Review: “The Evil Dead”

Made on a shoestring budget of $85,000 in several weeks spread over 1979 & 1980, “The Evil Dead” may not have the more widely known appeal of the ‘Elm Street’ or ‘Friday the 13th’ franchises but nevertheless has a substantial and very loyal cult audience which helped turn what could’ve been a remarkable student film into one of the cornerstones of modern horror filmmaking.

The project which made legends out of Writer/Director Sam Raimi and actor Bruce Campbell is a rather odd but fun experience. “Evil Dead” is scary, gross, over the top, has moments of great black comedy and most of all is very creative – more than compensating for the bad acting, cheesy dialogue, lack of plot, odd editing and often cheap FX. There’s no complex back story or history like ‘Elm St’, the villain is an unseen force which turns the various people into monstrous zombies, and the chills and spills keep hitting us at a lightning fast pace.

The lack of story is one of its strong points as the whole core of the movie lies in its surprisingly effective atmosphere and pure gross out factor. A good comparison – if people had a choice between good porn and a good erotic thriller, 90% would go for porn simply because there’s a lot more action, the appeal is much more immediate, and there’s lots of gratuitous T&A.

“The Evil Dead” is porno for horror buffs with limbs severing galore, enough vile liquid effects to drown a stadium, and some truly surprising shock elements such as the film’s most famous scene where a girl is literally raped by tree branches that have come to life – when this happns you know that from this point on, there are no rules.

Unlike the more comedy-oriented next two films in the series, the original ‘Evil Dead’ is more of a serious dark horror movie – we never see the woods demon (only his POV is shown in the first one) and the various dead-ites are lackluster makeup wise but that’s understandable on the budget. What remains surprising with the budget is the camera work, to this day remaining truly clever and original, whilst the black comedy is more subtle and shall we say nastier than the more slapstick moments of the next two.

Aside from the great Bruce Campbell who does a glorious over-the-top B movie performance the cast is lacklustre but then again they’re only there as cannon fodder and this movie doesn’t demand much aside from hysterics and screaming which they do provide in abundance. “The Evil Dead” had a huge influence on the genre after its release – bringing the element of humour and over the top gore to the genre, and a style which was subsequently cloned by many a film. The first in an excellent trilogy purely for horror fans, all three films work superbly with each having its own charm (esp. the second one). Its schlock to be sure, but schlock at its absolute best.