Is there anything left to be said about The Evil Dead? Sam Raimi’s 1981 debut horror has been hailed as one of the greatest horror films of all time, “ferociously original” by none other than the Master of Horror himself, Stephen King. It ushered in the reign of his Majesty the Chin, Bruce Campbell, who I will watch in anything. I’ve seen it more time than I can remember (though not nearly as many times as it’s reboot/sequel) so I figure once more ’round the sun and see if anything new strikes me for the purposes of this Hooptober. Time to get groovy, baby.
THE QUICK SUMMARY: C’mon…if you don’t know this one by now are you really a horror fan? That’s a terrible thing to say, maybe you have your reasons, but…I mean…c’mon! It’s THE EVIL DEAD! Ash and Linda and their friends go out for a trip in the woods! They find the Necronomicon! Evil erupts! Vines! Things trapped in the cellar! ASH!!!!!!! THE CABIN IN THE WOODS! CANTED ANGLES! THE “VAS_O_CAM”! ALL THE CAMERA STUFF! DID I MENTION ASH?!?!
So a few things I noted this time around: The sound is great. In the beginning when they arrive at the cabin there’s the horrible knock of the swing against the side of the house. The music by Joe Laduca as Scott approaches the cabin is great – there’s an underlying menace to all of the music in the film, made even better when it suddenly stops – at the same time as the swing. These little moments more than the over-the-top gags make The Evil Dead the true terror its reputation is based on.
But when those big time moments come, oh boy do they land. It starts early with Cheryl being possessed while drawing, and continues ramping up steadily throughout The Evil Dead. You’d be forgiven for forgetting that Bruce Campbell doesn’t have the huge role he does in later films. Although he’s still the lead here, it’s much more of an ensemble film. Here Ash is much more a helpless victim despite his key moments of panicked action. And although the text is the same, there’s a decrepit, decayed look to the Necronomicon (sorry, Naturan Demanto) that is in no way humorous like the way it looks in later films. The same goes for the infamous tree rape scene, which her is so vicious it’s borderline unwatchable for me.
Although I prefer to revisit Evil Dead 2 more than anything else, it’s worth coming back to where it all started to see just how on the nose Stephen King was when he used the word “ferocious” to describe The Evil Dead. This is a ferocious film*, one that in many ways still hasn’t been surpassed.
*Oh hey, also…Scott is a chode in this movie.