This is a cult… a real cult! Stephen King himself recommended it to everyone: I’m talking about The Evil Dead, originally released as Book of the Dead in 1981.
This is Sam Raimi’s debut movie: based on a 1978 short film (Within the Woods), The Evil Dead is a low-budget movie, meant to be an answer to all the horror movie Raimi saw as a teenager and that he would have liked to make differently.
The Evil Dead was presented at Cannes and it quickly became a worldwide success.
Five friends (one of them is the legendary Ash J. Williams, played by Bruce Campbell) arrive to an abandoned house in the woods to spend a weekend together. They open a hatch and, in the basement, they find a strange book: it is the renowned Necronomicon ex mortis (a reference to the fictitious grimoire written by the “mad Arab Abdul Alhazred” in H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos), bound in human skin and written in blood. Luckily (for us!), they don’t know what it is, or else they would run like hell!
Needless to say, they read it and, not satisfied with this, they also listen to the registered voice of the researcher who had disappeared under mysterious circumstances.
An ancient evil awakens and begin to possess and kill the boys and girls one by one, each of them in an extreme truculent way. The solution seems to be only one: slice up the possessed corpses of the dead friends, spread gallons of blood and destroy the evil book.
In the end, only Ash survives… he will be the hero of the whole Ash vs. Evil Dead saga.
The budget for this movie was very low: about $ 350.000. In my opinion, this is the reason why it works: everything in this film is “homemade”, in harmony with the general tone of the plot, which is linear and really simple. It is the simplicity that becomes the perfect structure where horror, amazement and gore can play their full part. And in fact, the dialogues seem completely superfluous in a movie where narration is efficiently fulfilled by an extremely dynamic directing (also thanks to the trick of the Shaky Cam) and by a wise work of editing that enhances the moments of tension.
Tom Sullivan’s special effects play their part too, with all those gallons of red and green syrup poured over amputations and rotting guts… and the risk of losing the cast because of the slippery floor!
Not to mention the terrible conditions in which troupe and actors worked: cold temperatures, injuries, thick white contact lenses (that the actors could wear for a maximum of 15 minutes) and constant budget problems.
But nothing could stop the making of the film!
Sam Raimi is an author with a strong personality, definitely one of the best of his generation: you can recognize his mark on every movie he directed. Even today, The Evil Dead keeps that retro touch which makes it an evergreen and its excessive ironic tone always leads us to wonder if we should laugh or be scared by the bloodshed on the screen.
In conclusion, The Evil Dead is a movie full of passion and enthusiasm, a perfect debut for the rustproof artistic partnership Raimi-Campbell… the protagonists of many unforgettable moments of horror cinema!
It’s absolutely worth seeing!
by Alice Colombo
Pictures from web