Movie Review – The Evil Dead (1981)

1981 Renaissance Pictures

Four Stars

The Evil DeadBefore the upcoming remake hits the theaters I thought I would write my review of the original. First of all let me state right off the bat that this is one of my favorite horror movies of all time. The Evil Dead is a totally blunt, insane, unabashedly bloody and nasty movie that doesn’t pull any punches. This is not like a lot of the weak and diluted PG-13 crap that passes as horror nowadays. This is not some pansy movie in which everything is implausibly captured on a camcorder with some shocks thrown in just to make everyone in the theater jump at various points. This is a genuine “Horror” movie.

The Evil Dead begins where a lot of horror movies begin with a group of young people on their way to a remote and quiet location for a vacation. They have rented a cabin out in the middle of nowhere to get away from it all. Unfortunately for them they unwittingly unleash ancient and extremely brutal beings who don’t seem to like the fact that their eternal slumber has been interrupted. Isolated and cut of from civilization one by one the five friends are taken over by these evil spirits until only one remains.

There is nothing really new about the story here but the way it is told is pure horror magic. Director Sam Raimi goes totally bonkers with his approach utilizing weird camera angles, creepy sound effects, and a swimming pool full of fake blood to create a truly unique movie. The movie gets more and more intense as it goes and the frantic insanity just keeps building towards one of the best endings I have seen in a horror movie.

This movie was originally released unrated and was banned in quite a few countries. It really is not for everyone so if you don’t like blood, gore, and complete and utter madness please don’t go anywhere near this movie. If you are not bothered by it then by all means check this out or watch it again if you have already seen it.

The good:

The direction is awesome. I can’t say I have been too impressed by anything Sam Raimi did after this movie. The style and approach he used here works perfectly. Nothing he did after this seems as inspired.

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Ash goes through hell in this movie. Bruce Campbell did a great job.

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No this is not upside down.

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The camera angles, sound effects, bleeding wall sockets, and general insanity of the end segment create a feeling that the rules of reality we live with every day do not apply any more. Ash has entered a very dark realm indeed.

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Great atmosphere and a feeling of isolation.

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Nothing remote about this location, not all all.

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Made on a small budget the crew improvised and the resulting effects are amazing. The scenes of the unseen spirits making their way through the woods were done without advanced camera equipment and look terrific. The bloody effects are highly effective and look better than the effects in some bigger budget movies.

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The design of the book of the dead is top notch. The gruesome cover and illustrations are very well done.

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The not so good:

Bruce Campbell has a minor unibrow. Not acceptable in any movie.

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Maybe the unibrow kept him from being possessed?

Random thoughts and observations:

I hate the sequels to this movie with a passion. This movie is a straight up horror movie but the sequels were sissy semi-comedies with Three Stooges slapstick nonsense. I hated the Star Wars prequels for the same reason.

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Surprisingly for a horror movie none of the females survive.

The cabin looks tiny from the outside but seems huge on the inside.

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This is just one room in the cabin.

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If you hear something outside your window…

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…put on your robe and go outside…

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…and wander deep into the creepy woods. What could possibly happen?

My thoughts on the remake:

I have watched a number of recent remakes and in my opinion not one of them has improved upon the original. This may have something to do with the fact I can watch movies from the 1920’s to present day without being bothered by different acting styles or clothing of the period, storytelling characteristics or music that may seem dated, etc. I have no problem with movies from different eras and I can overlook or even enjoy aspects that many people seem unable to let slide.

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