This is the film by which all good/bad horror films shall be judged.
You know the kind I'm talking about. You laugh at the stupidity
of the characters, but you shriek when they fall in danger. You know
they're going to die, but when they do, it's disgusting. This is the
film Friday the 13th wished it was, and the success that made people
stay up late, fearing something in the woods.
The premise behind The Evil Dead is part Exorcist, part Night of the
Living Dead. A group of teenagers travel to a cabin into the woods, to
relax from college. Sadly, they go to a cabin in which a professor of
archeology has recently invoked an ancient spell. This spell causes
demons from long ago to pursue and inhabit the living. As the friends
are chopped up by their buds and buried in the woods, only one manages to
keep his head together - our hero, Ash (Bruce Campbell).
The film does not work on an intelligent level. The plot, as
described above, is not
really a summary. Luckily, the director, Sam Raimi, managed to not
give the audience a chance to question the stupidity of the characters
(Sample dialogue: "It was the woods themselves!" and "It's probably just
an animal.") Instead, he packed his first film with some of the most
creative (and disturbing) effects and gore ever created.
From the first shot, the audience knows something different is going on.
Something is rising from the lake, skimming across the surface, heading
towards the friends, blissfully unaware that they remain 3 feet ahead of
the Evil Dead. The film continues, and the friends start hacking up those
who have fallen host to the spirits. One man is reduced to chopping his
girfriend's head off with a shovel. The film works
on two different levels: one, as an experimental art film. The camera angles,
paranormal disturbances, and bloodbaths are as gruesome and original as
anything in recent memory. The second level is as a silly horror film.
The friends die, one after the other. In the end, we rely on Bruce
Campbell's stoic look to carry us through. The climax of the film is just
as silly as it is horrifying in its depiction of the Evil Dead. The last
twenty minutes are like something out of Salvador Dali's nightmares.
Ash touches a mirror, and it is apparently a small pool on its side.
One girl screams and cackles like a banshee. The Book of the Dead (the
literature that resurrected the demons) screams in agony and victory
simultaneously. However, nothing may be more lasting in this picture
than the two words uttered at every turn, and behind every corner: Join
us. And to you who doubt the power that silly horror can have, there is
no escape: Join us.
(Warning: A woman is raped by a tree. The gore is stupefying.
If violence is not your cup of tea, then skip this one.)
Copyright © 2001 Jim VanFleet