yourself in the film.
This is one of the better examples of “less is more” in a horror movie when it comes to showing your villains. Sam knows that whatever is in your mind is far scarier than what he can put on screen, so no actual creatures are shown for the first portion of the film. The faceless entity that stalks the woods possessing people is never shown. Instead, we get fantastic chase scenes of the camera chasing the teens, leaving the rest up to your imagination. This angle was used in many other horror movies (Street Trash), and is so iconic that it is immediately identified as Rami-esque.
The effects and make-up are fairly well done as well. Some of it is incredibly cheesy, but a couple of scenes are truly unsettling. I don’t know many people who can sit through the “ankle scene” without squirming, and Sheryl’s witch make-up is truly frightening.
What doesn’t work?
In my opinion, the movie loses a lot in the second and third act when the actual action is occurring. Once the deddites are on screen, they tend to cease being scary. The film was always suspenseful leading up to the monsters appearance, but once they showed up, the suspense was gone. For the most part. Linda was creepy as hell, and shelly biting her hand off was a little off putting too.
Other than that, this film is remarkably wlle done given the era it was made in, and the resources available to the film makers.>
Well is it scary?
Boy, that’s hard to say. The first time I saw it I was 13, and I refused to go into the woods again for a couple of years. However, that was a different time, and most people discovering this movie now might be aware of Bruce Campbell, and that’s sort of the problem. He’s the sort of actor who just bring a smile to your face, and even if he is running for his life from a couple of cannibalistic Kandarian demons, you still smile at his antics, and that can take you out of it.
That aside, I must say that this movie does an excellent job of building atmosphere. In my opinion, the scariest parts of the movie are the bits where there are no monsters to be seen. Waiting for the next person to be possessed is such a well done experience throughout the film, and this can all be attributed to Sam Rami’s directing. His use of unorthodox angles, lighting, and music, really help to build a sense of dread throughout.
So final verdict, if you have never seen it, have no idea who Bruce Campbell is, and are the kind of person who can lose yourself in a horror movie, then turn out the lights and get ready for some creeps.
What about blood? Is it gory?
Man, there is some truly comical, and truly horrible effects in this scene. I will say this, it’s not for kids, between the tree rape(yup), pencil in the Achilles’s tendon(sweet mercy) and the demon eating its own hand, there is some really well done stuff for an independent horror flick produced in the 70′s.
Growing up, this was one of my all-time favorite horror films, and it still is. That doesn’t mean it’s particularly great however, but it’s hard for me to be objective here. This is an absolute classic that any fan of the genre should see, and probably already has.
80 out of 100
Is Evil Dead 2 a sequel or a remake? I’ve always thought of it as a bit of a remake myself, as there is very little in the second to reference the first one….
Are the monsters zombies? I’ve heard of them referred to as such before, but I always thought of them as demons myself…
In the basement, when they find the Necronomicon, there is a poster for The Hills Have Eyes on the wall. Win!…
The Rami’s hired a couple of wannabe film maker’s to assist in the editing room. They were the Cohen brothers…