Director: Sam Raimi (1981)
Starring: Bruce Campbell. Also, other people. But mostly The Campbell.
Find it: IMDB
It's one of my ambitions that I compile a set of reviews for the infamous video nasties as banned here in England during the 1980s: all 39 of them, eventually. That job is made all the easier when one of those so-called 'nasties' happens to be one of my favourite movies of all time. There's a personal reason for that, too: Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead has the dubious honour of being the very first 18-rated horror movie I ever saw on the big screen. (No, sharp-eyed readers and Myspace* stalkers, I'm not that old - but it was re-released uncut in 2002, to my cinematic delectation). Cherry, popped. I was fucking enchanted.
The plot is both simple and a modern horror staple (living on today in the likes of Cabin in the Woods and Cabin Fever). Four kids drive down to their hired woodland cabin for a weekend of drinking, smoking pot and (in the case of Bruce Campbell's Ash) surprise marriage proposals. Things become quickly complicated when they discover the Necronomicon Ex Mortis (roughly translated as The Book of the Dead) and an audio reel in the cabin's cellar. Upon playing the recording, they awaken some bloody evil spirits and find themselves beset by demonic possession, horrible hallucinations and rape twigs. Can they survive the night?
You'll not find a jot of criticism from me here. To me, The Evil Dead is the perfect horror movie. There are very few movies that I'd describe as 'perfect'. The others: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Wicker Man and Dead Man's Shoes. Although I'd been a fan of horror for some time before, I view The Evil Dead as a rite of passage; for years, my folks had been telling me how horrible and totally awful it was. And, like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Exorcist I'd come to expect it to be something really explicit and horrendously bad. Of course it isn't. There's actually some comedy in there, inspired by the Three Stooges and the filmmakers' slapstick comedy influences. It shows. The sequels would up the comedy quotient, but this original piece gets the mix of horror and comedy just right. It was also my very first introduction to the cult genius that is Bruce Campbell.
It's an inspirational piece, one that shows the aspiring filmmaker the heights which can be achieved with relatively little. The making of The Evil Dead is one of my favourite rags-to-riches stories of all time. To me, The Evil Dead is far much more than just a horror movie. As we all know, Mary Whitehouse would come along shortly after its release and condemn it as evil and despicable and all kinds of horrible. Not bad, considering she never even bothered to watch the thing. Perhaps Raimi and chums should have hired her as their chief publicist. I don't doubt that her very vocal, criticisms helped in no small way to help The Evil Dead achieve even greater notoriety. Groovy indeed.