April 7, 2013

The Evil Dead (1981)

(aka Into the Woods)
Release Date: 1981; available now on Blu-ray and DVD.
Country: USA.
Written and Directed by: Sam Raimi.
Starring: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Richard DeManincor, Betsy Baker, Theresa Tilly and a bunch of Fake Shemps.

When you talk about the all-time classics of the Horror genre, you have to include The Evil Dead.

To new fans, this movie might seem goofy and  uneven, but when it hit back in the 80's, it defined the genre in its own wicked little way.

In 1981, there had never really been a movie like The Evil Dead unleashed on U.S. audiences; hell, Sam Raimi had to use 2% milk in place of blood for some scenes because the film was already in danger of receiving the dreaded X-Rating.

On a $400k budget, The Evil Dead broke barriers and redefined the word exploitation, and did it all with a tongue-in-cheek vibe. It not only launched the career of Bruce Campbell, but director Sam Raimi went on to do have a pretty huge career too, albeit behind the camera. Even little brother Ted Raimi has had himself quite a career since playing a bunch of Fake Shemps in this one... just go ahead and Google Fake Shemp if you don't know what that's all about, because it will take too many words here to explain it fully.

Alright, so let's get on with it. We have three other Evil Dead flicks to get through this weekend...

*No one who calls themselves a Horror fan needs any sort of plot breakdown for this movie, but what the hell, I'll give you a small one just for posterity's sake.

Five friends head deep into the Tennessee woods, for what I assumed was going to be a weed-induced orgy of some sort, which I may have been a bit off-base on. Oh, there was an orgy waiting for them alright, but unfortunately it involved a bunch of hungry demons wanting to gang bang thier souls into oblivion, courtesy of the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis. *That's the Book of the Dead for those of you who know nothing about nothing.

Creepiest comic book ever.

When the friends find an old tape recorder that contains a reading of some Necronomicon verses, they decide to play it, because why not? I'll tell you why not; because now you've woken a bunch of pissed off demons up from their eternal slumber, and you're all going to die painfully for messing up their nap. How's that for why not!

Yeah, she's not happy.

One by one the friends fall victim to demonic possession, and soon it's only nice guy Ashley (Ash if you nasty) who's left to fight for his life, and banish the demons back from whence they came. You pretty much know how this one's going to end, and it's not well... except for Ash of course, because he's in the sequels, so, he can't really die.

Look, he's fine.
The Evil Dead may be the most beloved Horror movie of all-time. I know that's saying an awful lot, but just think about it; this cheap, crude, overtly visceral movie has endured for three decades now, spawning two equally popular sequels, and launching the career of The Chin himself, Bruce Campbell. As iconic as this movie series is, Mr. Campbell's Ash is even more so; the character is easily on par with names like Jason, Freddy, Michael, Leatherface, and Pinhead, and perhaps even more so in some cases.

What makes this movie so great, and the reason it's endured so well for generations, is that Sam Raimi and his partners in crime set out to make a crazy, over the top gore-fest, and in doing so they put their own special brand of insanity on the whole affair, which was not only unique but shockingly bold.

This bitch gave me nightmares for years...

The true key to the whole thing is that you can't help but like Ash's "aw shucks" demeanor at the start, and his subsequent evolution from timid victim to ass-kicking demon slayer, all in the span of 90 minutes. He may not have started delivering his most famous lines and quips until the sequels, but his likability was undeniable here.

Evil Dead is almost like a handbook for would-be filmmakers on how to make an effective and enjoyable Horror flick on a low budget. Raimi and crew begged, borrowed, mortgaged (and I imagine even stole) to make their passion play a reality, and you can see the heart that went into the production in every frame. It's too bad that many of the filmmakers who have tried to do exactly the same thing since the release of Evil Dead haven't done it half as well, but still, it's one hell of a blueprint to have at your disposal.

Nice bowl cut, Ashley.
As much as we love The Evil Dead around these parts, it's hard not to watch it now, 30+ years after its production, and see its flaws. It feels old, and it doesn't really pack the same punch for us that it used to. Once again, WE LOVE THIS MOVIE, and it's sequels too, we just see it with different eyes these days, and that means realizing it's far more of a fun movie than it is a "good" one.

Stabbings, oozing blood, gallons of gushing blood, chainsaw violence, decapitation, beheadings, self-mutilation... The Evil Dead is an over the top gore-fest of the highest caliber. This movie basically set the bar for gore in the 80's, so much so that it was released unrated in the U.S. (which was a bad, bad thing back then), and was banned outright or heavily censored in many other countries. By today's standard's, an Unrated or NC-17 rating isn't the kiss of death that it once was, but this flick definitely earns both descriptors.

This did not go over well in the 80's. Not at all.
We get some boobies when a girl changes her shirt really quick, and we saw a bit of boobage during the tree-rape scene, but aside from that, there isn't much sexy stuff to be found here. I mean, how sexy can a movie with a tree-rape scene really be, you know?

No sexy.
The Evil Dead is an institution, and while you can watch it today and easily pick it's low budget shortcomings apart if you were so inclined, you'd be missing the point if you did. Extremely gory, oft times creepy, and always fun, The Evil Dead is a must own for any self respecting Horror fan. For $9.99, its Blu-ray version is worth the pick up, as its the best the film has ever looked or sounded, although the again, it was never supposed to be pristine, was it?

This one, for us, is a very solid A

The girls of The Evil Dead, in all of their 80's hotness glory, which involves full-bodied perms and bangs, apparently...


  1. Well, when I was about 6 years old my parents took me to some friends of theirs. They watched some movies on the (then forbidden and dreaded) VCR and somehow I got to watch two of them, one of them being with some demons in a wood or something, the second being The Thing. They were the first horror movies I have seen and I couldn't sleep for three days straight, waking up from terrible nightmares.

    After all has passed, I was alive, and the antibodies against horror were now part of me. I was left with a never ending hunger for supernatural and alien monsters.

    Only later in my teen years, I learned that my first horror movie was called The Evil Dead. So, yeah, it was Bruce Campbell's fault you have me on your blog.

  2. Yeah, those were some of the very first flicks that had me losing sleep as a kid too, Side.

    Bruce is just groovy like that.

  3. http://bdfsquad.com/moviestv/tv-show-reviews/ash-vs-evil-dead-episode-6-review/