Time: 85 Minutes
Age Rating: Graphic violence
Bruce Campbell as Ash Williams
Ellen Sandweiss as Cheryl Williams
Hal Delrich as Scott
Betsy Baker as Linda
Sarah York as Shelly
Director: Sam Raimi
Ashley “Ash” Williams (Bruce Campbell), his girlfriend and three pals hike into the woods to a cabin for a fun night away. There they find an old book, the Necronomicon, whose text reawakens the dead when it’s read aloud. The friends inadvertently release a flood of evil and must fight for their lives or become one of the evil dead. Ash watches his friends become possessed, and must make a difficult decision before daybreak to save his own life in this, the first of Sam Raimi’s trilogy.
The Evil Dead made a massive impact upon its release, despite its low budget. It would go on to spawn two successful sequels, a tv series that would run for 3 seasons and a remake in 2013 (which is actually pretty good as well). The story itself is simple and some of the technical aspects are dated but for the most part it really does hold up well.
The Evil Dead is very straightforward. People go to a cabin in the woods, they unleash the living dead, chaos and hilarity ensues. Storywise there isn’t really much to say about The Evil Dead and it does fall into some of the horror tropes such as people doing something really dangerous (such as unleashing the living dead upon themselves). Unlike the rest of the series which got more cartoonish and humorous as they went on, most of the movie is pretty dark and serious in comparison. Maybe there might be some slapstick violence and an unbelievable amount of blood thrown all over people, but outside of that there isn’t much humour as you’d think given the series’ reputation (although there is some dark comedy in there as well). However, it is just as crazed, insane and unpredictable as the rest of the series, with it doing to places and showing things on screen that you wouldn’t expect. The Evil Dead is just under 90 minutes long and that was pretty much the best length for it, it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome.
The actors weren’t anything special, neither were the characters, the characters are rather simple and generic horror characters. The acting is kind of weak, a little bad sometimes, though it’s not a huge weight on the movie. Bruce Campbell is the lead here as Ash Williams and he’s actually pretty good. He’s not at all the Ash we all know and love (with the chainsaw on his hand and the boomstick in the other), here he’s just a normal guy and he does well reacting and changing to everything that he sees and experiences throughout the movie.
Sam Rami’s direction is the reason why this movie really works as well as it does. This movie has a really low budget for a horror movie at $350-400K, and you can feel that throughout. With that however, Rami used some very creative techniques to achieve what he set out to do, and the results are rather impressive. The practical effects and makeup really work and a lot of them are still impressive today. Some of them look dated now but considering the budget and the time, you can look past that easily. The use of camera movements (especially the famous POV shots from an unseen demon force) are creative and are memorable, even if some of them are done for budget reasons. It is a very bloody and gory movie, if you don’t like that kind of movie, you probably won’t be staying with this movie for very long. There is blood absolutely everywhere and it goes everywhere. There are also some genuinely unnerving scenes. I didn’t personally find the movie scary but I will say that generally you’re more likely to be disturbed than scared. That tree scene for example is still very hard to watch.
The Evil Dead is a very effective horror movie that still is a classic today. Yes it is cheesy and dated at times but that’s to be expected from a horror movies from the early 80s. Ultimately its Sam Raimi’s direction that makes such a familiar horror concept (even in 1981) and a really low budget work so well. All the practical effects are impressive even to this day and its one thrilling and slightly disturbing horror movie. The Evil Dead ever since its release has established itself as one of the most iconic and important horror films of all time.