"No! It was the woods themselves!"
The Evil Dead (1981) is an independent horror film and the first film directed by Sam Raimi.
The Evil Dead is about 5 friends that rent out an abandoned cabin in the woods for a weekend adventure. Something is not right about this cabin from the begining and when the kids find a demon book and other creepy things in the basement, they're going to wish they never came at all.
The premise of this film is good. So good that a TON of films have stolen it to the point that it's become cliché, but this is the original. The fact that so many other films have ripped off this one doesn't take anything away from this one, it really just makes those others look bad. And if the premise isn't enough, think about the other thing this film does really originally story-wise: this film reverses the classic horror film trope of the "scream queen." Instead of a female protagonist who rises out of all her friends getting killed and survives to the end we have a very wimpy male lead! This is a super original spin on a classic idea and it works really quite well!
Another really solid thing in this film is the acting. And surprisingly enough I'm really not talking about Bruce Campbell! He's not bad in this film, but he's young and really hasn't found his strengths yet as an actor. It's all the other nobody actors that really sell the horror of being possessed and turning into deadites that really make scarier parts of this film work. This is about as good of acting as you can get on an independent low-budget film.
Besides the premise, the story is not the greatest part of this film. There's a lot of events and weird things that happen that just don't make a ton of sense and up just being really gory and gross just for the hell of it (which in later films these end up being used for comedy but not so much here). Did I mention there's an obsessive amount of gore? It seems like Raimi was on an Italian horror film, "video nasty" kick when he made this one. Which is fine, it just doesn't do much for me or the story.
I don't love the ending, never have... I mean, it's fine... it kinda works, but it just doesn't seem to be enough closure for my taste.
The direction is why this film is really amazing. Sam Raimi's vision and execution is really something to marvel at. A majority of this film works not because of the story or the acting but simply because of the amazing direction. This goes hand in hand with the camerawork too, this film has such a creative and inventive way of finding the most interesting places to put the camera. There's a ton of shots that I look at and just absolutely love every time I watch this film. Just the fact that Sam Raimi started here with an independently financed horror film as a nobody and now is one of the biggest directors in Hollywood (for better or worse) is a tribute to how good the direction in this film really is.
Also the editing in this film is really top notch. This is what most separates this film from any other independent horror film. It may be un-noticable upon first viewing but there's lots of times when the editing is what is actually doing the most work in the film!
And the final element that I need to mention is the soundtrack. Sure the score is good too, but I'm actually talking about the films use of sound. A lot of the noises and sounds in the film were done in post which I think adds a whole level of extra thought put into them that other films don't have. But its the use of these sounds that really are the last piece to making all of what we see on screen work.
The combination of all of these things: direction, camerawork, soundtrack and editing all add up to some of the most clever filmmaking and the most memorable scenes in a horror film ever. This film has a lot a young filmmaker can study and learn from.
The Evil Dead (1981) is a contemporary classic, independent horror film. This film has influenced so many filmmakers and films and still today it's easy to see why.
Tune in tomorrow on the 31 Nights of Macabre Movies for this film's comedy sequel/remake Evil Dead 2 (1987).
Like this blog? You can support it by buying this film through these links: