Evil Dead (1981)

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Five friends head off to a remote cabin in the woods for some good, old-fashioned rustic relaxation and accidentally release an evil demonic force on their poor, unsuspecting asses.

Gooey, bloody chaos ensues.

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Wait, this is where we’re staying? F&^$ that. Take me back to the dilapidated Best Western we passed three miles back.

Evil Dead skips any sort of introduction and pretty much jumps right into the movie proper. There are no useless additions like adding any of those pesky early things like introductions and character development. Instead, you’re all just practically at the cabin door when the movie starts. Really, the only thing established about the characters from the get-go is that two of them like to sing in the car and Ash has trouble reading maps and has questionable taste in barbers.

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A bowl haircut? A bold choice for a man your age.

Over time, Ash has become a cult icon to horror fans due to his swagger and witty remarks. But in the first film his character is a lot more anxious and introverted. All of that awesome bad-assery the character is known for came a bit later.

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He did loose the bowl cut some time during the middle of production though, so that’s a plus.

Here in the first film, this is just a normal man who is suddenly thrust into a demonic forest and is forced to watch his world disintegrate around him as his friends are possessed, one by one, and ultimately killed. Sometimes even by his own hand.

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He took it well, all things considered.

Another thing the Evil Dead franchise is known for is its comedy. While that’s certainly showcased here, it’s not showcased here to the same extent as it is in the later films. While the movie is best described as a horror-comedy, the comedy takes more of a back seat and is much more black in nature. Unlike, say, Army of Darkness, the basis of Evil Dead isn’t comedy, it’s horrific body horror and demon possession. Sure, it most definitely toes the line between the two, sometimes almost gleefully in how over-the-top the effects and performances are. But I feel its added psychological horror make it more a genuine attempt at horror compared to its later counterparts.

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For a film that was so obviously low budget, it does a phenomenal job with its effects. With the exception of some of the special effects, such as shots of the moon that look like they were either added in later or projected on a screen they set up in the forest during production, and a couple other instances, the effects hold up surprisingly well. But what really holds up is the gore. It’s clear that Raimi and company were not the squeamish type, because once the blood starts flowing it doesn’t really stop.

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Nor do the dismemberments

They also weren’t a slouch in the make-up department either. As the movie goes on, each ghoul grows impressively worse, until they’re little more than bloody, oozing mush held together by bone and tenuous sinew.

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They also start going gray, but I’m not sure what that has to do with demonic possession.

Some could argue that the effects look cheesy today, and I probably wouldn’t argue with them. But considering the budget restraints, it’s still amazingly graphic.

Other than the copious amounts of gore, the other most notable thing about this film is the camera work. Raimi implemented a lot of creative techniques in this film. The fast paced and frantic camera work was quite original to viewers at the time and the POV, falling objects and tracking shots have become something that’s very distinctly Raimi.

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All in all, Evil Dead is pretty top-notch. The practical effects, camera work and animation techniques still hold up surprisingly well, despite the low budget. Some of the dated special effects and lack of any meaningful background information on the characters might hold it back a bit, but despite that it all still adds up to being one hell of an entertaining tale.

Definitely a recommendation for horror fans, especially if you like a little humor in your horror.

The Evil Dead is available on a variety of streaming services.

It is also available on DVD and Bluray.

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Michi

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