Review: The Evil Dead (1981)

It spawned a collection of films so it's only right that we take a look at The Evil Dead, the 1981 original gore-fest original directed by Sam Raimi.

Notorious as the very first ‘video nasty’ to be slammed during Mary Whitehouse‘s clamp-down on violence and horror on VHS, The Evil Dead was one of director Sam Raimi‘s greatest cult triumphs.

Starring the now legendary Bruce Campbell as Ash, Ellen Sandweiss, Richard DeManincor and Betsey Baker among other then largely unknown actors, the story of the fateful haunted cabin in the woods became a blueprint for every horror movie for the subsequent three decades and beyond.

Based on Raimi’s earlier short film Within The Woods, the story as we all know, follows five friends venturing to a quaint woodland cabin to spend their Spring Break in the countryside only to discover that there are horrors waiting to be awakened. Shot in Morristown, Tennessee, the group happen upon an ancient Sumerian manuscript ‘Naturon Demonto’ and a tape which reads aloud a fatal demonic incantation. When the tape recorder plays, it unleashes the undead onto the unwitting campers and plenty of blood, guts and gore ensue. Demon possessions, zombified souls and objects that come to life; nothing was too terrifying a concept for Raimi and his small production crew.

One of the most well known and disturbing scenes sees a woman raped by a tree in the woods, a scene which has already been remade and featured on the recent 2013 trailer despite Raimi publicly claiming he had regretted filming it due to critic’s accusations of misogyny. The Evil Dead is understandably famed for its gory special effects as many will remember this bloody flick as one of the major titles in an era where  spooky (yet painful) white-glass contact lenses, creamed-corn zombie guts, creepy synthetic make up effects and lifelike rubber props made things seem far more real than the CGI of today.

In one sequence, a possessed Cheryl stabs Ash’s girlfriend Linda in the ankle with a pencil – a moment made grossly realistic by the sound effect of Raimi’s prop-masters jamming biro’s into an apple. Chainsaws and knives galore coupled with killer one-liners amp up the horror to borderline comedic levels meaning that Raimi’s cult hit is self-parodying and darkly humorous – a style which becomes somewhat of a central theme in his 1987 sequel.

Raimi’s long time friend Bruce Campbell is the archetypal anti-hero Ash – a character that was loved so much that he appeared in two sequels Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness  – whilst the other characters are slain in various epic and memorable ways. Naturally, Raimi also went on to gain much success, directing the recent Oz: The Great and Powerful, the Spiderman series, Darkman and contemporary horror hit Drag Me To Hell. Not bad for someone whose directorial debut was labelled a ‘video nasty’.

Over thirty years later, Sam Raimi’s remake for a new generation of horror fans is set to have viewers cowering behind their sofa’s once again… and staying well away from the woods.


Scariest Line; *sings* We’re going to get you, not another peep.

Creepiest Moment: Cheryl becomes possessed by the demons.

Most Obscure Death: Shovel to the head

Good Question: ‘Why have you disturbed our sleep; awakened us from our ancient slumber? You will die! Like the others before you, one by one, we will take you.’

Surprising Fact: You may notice none of the possessed characters bleed when attacked. This was not only to show that they were non-human but to stop the movie getting an X rating from the MPAA

Pesky Pig: In the scene where the group listen to the tape in the cabin, it is heavily implied they are smoking weed. This was actually what happened in the first take and in the script though it later had to be re-shot because of the actors behaving uncontrollably. This scene is also parodied to an extent in Joss Whedon‘s Cabin In The Woods.

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