The Evil Dead (1981) Review

So I’ve finally watched The Evil Dead for Halloween Week. If you haven’t picked up on it yet, I’m going to (try to at least) watch and review a horror or horror-adjacent movie every day leading up to Halloween next monday. I don’t have a planned list of movies, jut going off of feel. Though I guess I’ll be doing the rest of the original Evil Dead trilogy this week at least. The Evil Dead is a 1981 horror movie written and directed by Sam Raimi, and stars Bruce Campbell as a Ashley J Williams, Ellen Sandweiss as Cheryl, Richard DeManincor as Scott, Betsy Baker as Linda, and Theresa Tilly as  Shelly. For those that don’t know, The Evil Dead is the story of a group of friends going to a cabin in the woods for a vacation. While there they discover a basement with an ancient evil book and a tape recording of the archeologist that was studying it. They unleash all kinds of evil and chaos upon the playing of that tape, possibly even of apocalyptic proportions. At least if you bring the rest of the franchise into it. It may be a simple set-up, but its one of the originators, at least from my knowledge. I think it works in the movie’s favour though, as the movie is able to put more focus on the characters as well as the demons. It allows for the more creative elements of the movie to come out. 

The characters for the most part are also pretty simple and fit into certain archetypes. Ash is a stand-out character in this movie, even though he’s not the over-the-top character of the later movies. Though you can see the origins of a lot of that eventually characterization with the things he goes through and does in this movie. He really fits the “final girl” archetype here, he’s more quiet and respectful vs his more prickish friend Scott. The other characters all work in their roles, and work well when possessed. The performances are okay, which is good considering the experience level of the actors at this point in time. You can tell they had fun when in the possessed mode. You can see their development throughout the run time of the movie, and Bruce Campbell is the best showing of this for me. He starts off unsure and uneasy of himself, but by the end he’s grown a lot and seems more confident in his reactions to everything happening around him. 

This movie is very low budget. There are points in time where (at least where I was watching it) the camera is either out of focus or the film wasn’t great so it looks a little strange. Other than that the budget really does end up adding to the movie, helping to create that sense of dread and uneasiness that is around throughout the movie. It also made the filmmakers get really creative with it, as the movie makes use of interesting camera shots and techniques that Sam Raimi would continue to use throughout his career. Probably the most famous and interesting one is the POV of the demonic force which helps give the feeling that it is ever present. You can especially see the creativity in the latter half of the movie when it goes balls to the wall and the demons are everywhere in the house. The camera work and cinematography also help with the atmosphere of the movie, letting you know from the beginning that something is off and wrong. 

The horror elements all work for me, they’re effective at giving scares as well as establishing the character and power of these demons. They really love messing with people before outright trying to kill them. The gore and effects are amazing, they all look great which is astounding considering that everything was basically done by kids out of college. It helps that the biggest stuff was saved for the later parts of the movie. A stand-out is the final sequence of the demons possessing Cheryl and Scott dying. That was insane with the mix of stop-motion effects, the blood and what i guess are miniatures for the hands that come out of the torsos are just incredible. The music as well is great, helps build the tension and is very memorable. The end credits music does make me laugh as its up beat after all this horror. 

Over-all this was an incredible movie. One of the best horror movies I’ve ever seen (although that’s not saying much as I haven’t seen a lot), an incredible ride that justifies its legendary status. Well worth a watch or rewatch if you haven’t seen it or haven’t seen it in a while. Two Thumbs Up !

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