The Evil Dead (1981) – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Sam Raimi

Cast: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Richard DeManincor, Betsy Baker, Theresa Tilly

Synopsis: Four friends on are on holiday heading to a deserted cabin in the woods accessed only by one rickety old bridge (when will these kids learn??).   In the basement they find the products of an archaeological find, including a book bound ion flesh and written in blood.   Accompanying this book is a tape detailing that this was the Book of the Dead, discovered by a previous occupant of the cabin.   He translated the book, unleashing untold evil, and in playing the tape, the evil is unleashed again.

We all have films that sit for a long time on our to watch lists, and yet never seem to get the chance to be seen until a conglomerate of influences all work together to make said viewing come about.   Such a series of events has happened to me recently.   My friends at Gametraders Blacktown have been raving about this film in particular.   I was recently interviewed by a friend at Problem Child Productions concerning my view on horror films, and to top it off, my interest in Horror film has once again been renewed by the upcoming Shock Horror: The Nightmare Returns event being held by Culture Shock Events.

My verdict… I let myself wait way too long before viewing this gem.   This was the film that made Bruce Campbell, a cult icon in his own right today, and was an early film from the now well-recognised Sam Raimi (whose recent return to horror has been greeted by fans with glee).   The film is a pot of cliché, with ancient curses, isolated locations, and girls with very powerful lungs using them to full effect.   However, this is a case where the cliché works, as unlike many recent entries in the genre that follow these tropes, this film successfully creates an atmosphere of true suspense.   Perhaps it is the 80’s stylings that make it feel more worthy for true horror classic status, as one problem with recent horror is that it just feels too polished.   A bit more of visual graininess adds to the enjoyment of this piece.

Where it has not aged well is in the special effects, but this is only a distraction in the more intentionally grotesque and over the top sequences.   Though these effects are very low-budget, more often than not they still convey a sense of dread.   Given that almost every other element around these effects works very well, the occasional plasticine-looking exploding head and OTT scenery chewing acting by Campbell  are just more camp aspects of what is a great film that is to a certain degree unafraid to laugh at itself too.

I was very quick to follow-up this viewing by watching The Evil Dead 2, which, though a sequel, is also in many respects a very different film, but I shall save my thoughts on that one until one of my early posts next week.   Overall, this was such an 80s horror flick, but boy, what an 80’s horror flick!!    Lets hope the remake due out next year does not tarnish the original’s reputation.

4 stars out of 5


The Evil Dead on IMDB

The Evil Dead on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=]

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