Ash, his girlfriend, and a couple of their buddies trek to a cabin in the woods for a break from the pressures of school, studying, and day-to-day life. Shortly after the friends arrive at their destination, they discover The Book of the Dead and tape recordings of incantations from the book. Against their better judgment, they listen to the spells and unleash an ages old evil that rises from the woods and attempts to take possession of each and every one of their souls.
Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead is a testament to what can be accomplished with a micro budget, talent, determination, and hard work. Raimi’s script is innovative and frightening. It shows a level of originality that is rare to find anymore. His passion as a director is highly apparent in the finished product. The creative camerawork and innovative scares are a testament to just how dedicated Raimi is to his craft. Raimi did things that had never been done before when shooting The Evil Dead. He tested new innovations in cinematography that people would never have dreamt of doing at the time but are now common practice. The Evil Dead is a testament to his innovative nature and passion as a filmmaker.
The performances in The Evil Dead are not the film’s strong suit but they aren’t meant to be. The film didn’t set out to bring innovative performances to the table, it set out to scare audiences and it has been doing that for years. The unsettling score, the crafty camerawork, and the overall dark nature of the film’s tonality make it a terrifying ride that’s worth taking over and over again. I find new things to love about the film every time I re-watch The Evil Dead.
The stop motion style that is used in many of the scenes is antiquated technology but so much fun to revisit. The special makeup effects are very well done for a picture that reportedly cost under a million to shoot. The cast and crew make the most of every scene by giving it their all and that is evident any time I revisit The Evil Dead. When the production came up against budgetary limitations, the filmmakers got creative instead of giving up. For example: when the budget didn’t allow for artificial tears, Sam Raimi made one of his actresses stick her head in a bowl of onions to help her produce natural tears.
The Evil Dead comes out of the gate swinging and it doesn’t let up until the end credits are rolling. It is one of the most fast paced and suspenseful horror films of recent years. Ash (Bruce Campbell) keeps rolling with the punches until he’s the last man standing and his plight is one with which the viewer can identify. None of the other characters are particularly well developed but they aren’t there for the viewer to bond with, they are there to turn into hideous, possessed beings for Ash to do battle with.
It’s safe to assume that if you’re reading this retrospective you have seen The Evil Dead plenty of times. There are so many different versions of the film available on DVD and Blu-ray that you probably have several different copies of the film for different transfers or special features that are only available on one release. If you don’t already have The Necronomicon Edition, let me suggest that you pick it up before it’s no longer available at a semi-affordable price. It’s no longer being produced but it hasn’t yet reached outrageous sums on leading online retail sites. This version of the film comes with a lifelike replica of The Book of the Dead and some great bonus features. It’s totally hideous looking but totally awesome.