What Dya Mean You Haven’t Seen… The Evil Dead?

The Evil Dead

As I have mentioned before on here and on others’ blogs in the past, I’m not the biggest fan of horror films. I like them in theory as I’m fascinated by the paranormal, myths & legends, and psychological nutcases. However, when it comes down to actually watching a horror film, I’ll quite often want to weep within the first 15 minutes. Even horror films that everyone apparently thinks are awful will quite often reduce me to a quivering wreck. And yet I’m still somehow drawn to them.

I had seen the trailer for the remake of The Evil Dead and thought it looked fantastic, even though after just a two-minute clip I still wanted a massive cuddle afterwards. This intrigued me to check out the original, a film I know is loved amongst cult horror fans and is apparently the inspiration for many horror films that followed. So I turned the lights off (I like to do things properly) and booted it up.

Plot: A group college students take a holiday to a cabin in the woods where they find a creepy old book and an audio tape. When they play the audio tape it is a series of incantations of writings from the book which releases evil demons that one-by-one possess the hapless students.

The Evil Dead was made way back in 1981 and was director Sam Raimi’s first feature film. He had made several short films prior, including Within the Woods which would serve as a trial run of sorts to drum up investment for The Evil Dead.

Bruce Campbell as AshAs shown above, the plot of The Evil Dead is incredibly simple but that’s no bad thing at all; it’s the films simplicity that is it’s strongest element. We don’t need deep back stories or complicated love triangles; instead, we’re thrown straight into the story, essentially just being told to accept what’s happening without giving it a thought. The whole thing pretty much takes place in and around the solitary cabin which gives it a very claustrophobic feel, amplifying the horror.

And it is scary. Despite the fact that it’s obviously become dated and hasn’t aged particularly well, it still remains a lesson in how to do low-budget horror. There are a few jump scares, but the film mixes it up and there are plenty of other techniques used to get under your skin. The camerawork, for instance, is very clever; one scene sees Ash (Bruce Campbell) try to drive his girlfriend away from the cabin but stops the car to get out. It appears that the car is parked on flat ground but was actually parked on a slope and the camera tilted to correct the slope. This adds an eerie disorientation to the shot as Ash walks away from the car at a seemingly strange angle.

As I mentioned, the film hasn’t aged particularly well, which could well be why Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell are revisiting it for the remake. The acting is pretty atrocious, although that’s what you often get with low budget films. You could argue that it’s part of the film’s charm, but there’s no denying that the acting is somewhat laughable at times. Some of the effects are also dated, but on the whole they don’t really take anything away from the film. The OTT effects are a hark back to the B movies that influenced the film and are what gives it some personality.

RaaaarMany cite The Evil Dead has an example of horror/comedy, albeit very dark comedy, but there’s something about that that doesn’t really sit right with me. I believe that this was never intended as a piece of comedy but as a proper, straight-up horror film. However, various things (largely due to the budget) led it to become slightly amusing in places. The bad acting, the over-the-top gore and make-up, etc, now seem worse than they did back then and any comedy drawn from them is likely accidental. Recognising this, Raimi maybe thought he would embrace it with the sequels (of which I haven’t seen but am aware). I could be wrong but I doubt Raimi would have made the film as it was if he had a larger budget, which could well have eliminated much of what added a level of comedy. I have a feeling that people may be laughing at it slightly more than with it.

What is very interesting is the obvious effect The Evil Dead has had on horror films that followed it. I doubt it was the first to feature an isolated cabin in the woods or a cursed book that released the dead, but it’s certainly one of the most influential. It’s hard to think that any filmmaker incorporating anything like that into a horror film doesn’t have The Evil Dead at least somewhere in their mind as they do so. It’s even spawned a number of comedy horrors, such as The Cabin in the Woods and Tucker & Dale vs Evilwhich use The Evil Dead as such an obvious point of reference that they don’t even attempt to hide it.

The film also gained a lot of its cult popularity from the fact that several attempts were made to censor it. Many countries, in fact, banned it for some time. It was labelled as a ‘video nasty’, a title reserved for only the nastiest and most disturbing films. This definitely adds to the film and gives it a certain level of expectation going into it. This could well explain why I was left feeling ever so slightly disappointed by it. It was entertaining enough but it didn’t really enthrall me as much as I was expecting. Perhaps if I had seen this when it first came out I would have a higher opinion of it. I appreciate and respect The Evil Dead’s significance and what it achieved with the resources available but I’m not sure it belongs in the higher echelons of cinematic greatness.

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50 thoughts on “What Dya Mean You Haven’t Seen… The Evil Dead?

  1. filmhipster says:

    What? What do mean you haven’t seen The Evil Dead? lol
    Glad you noticed the effect it had on almost every horror film ever made after it.

  2. Awesome review! I think it’s especially tough to watch an old horror movie you’ve never seen and have the same level of appreciation for it that one would have had seeing it on initial release. I think you did a great job reviewing this movie, having the right amount of reverence for its place in the genre. Always an interesting read over here! 🙂

    • Thanks very much, I appreciate it! Yeah I think I would definitely have had much more appreciation for the film had I seen it when it first came out. Horror films often don’t age particularly well it seems whereas other genres don’t suffer as badly. Still, it was a good watch and it scared me in places but I think the OTT effects made me aware that I was watching a horror film and so I wasn’t as drawn into it.

  3. Tyson Carter says:

    Good stuff dude. Yeah I watched it again recently in preparation for the new one, and laughed a lot more than I think I will with this new one. The tree scene is weird though…..still watching it again that is messed up!! 🙂

    • Cheers man. Yeah I don’t think there are going to be many laughs with the new one, nervous laughter maybe. I just don’t reckon that this one was supposed to be that funny, I think it was an unfortunate bi-product of a low budget.
      That tree scene really is odd, I was left a little open mouthed (and cross legged) after that. Apparently Raimi was torn about leaving it in and wishes he had cut it. I think being attacked by the tree is fine but raped by it is a little weird.

  4. theipc says:

    I’m with you. I remember my friend and I snuck in to see Evil Dead 2 back when it came out in the theater and I had no idea what the first one was about. Then we went and saw Army of Darkness and it was several years later that I approached the first one on videotape. I’ve only ever watched it the one time and my reaction to this day is: ewwwwwwwwwwwww.

  5. keith7198 says:

    One of the greatest horror movies of all time! Rewatched this for about the 20th time a couple of months ago and it still creeps me out. Bloody brilliance!

    • A big fan it seems Keith! It is definitely pretty creepy, i just wish I’d seen it a good few years ago. I can definitely appreciate it’s significance in the genre even if it didn’t quite have the effect on me that it has done on many others.

      • keith7198 says:

        Huge fan and I’m sure nostalgia does play into it. I also love the fact that Raimi and Campbell made it for almost no money. Lots of cool things associated with the making of the film. I love it!

      • I did a bit of reading about the making of it and they did incredibly well to make it for so little money. I think I read about them asking businesses and stuff for money. I wonder if those businesses knew what film they were contributing to!?

      • keith7198 says:

        You may have noticed this, but there’s one scene early on where they are crossing the bridge in their car to get to the cabin. If you pause the shot you can see a man standing out by the bridge. It’s one of their camera guys. He had no idea he was in the shot but that brief glimpse remains in the movie today. Awesome!

      • Haha I love stuff like that! I didn’t notice it at the time though, I’ll have to go back and take a look. Sounds like that scene in Gladiator when there’s a crew member backing out of one of the shots wearing jeans and a t shirt.

  6. I can’t wait for the remake! I loved the original (although I do understand why you felt a bit dissapointed). Evil Dead II is the best out of the three – pure genius. Army of Darkness (aka Evil Dead III) is shit haha.

  7. thedavidryan says:

    Excellent work my friend. Like you I try and avoid horror movies in favour of my mothers comforting bussom. Good work!

  8. Brian says:

    I feel like the budget was a little too high on this one and it got to their heads and their egos got in the way.

  9. Ryan says:

    You have to watch Evil Dead II now. It’s easily the best of the three because it blends horror with comedy. I think a lot of people get the first one mixed up with the second one which is why they say “Oh I hope the remake is funny” when the original film IS NOT a comedy. The Evil Dead II however, is most certainly a comedy with a ton of horror thrown in. Not only is it the best of the trilogy, it’s one of the best sequels ever made!

    • Yep I will definitely have to give II a watch as I have heard so many great things about it. Part of me hopes that those who think the remake is of Evil Dead II go and see it and then end up having a mild coronary when the realise it’s not! 🙂
      Very intrigued to see how II differs from the first though. My appetite is whetted for more!

      • Ryan says:

        Yea exactly! After watching II you’ll see some moments in the new trailer that look like they will be showing up in the remake. It’s like the blended the best parts of I and II into the new film because they are ALMOST the same movie. lol.

      • haha, yeah i’ve been told that it’s a very similar film. Is it a proper sequel then or a sort of remake? I’ll definitely try and check II out as well before I see the remake so I can spot any references to it.

      • Ryan says:

        It’s a legit sequel they just reshot the parts of the first film with him and his GF (who is a different actress) and a lot of people got confused like he went BACK to the cabin with a totally different GF when in reality they were just sorta recapping the first film REALLY FAST. The movie gets insane about 5 minutes into it and never stops. You’ll be sorta confused at first but the beginning is just a rehash of the first film.

      • Ah I see, sounds pretty good, definitely up for some of that. Sounds like some crazy ass stuff is more up my street so I’ll definitely try and check it out. Then I’ll move onto Army of Darkness which I’ve heard very mixed things about!

  10. I think you touch on an intersting phenomena… remember, this was made back in a day before VOD and Streaming movies and the internet. So the concept of a low budget horror movie that wasn’t a joke was something relatively unique. People embraced it big time.

    I think youre right about the humor though, it had to be there because of the budget. If it was a bigger budget films they probably would have worked around some of the flaws.

    As is though, people love it for what it was, and it came out at the perfect time in the evolution of movies I think!

    • Yeah I definitely think it offered people something new that wasn’t really around at the time. I mean, I’m too young for when it came out but I’m aware that it was pretty different to much of what came before particularly with horror films. It’s a film of it’s time and simply wouldn’t get made today or at least not commercially anyway. In that respect, it’s pretty unique and definitely somewhat of a landmark piece.

  11. meeradarjiyr1 says:

    Great review! Though I have to shamefully admit that I haven’t seen it. I’ve been wanting to watch for ages, but just not had the chance. Then again some may judge it, thinking that since its quite old the effects and ‘gory-ness’ won’t be as gratifying! Its on my watch list!

  12. mistylayne says:

    I was about 19 when I saw this for the first time…and had just started watching horror movies…and I watched it alone in my house with the lights out and about 30 minutes into it I had to call my best friend, Brad, to come spend the night with me because I was so scared. *giggles* It definitely has become dated but as a cult film, it’s made a huge impact, especially Bruce Campbell. The nods I see to him and this movie are far and wide and sometimes come from the oddest of places.

    • Haha well I don’t think I was quite that scared by it but it was still pretty freaky even if it has become dated. You’re dead right about its influence though, there was stuff I noticed that I didn’t realise had come from The Evil Dead had has almost become the stuff of parody now.

  13. ruth says:

    I’m not a horror fan but I have actually seen this one! It’s more comical than scary and Bruce Campbell was perfect in this role. I don’t have any desire to see the remake/reboot though.

    • The remake is definitely not one for the faint hearted judging by the trailer, I don’t really blame you on that one! Bruce Campbell was great in the original though, he was pretty perfect in it. I actually watched Spider-Man 2 yesterday and I know it’s Raimi but I was still shocked at how even that has Evil Dead references in.

      • ruth says:

        Ahah yeah, Campbell was quite cheeky in Spidey 2. Raimi and he are longtime friends so he seems to always appear in all Raimi’s movies! I wonder if he’ll be in the new Oz also.

      • Oh I definitely wouldn’t be surprised to see him crop up somewhere especially if they’ve been working together in the ED remake. Not sure I fancy Oz though to be honest.

  14. legallyblack says:

    Great review! I’m a huge fan of the Evil Dead trilogy (yes, even Army of Darkness) and I can’t wait to see if this upcoming remake will do justice to the original.

  15. Popcorn Nights says:

    Nice one Chris – I missed this the other week. Enjoyed reading. I’m not a fan of horror films either, generally speaking, but this is definitely one of the ones I’ve enjoyed more than others. I’d really recommend the other two Evil Dead films – I think they are hilarious at times (deliberately!).

    • Thanks Stu! This is already probably one of my favourite horrors, primarily because it seems to have had such an influence. I have to take it as a product of its time though, visually I don’t think it’s great but it’s still pretty effective. I do definitely want to check the two sequels out now though.

  16. 70srichard says:

    Getting ready for the remake by planning a marathon of the original three. Evil Dead is mostly scary, Evil Dead II is scary and funny, and Army of Darkness is entertainment perfection.

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