The Evil Dead (Sam Raimi, 1981, USA)

  Made for a micro budget by a group of friends from Michigan, Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead is one of the most striking debuts in the horror genre. Whereas the first works of others in the genre generally don’t push the envelope formally, Evil Dead pushes boundaries formally with its innovative camera work. While the film is very light on plot, it nevertheless is still a lot of fun to watch 40 years after its release. 

The film tells the story of five college students who are vacationing at a cabin the woods. The group discovers a tape that releases evil demons, who go onto possess the members of the group. The lone survivor of the group is Raimi’s friend Bruce Campbell, who plays Ash Williams. While the Ash character would become much more developed in later entries in the series - he would even have his own TV series at one point - here he is rather awkward. It is interesting to see the development of this character over the course of the Evil Dead trilogy.

Evil Dead is much bleaker and much more of a traditional horror film than the following films in the franchise. In this respect its grainy and unpolished quality gives the film an edge. Raimi and Campbell were not huge horror fans, but made a horror film because of the genre’s bankability. In any case, Raimi shows a clear talent here for the genre, and there are signs of his future works here. While the acting is not great, the film can get repetitious, and there are some rough edges, The Evil Dead stands as a solid entry into the horror genre and still holds up remarkably well. Some scenes still have the potential to shock audiences, even in our jaded age. Recommended with some caveats.



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