Starring: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Richard DeManincor
Director: Sam Raimi
Running Time: 85 mins
The Evil Dead is an American film about a group of friends who go to stay in an isolated cabin in the woods, only to find themselves surrounded by the demons of the dead that will stop at nothing to kill them.
It’s clear how The Evil Dead takes inspiration from tropes set by a number of horror classics, and in some cases, creates tropes of its own. However, while the film may feature some ingenious production from a low budget, it’s far from the most interesting or frightening horror ever made, and ends up as a rather disappointing procession of gore and little else.
I often really like these low-budget, indie horrors that are always out there to try something different, and there’s no denying that The Evil Dead pushes the boat out in terms of what horror can do. Though we’re more accustomed to it nowadays, the film’s unrelenting gore and use of special effects was revolutionary for the time, and it even holds up well today.
The special effects and makeup in this movie are laudable, not only because they haven’t dated as badly as you may expect, but because they work really well with the film’s intense and uncompromisingly gruesome aesthetic. Whether or not they add to the intensity of its story is another matter, but they’re at least visually very impressive.
The Evil Dead starts off with a more minimalist approach to horror, attempting to build suspense without ever showing you anything right away. For the most part, it’s an okay opening act, but nothing more, and I never really felt a strong sense of fear or suspense as a result of the film’s style.
The shift in the middle and final acts to an intensely gruesome horror extravaganza is a bold one, but it really didn’t work for me. While the opening act lacked tension, there was at least a sense of anticipation about what was going to happen, whereas the following two acts are little more than an endless and fairly uninteresting procession of gore and violence.
The shock value of the gruesome visuals wears off very quickly, and it leaves little else for the movie to show off, instead going round and round in circles as our characters try to fight off the seemingly invincible demons.
What’s more is that The Evil Dead misses an opportunity to bring some more sobering emotional depth to the table. I won’t spoil anything here, but I really felt that the movie could have done more to evoke a sense of sadness and hurt at the fate of certain characters, rather than just being as gory as possible.
In short, The Evil Dead is a bold and innovative film that just doesn’t stick the landing. It’s neither the cleverly minimalist horror that Night Of The Living Dead was, nor the bone-chilling gorefest that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was. Instead, it fails on both counts, and although deserves credit for its excellent production, it’s far from the best horror movie out there, which is why I’m giving it a 6.6 overall.