When a group of college students finds a mysterious book and recording in the old wilderness cabin they've rented for the weekend, they unwittingly unleash a demonic force from the surrounding forest.
RELEASED IN 1981 (but not until April, 1983, in the USA) and written & directed by Sam Raimi, “The Evil Dead” chronicles events when five Michigan State students travel to a remote cabin in western Tennessee for spring break wherein they discover a copy of the Book of the Dead and an audiotape whose incantations resurrect demons in the woods. Havoc ensues.
This is a cult classic movie and the famous director’s first full-length feature. It only cost $350,000 to make and was shot in 1979, as well as the first weeks of 1980. Bruce Campbell makes for a quality protagonist and there’s a good trio of girl-next-door types (Ellen Sandweiss, Theresa Tilly and Betsy Baker), but Raimi only really takes advantage of these feminine resources with Sandweiss as Cheryl.
The first half of the movie is great, which involves the five students’ arrival to the cabin and the initial possession/attack sequences. It’s atmospheric, well executed and compelling. The second half, however, is redundant. While each new attack ups the ante it’s basically more of the same in the same setting (the cabin). Don’t get me wrong, the second half is effective chaotic & chilling horror with loads of cartoony gore, but it’s too one-dimensional with no meaty subtext to chew on. It’s just people being attacked by hideous creatures, one after the other.
This simplistic approach CAN work, as witnessed by 1972's "Gargoyles," but in that movie the initial gargoyle attacks led to a captivating confrontation in their hellish cave complex in the last act. The latter half of "The Evil Dead," by contrast, is just one attack after another in the same general setting. But the latter half of “The Evil Dead” is just one attack after another in the same general setting. This might work for 11-14 year-olds who are wowed by cartoonish gore and constant diabolic thrills, but it doesn’t work for more mature people who require some element of mindfood or, at least, variation to keep interested. Another negative is the final gory sequence which is decidedly low-budget and cartoony, albeit creatively and expertly done on a film student level.
THE FILM RUNS 1 hour & 25 minutes and was shot in Morristown, Tennessee, with additional work done in Michigan.
Renaissance Pictures by Sam Raimi.
Stars: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Richard DeManincor, Betsy Baker.
Keywords: falsely accused audio tape aggression log cabin chain saw giant plant lodge friends part stop motion zombie cult film evil occult book of the dead necronomicon demonic possession
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