Here’s another horror classic that somewhat hard for me to review since I’ve only seen it about a bazillion times. I mean how can you put your finger on what makes The Evil Dead so great? It just is. You don’t watch The Evil Dead as much as you experience it. They don’t call it “The Ultimate Experience in Grueling Horror” for nothing folks.
Everybody knows the plot: Five people go to a remote cabin in the woods where they find the Necronomicon, The Book of the Dead. They play passages from the book on an old tape recorder and awaken evil spirits in the woods that possess everyone except for Ash (Bruce Campbell). Armed with a shotgun and a chainsaw, Ash fends off attacks from his ghoulish, white-eyed, zombified friends and tries to stay alive through the night.
Director Sam Raimi made this sucker on the cheap and gave us one of the greatest horror films of all time. His crazy camerawork would go on to be copied in numerous films, but nobody can handle that Steadycam like The Master. The Evil Dead also introduced the key ingredients of the franchise namely: Scenes of possessed women floating around and telling everyone that they’ll die, the chainsaw, decapitations, and Bruce Campbell getting hit in the face with every form of bodily fluid known to man.
The Evil Dead also gave us one of the most unsettling scenes in the history of mankind. That’s the scene when Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss) gets raped by the woods. And I don’t mean near the woods, I mean BY the woods. On top of that we have the gnarly No. 2 pencil into the ankle scene, the part where the possessed chick bites off her own hand, eyes getting gouged out, bodies being totally dismembered, and Play-Doh faced zombies rapidly decaying until coleslaw comes out of their sleeves and demon hands emerge from their back.
And how fucking great is Bruce Campbell in this movie? While I prefer his interpretations of the character more in the later films of the series (you know, when he became the wisecracking know-it-all), he’s still awesome here playing the more kindler, gentler Ash. Plus, nobody and I mean nobody can take gallons of bile to the face like
Mostly though, the first Evil Dead belongs to Raimi. Once he begins cranking out the scares, the movie never lets up. It’s easy to forget just how creepy this movie is (my favorite creepy moment is when Linda starts chanting, “We’re gonna get you” over and over again), especially next to the two increasingly cartoonish sequels. With The Evil Dead, Raimi devised one gore-soaked rollercoaster ride that deserves it’s place on the short list for the greatest horror films on the planet. Incredibly, Raimi actually managed to top it four years later with Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn.
The Evil Dead is Number 2 on The Video Vacuum Top Ten Films of 1983 list, just below Return of the Jedi and right above Scarface.
AKA: Book of the Dead.
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