April 29, 2011

The Evil Dead (Review)

The Evil Dead (1981)

Director: Sam Raimi

5 / 5 zedheads


Right off the bat, I'm going to commit two serious sins of horror fandom.  First of all, I think The Evil Dead is a vastly superior film to Evil Dead 2. In fact, Evil Dead 2 kind of annoys me. Also, I have to admit that when I first saw the original Evil Dead, I thought it was complete shit.

Before you grab your pitchforks and torches, let me defend myself! Obviously, I don't continue to consider The Evil Dead as shit. It is, without a doubt, one of the best, one of the most shocking (for its time), and one of the most original American horror films ever released. It is an endearing classic of both horror and indie film making that continues to make audiences scream and wail in disgust. With all that being said, I hated The Evil Dead the first time I saw it.

This is where they put horror fans who don't like The Evil Dead
 My first experience with The Evil Dead was with a VHS copy of the film in the mid-1990s -- a VHS copy that was well past its prime The picture was as dark and murky as a swamp. It was so grainy the film stock could have been recycled fly paper. It was warped, warbling, and writhing with so many tracking problems the viewing experience was a nauseating ride of visual sea sickness. When the film was over, I was left with the feeling that I'd just wasted an afternoon on a badly lit, poorly shot, and shoddily produced shot-on-video piece of crap. For years I heard everyone talking about The Evil Dead as a classic of horror cinema, and all I could think was, "That grainy piece of crap with the ridiculous stop motion animation at the end?" Then, only a few years ago through Horror in the Hammer, I saw a screening of the The Evil Dead: Ultimate Collection from Anchor Bay. And I finally realized I had been unfairly maligning a classic for over a decade.
All dolled up with nowhere to go.
Despite its simple premise, it's easy to forget how original The Evil Dead is given its place in horror film history. Five college students (including the modern cult-celebrity Bruce Campbell) spend a weekend at an isolated cabin and accidentally awaken evil demons that posses and torment them. The only way to kill the undead possessed is to completely dismember their bodies. What follows is a simple and straightforward yet wonderful parade of gory violence in which the menace and the dread is achieved through very dynamic and atmospheric camera angles. Its semi-slasher elements and setting evoke Friday the 13th with more mature and likable "teen" victims while its evil demons evoke The Exorcist without its religious iconography or Christian trappings. This combination, brewed under Raimi's directorial eye and flair for the occasionally slapstick, produced a horror film that has never lost its edge. At the modern screening that re-acquainted me with The Evil Dead, new and old horror fans alike jumped in their seats, covered their eyes, and squealed and verbally expressed their dread at the gore to come. That night remains one of my favorite movie memories. Not only did I see The Evil Dead for the clear masterpiece that it is, but I got to share that experience with a crowd of like-minded people.
The VERY bad touch.
That's the way to watch The Evil Dead, in a theatre full of fans! And that's why SHOCK STOCK is hosting a screening of THE EVIL DEAD @ Rainbow Cinemas tomorrow at 9:30PM. Presented by Grindhouse Releasing, Vagrancy Films, and Grimbrothers, this screening of the new uncut print of THE EVIL DEAD will also be followed by a very special Q and A with the cast of Evil Dead: Ellen Sandweiss, Betsy Baker, Theresa Tilly, and Hal Delrich. Unfortunately, advance tickets are sold out, but a limited number of tickets will still be for sale at the Vagrancy Booth TODAY ONLY (Friday, Apr 29th).

Much has already been said by others about The Evil Dead, yet I've barely scratched the surface of what I feel makes the film so special. I feel a feature article is probably long-overdue. Regardless, take my word for it. If you are a latecomer to The Evil Dead, like me, you need to put away whatever modern horror remake tripe you have in your hand or are browsing on Netflix. Then run -- don't walk -- to get a copy of The Evil Dead. Strap in and experience a horror film that I guarantee will be scarier and more entertaining than almost anything produced in the last five years.