[Review] Evil Dead (1981) 40 Years Later Hail To The King

The fact that even after all this time, The Evil Dead is still terrifying is perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the film. Even after a second or third viewing, a good horror film should be able to elicit at least a few frights, which is something that shouldn’t be too much of an accomplishment.

However, the amount of terrifying spectacle that writer and director Sam Raimi and his team stockpile into eighty-five mins of blood-soaked time is still truly amazing for a great number of different reasons.

Five adolescents travel into Tennessee in order to spend their summer break in an abandoned log cabin deep within the forest. The setting is instantly eerie, wasting no time with character development or setting the stage; the shoddy structure features a dark and dusty interior, animal skulls, lights that appear to emanate incorrectly, a mysteriously rocking swing, a broken clock, and a cellar containing some kind of malevolent entity. Within the first five minutes of the show, Richard DeManincor’s character, Scotty, goes down into the murky, humid, subterranean housing to investigate, leaving the other characters perplexed by his prolonged absence.

He is, of course, just playing around with you in the hopes of giving you a brief fright. They find an old recording of the previous resident’s notes on his research of Sumerian relics in the basement of the house. Among the topics covered on the recording are the demonic possession of the previous resident’s wife, the Book of the Dead, and the solitary solution of bodily dismemberment.

The fact that The Evil Dead was produced independently, on a shoestring budget, without the expertise or resources available to large studio films is a unique selling point for the movie. This do-it-yourself mentality permeates the movie to the same extent as the horror does, elevating the level of difficulty and suspense in every sequence.

Even without the behind-the-scenes stories of Raimi and producer/star Bruce Campbell begging and borrowing their way into the financing necessary to make this film, there is a rough-around-the-edges feel to The Evil Dead that gives it a certain authenticity despite its over-the-top hallmarks. This is despite the reality that the film features a number of over-the-top trappings, such as a chainsaw-wielding killer and a demon-possessed.

The five individuals, while listening to the cassettes, inadvertently let out a horde of enraged demons, which then began assaulting the pupils. Cheryl, played by Ellen Sandweiss, is the first person to come into contact with the archfiend. It seizes possession of some twisted vines and uses them to tie and rape her after she has recklessly wandered into the fog and darkness. She made it back to the cabin, but the others didn’t believe her strange narrative when she told them what happened.

The bridge that Ashley “Ash” Williams (Bruce Campbell) and Cheryl were planning to cross in order to go to the cabin has fallen, so Ashley grudgingly decides to drive Cheryl to a motel in the area instead. Cheryl goes through a series of dramatic changes as they make their way back to the others, including revealing decaying skin, eyes that are glazed over, the ability to levitate, and a throaty voice. And the remaining individuals will very soon be the focus of a gruesome supernatural takeover.

As a teen, I saw The Evil Dead 2 first, even though I had not yet seen the first film in the series. The reason for this is a mystery to me; it may have just been a matter of chance. I watched both very quickly after one another, and of course, as is obvious to anyone who has seen them, there are a great deal of connections that contribute to the fact that the second film is more of an advancement than a genuine connective-sequel. It didn’t make much of a difference to how I felt about either of them; all I knew for sure was that Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi were fantastic.

When you watch either of these movies, you can sense Raimi’s love for the genre. From the premiere on, there is a passion that is apparent in practically every choice, every delightfully distinct, rough around the edges, peculiarity. When you watch either of these movies, you can feel Raimi’s love for the genre.

It is motivational in the sense that it demonstrates that a film may be produced on an independent, low-budget, do-it-yourself level. The fact that Raimi is still active in the film industry and producing movies provides hope to the billions of people who wish to follow in his footsteps. Even if… not quite these strange ones specifically.

It is still astonishing, forty years later, how much of that kind of spectacle Raimi and crew managed to produce despite the fact that the production was in its infancy at the time. Raimi’s directing and the efforts of cinematographer Tim Philo are largely responsible for that accomplishment. In spite of the fact that the entirety of The Evil Dead takes place within a single cabin and the limited amount of forest that surrounds it, the movie has a strong feeling of its setting.

However, there is much to be claimed for the unrefined terror that the aspiring filmmaker leant into in this scene. In this picture, more than in any of his others, you play the role of Ash, frantically attempting to survive as an evil curse gradually overtakes all that you know and throws nightmare after horror at you.

The budgets became greater. The sphere of influence expanded. But Raimi’s very first excursion into the forest was where he experienced the scariest and most authentic terror of his whole career.

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