johnlink ranks THE EVIL DEAD (1981)

I was under the impression that I had seen this movie until about six or seven minutes in when I realized that I did not recognize anything. I’ve seen ARMY OF DARKNESS at least a dozen times, and EVIL DEAD II a couple of times. I always just assumed I had seen the first one somewhere along the way. Maybe that was exacerbated by the fact that many people say the second film is just a do-over of the first. Anyway…

I watched THE EVIL DEAD (1981*) on 2.13.12. It was my FIRST viewing of the film.

*I’m putting 1981 here despite the fact that the film was made in 1979 before a couple of years of editing and then, according to the DVD box, released in 1982. IMDB lists this as a 1981 movie, though it lists its opening US weekend as 1983. I’m confused. And it doesn’t particularly matter. So I’m sticking with IMDB on this because I feel like they are smarter than I.

This movie has balls. I’m not sure I reflect balls particularly well in my ranking system. I suppose it effects both the film and movie score to some degree. Having balls heightens the enjoyment of this film, and it speaks to the ambition of the director, though I’m not sure it makes it a better film.

I knew I hadn’t seen this when I watched a meek Bruce Campbell with a high voice talking in a manner that would lead you to believe that he might be the first victim. Plus, I learned that Ash is short for Ashley. Really? I never made that connection. Ironically, it works because he doesn’t really become ‘Ash’ (as we have grown to love him) until right around the time he has to decapitate the possessed body of his girlfriend with a shovel.

This was the second movie in two days in which someone gets raped. Both rapes happen by someone I never expected to see raping a woman. In Hitchcock’s MARNIE that would be Sean Connery. In THE EVIL DEAD, that would be a tree. I guess I should have put a spoiler on that if you haven’t seen this film. Whoops. I guess you can’t really spoil a woman getting raped by a tree. You just sort of need to see it (or not, I’m not suggesting that all people need to see a woman being raped by a tree). Supposedly Sam Raimi was accused of being a misogynist because of this scene, and he regrets leaving it in the film. My take is that it is so absurd as to not be scary. However, I use the same argument about HUMAN CENITPIDE that others would use against tree rape. So I can’t blame anyone who wants to make that point.

This film isn’t played directly for laughs as the series progressively did. They take this pretty seriously as an ‘evil in the woods’ story. It’s not totally effective, but it’s very watchable. There are, however, several infuriating moments where someone is being attacked in a four room cabin and noone seems able to come to their aid. It isn’t out of fear, it would seem, but rather the editing would merely suggest that it takes someone two to three minutes to cross a room and get there.

But this was a horror movie made by friends which launched careers. it launched careers because it attacked the viewer, not holding anything back in its level of gore and intensity. Sure it devolves into silliness, which the possessed people don’t help by acting goofy, but there are several genuinely tense and frightening moments.

The filmmaking is sometimes maddening because of their budget. At times the shot selection, the art direction, and the cinematography all work very well. At other times we get grainy and out-of-focus footage or sloppy editing. But it is very possible to see the budding genius of Sam Raimi at work here.

The acting is passable, if not great. I don’t have major complaints about any of the principles, which is rare for horror films of this era. Bruce Campbell is just a normal guy in this, which is odd to see.

Look, this is a fun movie which has reached cult status for a reason. I wouldn’t call it great, though there are moments of greatness to be found. I’m glad I finally saw this, even if I was under the impression that I already had.



I have to give a bonus point to the gore effects. Even if they were sometimes goofy or unrealistic, the commitment to making things physically brutal does make for a better experience. I am no torture porn fan by any stretch, so the lack of realism was probably right where I wanted it to be. Certainly not the most technically brilliant effects, but they landed on me the right way.



~ by johnlink00 on February 14, 2012.

3 Responses to “johnlink ranks THE EVIL DEAD (1981)”

  1. […] watching the first EVIL DEAD (for the first time, surprisingly), I wanted to put in the second one to see the differences and […]

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