Retro Review – THE EVIL DEAD (1981)

by Matt Friend. 0 Comments

DIRECTED BY: SAM RAIMI

WRITTEN BY: SAM RAIMI

STARRING: BRUCE CAMPBELL, ELLEN SANDWEISS, HAL DELRICH, BETSY BAKER, SARAH YORK

Maybe I just don’t get it. Maybe I just don’t understand the appeal. This isn’t really a case of it being a bad movie per say, I can see WHY people would like this. I might just have to chalk this one up to personal taste in this case. I think also a lot of the tropes and plot points have become too commonplace since this film’s release for me to really appreciate them. Maybe when this came out a lot of this could have been new. What I’m trying saying is…that I really didn’t like The Evil Dead all that much.

The premise is pretty standard; five teens go on a retreat to an old cabin in the woods. Once there, they discover that the former occupant had been dabbling in some dark magic, all of which centers on an old book they find in the basement. When the kids play a recording of the man reading from the book, they unknowingly unleash a hoard of demons from hell into the realm of the living. Thus begins their gory, gruesome odyssey of survival where nobody is safe from sudden death.

Before seeing this, whenever I thought of Evil Dead, I always knew it was gory, but I thought it was more tongue and cheek about it. From what I understand, this is more so the case in the sequels then it is for this one. My expectations were set to watch a goofy movie with a lot of over the top blood and gore. With this one, though, I felt like it took itself a too seriously. It made the dismemberments and explosions of bodily fluids just feel tacky and excessive rather than fun. I’m all for over the top violence if it has a purpose in the telling of the story, but this whole movie just felt like a vehicle for the violence rather than a story that has gruesome violence.

Pretty much any enjoyment I got out of this movie came from the obvious ingenuity Raimi and co. employed to get some of the shots and effects they did. The fact that they made this film on the shoe-string budget they had must be a minor miracle. There are a lot of cool effects (along with the shoddy ones) that show up towards the end of the film that almost redeem it in my eyes (but not quite). If you’re a fan of this sort of thing, you’d probably be right at home watching this.

The main reason I watched and reviewed this when I did was to prepare for the remake that came out last weekend. From what I understand, though, it’s very much in the same vein as this one: thin story, loads of gore, not a lot of humor. So as far as I’m concerned, my interest in the remake is kind of at a minimum at this point. At least this movie has sort of a “bad movie” charm that keeps it fairly entertaining.

I know I said earlier that I can usually enjoy any kind of movie, and to an extent I do. I really can appreciate the craftsmanship and loving care that went into the making of this, but it really just doesn’t do much for me. If you like wildly over the top violence and copious amounts of bodily fluids, you’ll be more at home here then I was. I’m still really keen on watching the sequels. Maybe I’ll like those more…

RATING: * * ½ (out of four)

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