The Evil Dead

Director: Sam Raimi
Written by: Sam Raimi
Cast: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Richard DeManincor, Betsy Baker

Year / Country: 1981, USA
Running Time: 85 mins.

Sam Raimi’s first feature film is a low budget horror shocker that would find an enormous cult support and send its creator to the Hollywood directors A-list. It would also spawn two sequels, comic books, lots of toys, a number of videogames and even a musical.

The story is simple: five friends take a holiday to a deserted cabin in the woods. Over there, they find a morbid archaeological artifact; Necronomicon Ex Mortis, the book of the dead. They also find a tape-recorder and –stupidly– play the recordings. The professor’s voice on the tape utters spells from the book and thereby resurrects the evil spirits in the forest. These spirits quickly head towards the cabin to possess the living. Once a human is possessed, bodily dismemberment is the only way to beat the demon that inhabits the body.

The execution of this gruesome tale is nearly flawless. From a slow and suspenseful build-up to the gore-drenched ending. In the meantime it provides more scares than a truckload of other eighties horror flicks. The young cast performs well. As opposed to many modern horrors the viewer can genuinely believe that these people are terrified. Raimi also creates tension with good use of sound and dazzling camerawork. The Evil-POV shots are especially a brilliant invention. The special make-up and gore effects are impressive considering the shoestring budget.

There are also some scenes of controversy. Most notably of course the tree-rape scene. Although the envelope in horror has been pushed further over the years, this remains a shocking scene when viewed today. Bruce Campbell’s character Ash is still fairly undeveloped at this point. Something that would drastically change with the follow-up Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn.

Rating:

Biography: Sam Raimi (1959, Royal Oak, Michigan) started making 8mm films when he was around ten years old. In his teenage years he first collaborated with his good friend Bruce Campbell, who would later appear in almost all of his films. The style of Raimi is influenced by the Three Stooges, of whom he is a huge fan. By making the short movie Within the Woods he managed to raise the required funds to make his first feature; the outrageous horror flick The Evil Dead. After that he made similar films with varying commercial success. In his films Raimi displays a great talent for creating inventive visuals. Most of his movies also feature slapstick and comic book elements. In 2002 Raimi made Spiderman, his biggest film to date. It was an enormous box-office success and Raimi would go on to make two sequels. Throughout his career Raimi has also produced many films and TV-series, mostly in the horror/fantasy genre. He remains a director with a huge fan base and many exciting future prospects.

Filmography (a selection) | (updated): It’s Murder! (1977, short) / Within the Woods (1978, short) / Clockwork (1978, short) / The Evil Dead (1981) / Crimewave (1985) / Evil Dead II (1987) / Darkman (1990) / Army of Darkness (1992) / The Quick and the Dead (1995) / A Simple Plan (1998) / For Love of the Game (1999) / The Gift (2000) / Spider-Man (2002) / Spider-Man 2 (2004) / Spider-Man 3 (2007) / Drag Me to Hell (2009) / Ash vs Evil Dead (TV episode) / Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)

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