COLUMN: Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things

Denez McAdoo

The Evil Dead1983Director – Sam Raimi “The ultimate experience in grueling terror.”85 min. – unrated

Five rather unassuming college kids head out to a dilapidated cabin deep in a remote section of the woods. I bet we can all guess what happens next, right? They die, of course. You may be think that you’ve seen this plot beaten into the ground enough times that you would not need to watch this foray into the dumb-kids-in-the-woods genre. Well, you’re wrong and you must not know enough about horror movies because The Evil Dead is one of the best horror films made (perhaps outdone-or overdone for you purists-only by Evil Dead’s sort-of-sequel-but-more-of-a-remake, Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn). With Evil Dead, director Sam Raimi creates a film far better than all of its imitators by actually knowing a thing or two about how to make a good horror film. Sure, at times the acting and diologue is a bit laughable, and the special effects sometimes show some obvious flaws, but cut the guy some slack, the film was made on the humblest of budgets and still showcases some of the best chunk-blowing special effects ever seen. Sorry that horror films of yore did not contain the box office drawing big name actors that have the depth and emotional range the likes of Oscar award winner Sarah Michelle Gellar (from the new horror movie Saw-and the Oscar thing was a lie) and they could barely afford an Atari 2600, let alone today’s gabillion-dollar computer generated special effects. But you know what? Evil Dead still has more blood and gore than today’s movies can shake a stick at. The lead character, Ash, is played by none other than B-movie alumni Bruce Campbell, who found his acting debut in this very movie (he is also credited as executive producer as he and Raimi had been friends since high school).

But even within the rather derivative plot, Remi and company are able to effortlessly squeeze out an astounding amount of original ideas. Bruce Campbell evokes a sympathetic character in Ash, who is just trying to cope with the rather difficult decision of whether or not to kill his friends and chainsaw his girlfriend after they become murderous goo-vomiting demons possessed by an evil force that they themselves have unleashed. You see, when they fist arrive at the secluded cabin, they find in the basement a tape recorder and a strange grotesque looking book. When played, the tape recorder has the voice of an archeology professor explaining that the book they have found is in fact the ancient and mysterious Book of the Dead. Though it is supposed to be an ancient Sumerian text, printed in human blood and bound in human flesh, its actual contents look a bit more like some high school stoner’s doodlings of flaming skulls. After playing the section of tape that translates the text of the book, all hell breaks loose. After a few tree rape, ankles being stabbed with pencils, eyes being gouged out with thumbs, and shovel decapitation scenes later, Ash is left alone to make his way to safety.

But it must be noted that the real highlight of Evil Dead is without a doubt, both its effective use of haunting sound and its paranoid and ultra-kinetic camera work. Since in this genre of movie making everyone is going to die anyways, you could put any old schmucks in front of the camera as long as the director is able to create a compelling and frightening atmosphere around them-and Raimi does an excellent job at this; instantly starting and stopping the suspense through the simple use or absence of sound. Just listening to the ungodly howls and groans, let alone the puss and vomit, that come out of the mouths of Ash’s possessed friends is bone-chilling. But it is, in fact, the amazingly inventive camera work that should leave the most lasting impression on the viewer. Many scenes involve an unseen evil force that haunts the area outside of the cabin. A jumping and jittery camera blasts through the woods knocking down trees and anything else that gets in its way. This effect was achieved simply by mounting the camera on a wooden board as Raimi and Campbell each grabbed and end and ran with it.

Raimi went on to finish the Evil Dead series with 1992’s Army of Darkness, followed by producing both the Heculese and Xena series, and finaly directed both Spiderman blockbusters. Also, there is some talk a-brewin’ about there being a sequel to last years Freddy vs. Jason, tentatively titled Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash. Oh boy.