Monday, August 27, 2012

#742. The Evil Dead (1981)

Directed By: Sam Raimi

Starring: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Richard DeManincor

Tag line: "Can They Be Stopped?"

Trivia:  The zombie guts in this movie consisted of creamed corn dyed green

I love the opening scene of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead, which follows three separate actions at the same time. 

First, the camera glides through a forest, providing the point of view of someone - or something - darting along at a rapid pace. 

We then join our main characters as they drive towards what they hope will be a quaint, out-of-the-way vacation spot: a cabin in the woods. 

Suddenly, the scene cuts away to reveal a truck is just ahead of them, on the other side of the road, traveling in the opposite direction. As the vehicles approach one another, the car’s steering wheel jerks to the left, seemingly by itself, thus putting our heroes on a collision course that threatens to end their getaway before it begins. 

What do we learn from these initial moments? 

1. Something is lurking in the woods, 


2. Things will sometimes happen in this movie that are beyond anyone’s control. 

Based on this early sequence alone, one might conclude that The Evil Dead is going to be an engaging, visually exciting low-budget horror film.

And “one” would be absolutely right!

As already established, The Evil Dead is about a group of friends vacationing at a cozy cabin in the middle of nowhere. Shortly after their arrival, the five: Ash (Bruce Campbell), Linda (Betsy Baker), Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss), Scott (Hal Delrich) and Shelly (Sarah York), uncover a strange book decorated with ancient hieroglyphics, as well as an audiotape, recorded by a professor of archaeology and containing readings from the Sumerian Book of the Dead. 

For laughs, the group plays the tape, and in so doing inadvertently release several demonic spirits into the surrounding woods, spectres powerful enough to possess the body of whomever they choose. 

These spirits take turns inhabiting the five, and according to the tape, the only way to defeat these demons is to dismember the body of the possessed!

Can these friends muster up the courage to slaughter one another, or will wickedness win out in the end?

The Evil Dead features a slew of camera tricks (like those mentioned above), yet even more impressive is how director Raimi also generates terror using much simpler methods, occasionally scaring the hell out of us with common, everyday items. When the friends arrive at the cabin, Scott walks to the front door to look for the key. Next to the door is a porch swing, swaying in the breeze and occasionally crashing into the side of the cabin. Once Scott reaches the porch, the swing stops moving, as if it suddenly became aware of his presence. I don’t know how much of the film’s reported budget of $350 thousand went into shooting this modest sequence, but when that swing stops dead in its tracks, it sent a million dollar chill up my spine!

The Evil Dead remains a genre classic; an ultra-entertaining motion picture with a number of well-conceived segments that have made it a favorite among horror fans.

Yes, even the “tree rape” scene!


Adam Lafferty said...

Great review! Gotta pick this up!

James Robert Smith said...

First time I realized that at least one Coen brother was invovled, I was watching the end credits and saw the Coen name. No wonder the editing was so good.