The Evil Dead (1981)
April 6, 2018 7:32 PM - Subscribe

Five friends travel to a cabin in the woods, where they unknowingly release flesh-possessing demons.

Empire: Darker, and scarier, than its hyper-kinetic remake/sequel, Raimi's movie melds chunks of Night Of The Living Dead, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and - bizarrely - The Three Stooges, into a tense, gory whole. Unbound by cinematic convention, Raimi unleashed his free-range camera, and ghoulish, omnipresent sound effects to create a bleak, paranoid atmosphere and a raft of sudden, effective shocks.

Variety: While injecting considerable black humor, neophyte Detroit-based writer-director Sam Raimi maintains suspense and a nightmarish mood in between the showy outbursts of special effects gore and graphic violence which are staples of modern horror pictures. Powerful camerawork suggests the lurking presence of the huge-scale demons in the forest.

Chicago Reader: The film is ferociously kinetic and full of visual surprises, though its gut-churning reputation doesn't seem fully deserved: if anything the gore is too picturesque and studied, an abstract decorator's mix of oozing, slimy color, like some exotic species of new-wave interior design. There's a weird comic energy in the frenetic physical playing—hysterical actors running in and out of rooms, zombies popping up from the floorboards and out of wall cabinets like jack-in-the-boxes—and the mad Punch-and-Judy orchestration takes on an almost choreographic quality at times (this may be the first commedia dell'arte horror film). There are lots of clever turns on standard horror movie formulas, and one image especially lingers in the mind: a woman splintering into an infinity of hairline cracks, like the suddenly shattered surface of a ceramic vase.

Den of Geek: Evil Dead is such a classic, fun, and amazing horror film. Not because it is Oscar worthy. But because it really speaks to horror fans in our language. It is campy without being bad.


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posted by MoonOrb (4 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
As much as I love the outright slapstick of the later movies and TV show, there is something about this film that is genuinely unsettling, even as I struggle to articulate what it is. The demon voices are really creepy...that's probably part of it. I think it's also just the sense of isolation, and how relentless it all is. It's a cheesy movie, but not in a way that makes you mock it. I guess it's fairer to say that it's a simple movie. It doesn't waste a lot of time on establishing deep characters. You lower your defenses as a viewer, because the movie doesn't seem to be anything special. It sneaks up on you.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:44 PM on April 6, 2018 [5 favorites]

I love it that Ash basically locks up out of terror for most of the film. But the best part is the way the evil affects the characters. Can you trust your friend? The person you love? Or are they going to laugh at you and try to tear you apart the second you take your eye off of them? Awesome.

Bruce Campbell's old website used to host a noteworthy fan-written analysis of the films that dived into the Final Girl/gender issue and also compared them to Lacan's work regarding the development of ego. I loved it because I was into psychology, and found the films' use of mirrors really interesting. Hey, here it is in the Wayback Machine; text is invisible until selected.
posted by heatvision at 5:32 AM on April 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Damnit MoonOrb, you're the cause of a list of old movies as long as my arm that I'm rewatching!

I came about to this from the 'wrong' direction - having seen 'Army of Darkness' on TV and falling in love with it, then tracking down 'Evil Dead' and 'Evil Dead II.'

There's a purity to the first Evil Dead movie, even when compared to II. Very different feel than AoD and actually kind of frightening, especially with The Evil being much more nebulous and ineffable. The physical effects weren't particularly polished, but they were good enough, and damned if they didn't feel like an enormous amount of effort and love.

After possessing bootleg copies, I eventually ended up with the VHS version (still in shrink wrap) in-a-metal-lunch-box and a DVD version with the (now very very badly disintegrating) rubber cladding that looks like the Necronomicon that screams when you press on the face (I remember my dad being inordinately amused beyond all reason when I got it in the mail and pressed on the face, so thanks for summoning that memory for me).
posted by porpoise at 10:46 AM on April 7, 2018

I think in a lot of ways Evil Dead came by the camp/comedy stuff "honestly", if you will, by virtue of the fact that it was barely a step above a bunch of kids in the woods with a Super 8 in terms of production value. It feels like it was meant to be a straight-up scary movie -- and it definitely succeeds in being that! -- and the elements of humour that defined the sequels kind of snuck in through budget limitations. Personally, I love ED and Army of Darkness, but I find ED II kind of forgettable apart from a few key moments. II doesn't really know what it is, but ED and AoD definitely do.
posted by tobascodagama at 4:41 PM on April 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

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