The Evil Dead

Directed by: Sam Raimi
Distributed by: New Line Cinema

Written by Alexander Reams


There are few directors that have left such a clear mark on a genre that it changed the nature of that genre, Nolan with comic book films, Kubrick and Coppola with war films, and Sam Raimi who has arguably left the most significant imprint in horror because of the doors it opened. Bruce Campbell (Ashley “Ash” Williams, more on him later) and Raimi were already close friends that had made several home movies before they decided to make “The Evil Dead.” The pair ventured out to rural Tennessee to a cabin in the woods and hoped to have a good time making a picture. This behind-the-scenes event is not dissimilar to the opening of “The Evil Dead,” which has Ash Williams, along with his girlfriend, his sister, friend, and his friend’s girlfriend piling into a car zooming down the backroads of Tennessee (if you’re a native of the south you realize this already isn’t a good idea). 

Once they arrive Raimi immediately lets you know that something is off, the camera movements before their arrival were smooth and precise. The first look at the cabin and Raimi trades that in for dutch angles, crash zooms, crazed whips and pans, and no monsters have even shown up. Raimi wants you uncomfortable, and those choices, along with the performance from Bruce Campbell, and the effects by Tom Sullivan make “The Evil Dead” an already ingenious movie, then the monsters show up. Everything up to this point has been somewhat restrained, like a monster trying to bang down a door, but it’s a slow introduction to the antagonists of Raimi’s nightmares that stretches everything out, building dread. This threat causing said dread is “The Book of the Dead” an ancient book containing souls and demons, and with a handy-dandy incantation from a tape recorder, the book is opened, and some demons come out to play. 

Our first proper introduction to the evil that plagues the cabin in the woods is when Cheryl goes out to calm down and gets dragged through the woods and assaulted by the forest, its a frightening scene that is only amplified by the already chaotic shooting style, and the effects are simultaneously realistic and give one the sense that the monsters are only two relations away from being characters on “Fraggle Rock.” It’s a sight to behold, especially for a first-time viewer, and my memories of seeing these creatures are seared into my brain because of the convincing nature of the animatronics. They play in natural environments, based on real animatronics and real effects instead of green screens or CGI, and while some effects have been advanced in post-production, they still feel very real. Raimi doesn’t stop there, the shock of it all is only amplified as the movie continues to find hilarious and disturbing ways to kill the patrons of the cabin, sans Ash Williams, he’s the final dude of the franchise, and here’s the twist of “The Evil Dead,” it’s also a portrait of a man losing his mind, and given the circumstances, it’s very understandable, over the course of a few days he has seen his closest friends die and that has a toll, and by the end, Ash has been torn down to his bones, and that’s how Raimi wants his audience to feel, its a bear of a movie, but its all of that–with monsters that remind you of Jim Henson. 

“The Evil Dead” has held a death grip on the horror genre for over 40 years and its easy to see why, Raimi’s masterful control of comedic timing and dread, violence that uses practical effects, Bruce Campbell’s deranged performance driving the underlying emotional motif of a man who continues to lose, and the absolutely wonderful Book of the Dead being the cause of all the pain and suffering, that also gets some laughs.

“The Evil Dead” Trailer

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