A Fortnight of Terror: The Evil Dead

ED poster

Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead (1981) is one hell of a beloved horror flick. Judging from blogs I follow and other things I read, I would venture that it is probably more beloved than any other horror film ever made. Which makes me worry how many people will be a bit bummed with this review, cause I did not particularly like this film at all.

There is no doubt Raimi and friends did a pretty exceptional job on the production front. You can tell this film was made on the cheap, but that never stops the creativity shining through. The creativity does not always work, the whirling camera first person shots for example, but it is an aspect of the film that you have to respect. And perhaps watching this for the first time in 2013 means that I am not able to appreciate just how big a deal the film was when it hit. But other classic horror films, such as Halloween (1978) and Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) that I feared might have lost some of their impact when viewed for the first time in the 2010s, still worked exceptionally well for me. The set up is pretty archetypical cabin in the woods stuff. Think Cabin in the Woods (2012). One issue is that, unlike Whedon’s film and the best of the genre, I think this film skimps a lot on the establishment of the characters. For whatever reason the film is in too much of a rush and I think that hurts the film later on. For me to care about the characters being killed, I need to have gotten to know them or connect with them… or at the very least be slightly intrigued by them. But here I wasn’t, so I was not particularly fussed when they started to be knocked off. Even just establishing them as clichés would have increased the effectiveness of the film a great deal. I think this rushed beginning also means that the creepy isolated house in the woods atmosphere that the filmmakers were aiming for was not entirely there.

linda EDThere are a couple of other key areas where The Evil Dead falls down for me. Firstly, aside from the easy charisma of Bruce Campbell, I thought the acting ranges from the pretty stilted to the pretty terrible overall. I don’t think that is helped by a script that I definitely consider to be pretty weak. Another aspect of the film that I think pales in comparison with classic slashers (I am thinking particularly of Halloween here) is the soundtrack. In films such as Carpenter’s, the soundtrack plays a major role in enhancing and elevating what is occurring onscreen and is a major player in the setting of tone and more importantly atmosphere of the experience. I found the sparse soundtrack here to be more annoying that anything else, failing to really add anything and actually reducing the tension at times. I am sounding pretty negative, but The Evil Dead is not without its upsides. There are a couple of quite cool ‘bump in the night’ moments and for a fair section of the middle part of the film, it is really quite frightening as well. But I think as the action really ramps up in the film’s final act, at times relying on some terrible effects shots, the really frightening impact is lost. I did really like some of the stuff with the Book of the Dead and the tape recording though, and thought that was much more atmospheric than what the rest of the film was able to achieve.

As a personal view, I found The Evil Dead to be dated, much more so than other classic horror films of its vintage. I thought the pacing and manner in which the film ‘builds’ (or doesn’t) meant it was a bit of a let down for me. A slasher/horror film does not need to have stunningly nuanced characters. But the undercooked teen characters onscreen here really let the rest of the film down. I know a bunch of you guys absolutely love this film. So let me know (civilly of course) in the comments below what I am missing with it.

Verdict: Schooner of Carlton Draught

Progress: 94/1001

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14 responses

  1. Well I would argue that comparing it to “Halloween” simply because their intentions aren’t similar at all. Yes they both are low budget horror films of the late 1970’s but “The Evil Dead” is trying to accomplish something much larger in scope. Now with that said, I don’t love the original film but I do think it’s historically significant to the genre and how it pushed things forward.

    If you haven’t seen “Evil Dead II” I would highly recommend it. It’s essentially a remake of the original with a larger budget and plays things more for comedy, but in doing so, I think it actually becomes much more terrifying.

    1. Thanks very much for commenting. You make a good point about the two films attempting to accomplish very different things. I guess what I was angling at with that comparison is that they are both films that I feared would have dated, but only one had for me.

      Thanks very much for the recommendation of the second film. I will definitely track it down.

  2. I like this film a great deal, but I think much of the affection for it comes from people who conflate it and its sequel, which is far more comedic and enjoyable. They’re very similar films in terms of structure and plot (Evil Dead II is really better described as a remake than a sequel to be honest), and watching it highlights the playfulness that elevates the whole series. I’d definitely recommend Evil Dead II if you haven’t seen it before!

    1. Cheers for commenting Dave. I am keen to check out Evil Dead II actually. Been a few suggestions that it is worth the time. And whilst I didn’t love this first one, there is definitely enough there to get me interested in what is essentially a remake with a higher budget.

  3. Personally, I don’t really like the original that much either. It could be because I saw them out of order…? I saw 2 and AoD in the theaters and then went back and watched the first many, many years later and thought “What is this crap”?

    1. Cheers for commenting as always man. So are you a fan of the second one? It seems to be getting mad love from everyone on here.

      1. I think the second one is awesome – and so is the third for that matter…

  4. I love this movie :]. It’s on my top ten horror movie list of all time. I can understand why you don’t like the movie but I don’t think comparing it to Halloween is fair to be honest. Evil Dead opened the door to a lot of horror movies.

    1. Thanks very much for commenting. No doubt that the film opened a lot of doors. Even though I did not love it, I can definitely see just how influential it was. The reference to Halloween was simply in regards to a film of a similar vintage, that for me, has not dated as much as The Evil Dead.

      1. True. I think the original Halloween Movie aged very well. I still think it’s creepy today but I also enjoy watching The Evil Dead. I know it’s an old movie but I can’t help but love it :].

  5. I’m with you here man. I appreciate its importance and influence more than I actually like the film. It definitely does feel pretty dated.

    1. Cheers for commenting man. Yep, important, influential and dated. Just couldn’t get into it. That said I am keen to check out some of the others in the series. You a fan of any of those?

      1. Ya know, I haven’ seen any of the others, although like you I’m interested in seeing them just to see what the fuss is about. Apparently number 2 is widely regarded as the pinnacle of the lot.

      2. Yeah a lot of people have said that, although there seems to be a lot of love for all of the sequels. The remake seems to have its fans and major detractors as well. I have the second sitting beside my TV ready to go actually, so will hopefully get to it over the weekend.

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