EVIL DEAD (1982)
Director: Sam Raimi
Of all the ways to describe movies out there in Hollywood, perhaps the most broad phrase is the "cult film." Cult films vary in genre and style, but they all have one common factor: a devoted following in spite of questionable mainstream notoriety. From movies as legendary as the Star Wars franchise to more underground movies like The Rocky Horror Picture Show and all movies in between, the cult movie is a type that can't truly be nailed down to just one style. However, the overwhelming majority of them can be found in the horror genre. There are hundreds of horror movies that can be considered cult films, but one of the most unique is the debut film of director Sam Raimi and B-movie icon Bruce Campbell, The Evil Dead. Light on both plot and budget, the movie more than makes up with it with a frenetic energy that cements its reputation as a cult classic.
In the autumn of 1979, Ash (Bruce Campbell) and four friends head to an abandoned cabin in the middle of the woods outside Morristown, Tennessee. They go looking around the basement and discover a tape recorder, a huge knife that looks like it's made out of bones, and a hella-ugly book titled the "Necronomicon ex Mortis." They decide to play whatever's on the tape recorder, and it's the Book On Tape version of the Necronomicon. Curiosity didn't just kill the cat; it smacked it around, raped it with a tree, and skinned it alive. Why? It turns out the book is full of demon resurrection passages, and on that note, we cue the mayhem. The axe-swinging, shotgun-blasting, milk-puking mayhem.
The Evil Dead is one of those movies that's really cheaply made and has cheesy acting, but it's gained a reputation as one of the definitive cult classics. What makes the biggest statement is that it became a classic despite the incredibly simple plot and cheap nature, and it launched the careers of Sam Raimi (who would eventually direct the Spider-Man trilogies) and Bruce Campbell, who would go on to become a B-movie legend.
As I said before, the acting isn't Oscar-caliber, but it's good for what it is. Considering the five actors are all amateurs, their lack of experience is excusable. Bruce Campbell is great in his first of three movies as the dim-witted Ash, and Betsy Baker, Rich Demanincor (credited as "Hal Delrich"), and Theresa Tilly (credited as "Sarah York") hand in watchable performances as Linda, Scotty, and Shelly, respectively. However, Ellen Sandweiss (who plays Ash's sister Cheryl) is just awful. Almost every time she's on screen, I hit the mute button on my TV, or fast-forward through the scene. No lie. Maybe there's a reason she hasn't made a movie since. Luckily for the viewer, the movie's not as bad as Ellen Sandweiss's acting. It's not great, but it's good. Joe LoDuca's score is tense and haunting, and Tom Sullivan's make-up effects are brilliantly disgusting. Sam Raimi's direction is also tight, and the different angles we view the action from makes the movie even more frightening that it really is. Overall, I'll say the film is worth a watch. If you like low-budget splatter movies, you'll love it. Even if you don't like that particular genre, you might still like it. I'll give it three and half stars and a hearty recommendation.
Final Rating: ***½