- Rated NC-17
- Buy the BD
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
he making of a cult horror film doesn’t exactly happen overnight. It takes years of festival showings, armies of loyal fans, and even a little backing from some industry friends. In the case of Sam Raimi's directorial debut, "The Evil Dead," it didn’t attain its cult status until well after its theatrical premiere in 1981. Of course, it helps when Stephen King gives you a glowing review and Wes Craven features your movie poster in one of the biggest horror films ever made, but it’s not like these guys just picked any random horror flick to slap their seals of approval on. “The Evil Dead” is one of the scariest, goriest, and (oddly enough) funniest horror movies of its time, and it's every bit deserving of being called a cult classic.
Costing only $85,000 to make, but taking nearly two years to complete, “The Evil Dead” starts out just like any horror movie of the '80s: with a group of young adults on their way to a secluded cabin in the woods for a weekend of sex, booze and drugs. After arriving at the cabin, they stumble upon an old tape recorder with a recording of an old man reciting some sort of ancient language. What they don’t know, however, is that the voice has just summoned a supernatural force of evil that transforms its victims into demons. The lone survivor of the group, Ashley J. Williams (Bruce Campbell) must fight back against his friends and find a way out of the woods.
There isn’t much to expect from the narrative, but Raimi's creativity alone makes up for the weak plot points and horrible B-movie acting. However, despite the comedic influences on future installments of the "Evil Dead" trilogy, the first film is almost completely void of intentional humor. Instead, a strict supply of gore, and nothing but gratuitous gore, fills the screen for the last half of the film. The blood volume is so high, in fact, that Raimi originally didn’t even bother getting the film rated. Later on, when the film had reached video rental success, the movie was finally presented to the ratings board and slapped with an NC-17 rating, a fair grade considering the amount of gore and a particular rape scene involving one of the female victims and some tree roots.
Still, despite its low budget, bad writing, and an exceptionally cheesy performance by star Bruce Campbell, “The Evil Dead” soars at the level of cult horror movie greatness. To this day the film remains a must-watch for any fan of either Raimi or Campbell’s work – especially the former, who has matured to the ranks of A-list director stardom, but is still allowed to utilize the same guerilla filmmaking tactics he fashioned as a kid. You’ll probably still laugh in places you really shouldn’t, but it’s all in good, bloody fun.
Limited Edition Blu-Ray Review:
We know, we know, you already own three different versions of “The Evil Dead” on DVD, so what makes this latest release so special? For starters, it’s the first time the film is available on Blu-ray, and along with a new high-def transfer (both in 1.85:1 and the original director-composed 1.33:1 aspect ratio) personally supervised by director Sam Raimi, Anchor Bay has also included a brand-new audio commentary with Raimi, star Bruce Campbell, and producer Rob Tapert that focuses mostly on the history and business side of making the film. Also included are many of the extras from previous editions, including the “One By One We Will Take You” retrospective, the “Ladies of the Evil Dead” reunion interview, an hour of footage from the cutting room and much more.