From Joe's Shelf
I wasn't fortunate enough to see The Evil Dead back in 1981 for two reasons; For one, I was only four years old and my Mother didn't subject me to the awesome world of 80's horror films until I was around six or so. And two, most people hadn't even heard about it when it was new. This "top of the list" cult classic still has an effective amount of scares and laughs to be worth a viewing every year around Autumn. Sam Raimi's (The Spider-Man trilogy) big screen directorial debut, is a testament to how well a movie can turn out when its makers will go through anything to get it made (look it up).
Of course by now, a few things feel outdated (especially in HD). For the most part, the makeup is good and if you can keep a certain perspective, you'll try not to notice the little imperfections. But in my opinion, those errors add to the film's classic charm. I can even forgive it when the moon is obviously matted into the corner of the screen, and when the quick shots reveal that some characters have been replaced by dummies. The creep factor with the actors evil transformations and the sound effects of them talking and screaming, are what sells this movie every time I watch it. Part of the torture is not from the actual violent attacks, but also from the psychological bashing that the demons push on the victims.
The acting is questionable at times, but I've seen worse (Showgirls, Battlefield Earth). Bruce Campbell (Burn Notice) in his first starring role, is nothing like the brazen smartass that we've all grown to love. He plays an innocent guy (Ash) who's thrown into an extreme circumstance that forever changes him. His growth from a virgin coward to an unstoppable deadite killing machine, is covered as the tip of the iceberg with the first film. Even though there are five total actors in The Evil Dead, only three of them deserve mentioning.
The other two are practically demon fodder for all concerned. Ellen Sandweiss (Satan's Playground) as Ash's sister, is just neurotic enough to sell the part of the crazy girl who no one believes until it's too late. And Richard DeManincor (Crimewave) as Ash's best friend, is just the right kind of selfish/annoying asshole that deserves what's coming to him.
Highs- Driving up to the cabin, "join us", Cheryl's card reading skills, biting off the hand that feeds you, playing the tape, "What's wrong with her eyes?!", the book burning aftermath, and never getting away.
Lows- A horny forest can leave splinters, punching a rocking back & forth dummy, is that creamed corn coming out of that body?, and squiggly lines are poor excuses for actual veins.
The Evil Dead is still a lot of fun for horror fans, and it's also a good intro film for young scary moviegoers. They need to see films like this first, before the pale imitations of today come and taint their perspectives. The demonic possessions in present day movies have got nothing on this "groovy" sumbitch. Besides, you can't appreciate the ghoulishly fabulous Ash vs Evil Dead cable series, without seeing its roots first.
Rating- 8 out of 10
The Evil Dead (1981)
NC-17 | 1h 25min | Fantasy, Horror | 15 April 1983 (USA)
Five friends travel to a cabin in the woods, where they unknowingly release flesh-possessing demons.
Director: Sam Raimi
Writer: Sam Raimi
Stars: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Richard DeManincor