Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Evil Dead (1981)

The Evil Dead (USA, 1981) - Color, Director(s): Sam Raimi
MPAA Rating: NC-17
[UK: 18]
Approx. 85 min.

Z-rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Cheese Factor: 1 out of 5 stars

Ah, Evil Dead. What can I say about this movie that hasn't already been said? This low budget horror flick is almost legendary in its cult status, yet is often considered to be one of the greatest horror movies as well. Infusing elements of black comedy with shocking splatter effects supported by innovative camerawork helped build an intensely frightening horror film that is still fun to watch. Director Sam Raimi, unconcerned with censorship, made it as violent and gruesome as possible which led to an X-rating despite lacking any pornographic content. In the UK, the film was labeled a "video nasty" but was never outright banned. At its premiere, Sam Raimi went all out and hired ambulances as part of a William Castle-esque gimmick to promote the film which had a surprisingly large turnout. This resulted in Raimi deciding to tour the film to build hype and eventually screening it at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival, where horror author Stephen King was in attendance. King was extremely impressed by the film and gave it rave reviews, calling it the "most ferociously original film of the year", which attracted the attention of critics and New Line Cinema, who picked up the film for distribution.

The isolated setting of a cabin in the woods is still referenced in movies today like... well, The Cabin in the Woods. Five college students on Spring Break find the 'Naturom Demonto', roughly translated to the 'Book of the Dead', along with a recording of incantations that release demonic spirits being read aloud. This movie goes more for a creepy and atmospheric feel than its over-the-top splatstick sequel (No, I did not misspell 'slapstick'). Most people probably think of Bruce Campbell's character Ash as a one-liner spewing bad ass but he doesn't actually start out that way. In fact, there are a couple times he's pinned under shelves that look so flimsy IKEA would reject them for inferior quality and his buddy had to save his ass. Regardless, anyone who's possessed can only be killed through bodily dismemberment and both male protagonists share in the dirty work. There's a great scene with Ash holding a chainsaw over his girlfriend, debating whether or not to chop her body up into pieces. Another of the girls wanders out into the woods and is raped by a tree! (There's a subtle reference to this scene in The Cabin in the Woods when they're placing bets on how people will die, Angry Molesting Tree is on the board)

Nudity: One breast is visible for a couple seconds

Gore: Plenty. We've got dismemberment with an axe, impalement with ancient daggers, decapitation with a shovel, and a particularly cringeworthy scene involving an ankle and a #2 pencil. As Joe Bob Briggs put it, "hands, arms, legs, and of course... heads will roll!"

Awesome: Very. The Evil Dead trilogy are probably the most famous cult films of all time. They made Bruce Campbell a cult icon and spawned a franchise of films including a remake, video games, comic books, merchandise, and even an off-Broadway musical. If you've never seen it before, now's the best time to do so. Even if you've seen it before, the new Ash vs. Evil Dead series premieres on Starz this Halloween at 9P and it's a good time to revisit the original films in preparation for the new series! Here's the trailer for the series:

Check out the trailer for the original film here: