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The Evil Dead

A movie directed by Sam Raimi

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  • May 14, 2011
**** out of ****

Often considered one of the biggest cinematic bloodbaths ever, as well as one of the darkest comedies in existence, "The Evil Dead" is Sam Raimi's "big indie beast"; a stunning debut from a man who can successfully take one genre, and can still make a film about not one, but two things. That could only be the work of a true craftsman.

But how can a film as violent and bloody as this one have been made with actual craft? Isn't it no better than a sleazy exploitation picture? Honestly, think what you want about Raimi's film. It's as violent as most horror films get, and it knows it, but it's also part of an era where the term "campy" was used more than, well I'd say once a week. Movies like this one came out all the time in the 1980's. Several of them were aware of their absurdity, some were not, and only few age as well as "The Evil Dead". The film is literally bursting with insane laughter; that being invokes by its own bloody tears.

The film is great entertainment, assuming one is entertained by corpses, blood, gore, and demonic possession. The story takes place somewhere in the woods, where a cabin resides (of course). The unassuming kids who tend to inhabit every single horror movie these days go to this cabin for a couple nights of presumably good fun. After a ton of genuinely strange happenings, they finally arrive at the place, and they settle in.

While exploring the basement, the film's central hero Ash (Bruce Campbell) come across some sort of novelty entitled "The Book of the Dead". A tape recorder and some sort of knife come in the complete diabolical package, and soon, demonic presences have run amuck. Let's just say that instead of getting drunk and probably high, as they had intended, the kids are possessed and decapitated, as NOT planned.

The charm of the story is its simplicity. The film is virtually nothing without the gore, the stylistic elements, and the performance from Bruce Campbell. Not only does actor Campbell have one of the most epic chins of all time, but he also has the charm of a classic campy performer. This is masterfully-made camp; sometimes scary, often times funny. That is what the film wants to be, and that is what it is. Considering "The Evil Dead" is a "video nasty", and a classic one too, you need a strong stomach to understand and enjoy it, let alone watch it. And if you think you can do that, then please take every bit of advice I have given you.

One thing you may or may not know about "The Evil Dead" is that it's this super low-budget horror movie that made it big instantly after being released. I bet that was partially due to the controversy; something which always tends to draw attention (and money) to a film and its makers. The cinematography found here is absolutely spectacular, in spite of the low budget, and so is the blood. It looks real, sometimes to the point where people will be compelled to throw up, and there will be those who think it's funny. Sometimes, it's so over-the-top and campy/excessive, that it's hard not to laugh. This film has a sort of ability which allows it to be both funny and gruesome; both hilarious and scary. It's a gem.

I'm sure this film was shunned and hated at the time, but I'm forgiving, and I can accept wit in the form of gruesome road-kill. If you can too, then "The Evil Dead" is your movie. Or maybe not, heck, I don't really know. "The Evil Dead" will appeal to those who can embrace it rather than be disgusted by it, and that's only a select number of people. There are many who liked it, but not enough that really, really love it. But there's humor, wit, and undeniable heart here; all in the service of black comedy and bloody violence. I say: beware, but do not shy away from the film. I love it, it's a cult movie with a purpose, and Raimi has earned my respect ever since I first watched the thing. And that was a long, long time ago.

I don't really know how to properly close this review, as a reviewer should. I've said all there is to say about "The Evil Dead", or at least, as much as I can say without spoiling the whole bloody affair. Simply put, if you haven't caught on already, "The Evil Dead" is a fun, fun ride full of gore and memorably funny (and disturbing) scenes. Few films have tree-rape scenes; few films have classical-cheery music playing over the end credits after a very bloody finale; and few films possess such wit as this one. No matter how you choose to look at it, I love "The Evil Dead", and shall watch it time-and-time again, for many years to come. It's a true genre classic.

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May 15, 2011
Bruce Campbell is the man....
More The Evil Dead reviews
review by . June 24, 2011
They got up...on the wrong side of the grave! (Anchor Bay DVD review)
Anchor Bay's DVD edition of Raimi's goofy, gory cult classic sports a picture trimmed to facilitate a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, catering to 16x9 television owners. Pan & scan butchery was equally ugly, but Elite's 1.33:1 release and all of the VHS editions of identical formatting that preceded it were surely more accurate presentations of this movie, which was shot in 1.37:1. That aside, this is a quality disc. It's unsightly, but that's how it was shot - on outmoded Arriflex …
review by . June 25, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Evil Dead is camp. It DEFINES camp. It also introduced people to the living god of camp, Bruce Campbell, for the first time. Look at his name: The word "camp" is right there! There is a huge cult following surrounding the Evil Dead series - which also includes two sequels, Evil Dead II and the awesome Army of Darkness - and Bruce Campbell.    A "Book of the Dead" bound in human flesh? That comes to life if people recite what's written in it? Director Sam Raimi had to know people …
review by . December 18, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
THE EVIL DEAD - One Of The Best Horror Films Ever Made
The Evil Dead is set in the back woods of Tennessee in an old abandoned cabin. Five young kids, all in their early twenties are all set for a weekend of camping, partying and having a good time. All is going well until they find the basement in the cabin. There had been some kind researcher living in the cabin quite some time back. It appeared that he had left in a hurray or just never came back to get his materials. Scott and Ash found a book and some audio recordings. So while having a few cocktails …
Quick Tip by . September 24, 2010
Though the Evil Dead showcases some of Raimi's trademarks as a director, the film takes itself a little too seriously. Check out Evil Dead II for a more focused version of what Raimi is capable of...
review by . October 15, 2009
Dead by dawn! Dead by Dawn!
Evil Dead was one of the last midnight movies (at least in my area). It was also the most violent, gory and cheesiest horror film I have seen in the last twenty or so years that was highly entertaining. A group of college kids go fooling around in some old cabin and discover the Necronomicon. Yes, they find the book that H.P. Lovecraft used to love to write about. A book made from human skin and contains a bizarre language and horrific images that drive people insane.  Once when these silly …
review by . June 03, 2000
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Bruce Campbell, well directed     Cons: Lighting, make up, costumes     Five college students head to a cabin in the woods for a little vacation. They accidentally awaken some demons by way of recorded incantations from the Necronomicron (Book of the Dead), and are forced to fight them to stay alive. One by one, the students themselves become possessed, leaving Ash (Bruce Campbell) the last man standing. All alone, Ash must fend off the Evil Dead, while …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #2
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie


Director Sam Raimi's first film has achieved legendary status since its 1982 release, and for good reason. Though perhaps not as widely seen as its two sequels, EVIL DEAD 2 and ARMY OF DARKNESS, THE EVIL DEAD is arguably the best of the three. It is the story of five college-age friends who travel to a cabin in rural Tennessee where the stumble upon the Book of the Dead, an ancient tome bound in human flesh and inked in blood. After unwittingly awakening the unspeakable terror told of in the book, each of the friends is transformed into the evil dead, one by one, except for Ash (Bruce Campbell). So, Ash is left with no other way to survive than to dismember the living corpses of his sister, girlfriend, and two of his friends. Shot on a shoestring budget, the film boasts some impressive camera work and extremely over-the-top gore effects as well as a sense of humor much more subtle than the tongue-in-cheek aesthetic of the two sequels.
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Director: Sam Raimi
Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Sci-Fi
Release Date: October 15, 1981
MPAA Rating: NC-17
Screen Writer: Sam Raimi
DVD Release Date: Anchor Bay/Starz (December 01, 2009)
Runtime: 1hr 25min
Studio: Renaissance Pictures
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