Sam Raimi’s “The Evil Dead” is a lot like the demonic entities that are featured in the film itself. It’s larger than life, durable, and just can not be brought down no matter what you do. Every single decade has been exposed to the thrills of “The Evil Dead,” and to this day it stands as a horror grindhouse marvel that is so utterly simplistic, yet so damn thrilling. Even in the changing face of gore, special effects and marketing tactics, “The Evil Dead” has become a staple of the genre living on through Beta right in through the new millennium still being hailed as a bonafide classic to be witnessed by people looking for a classic monster movie.
Raimi’s entire career began on the notion that he could implement his talents as a magic aficionado and he achieves a rare feat of horror independent filmmaking in the tradition of George Romero building a lore for himself and also a flagship character. Enlisting the talent of a then unknown Bruce Campbell, Raimi is able to build a competent hero in a horror movie that possesses a final man instead of a final girl, and thanks to Campbell’s ability to over act he makes “The Evil Dead” an entertaining experience bringing us in at eye level as young Ash is forced to watch his girlfriend and two best friends become meat puppets for demonic forces they unleash after listening to a recorded demonic chant in their cabin in the woods.
In spite of the obvious low tech production qualities, Raimi is able to devise a very thematic and moody little nightmarish horror film with some of the best moments in horror history including the infamous tracking shot chasing Ash throughout his cabin as he mugs for the camera and runs for his life, and the (still) disturbing tree rape that continues to stir up some controversy in this day and age. In spite of possessing some rather prehistoric closing sequences, “The Evil Dead” is a creepy little ditty that garners big points for still being genuinely creepy and a royal mind fuck, especially when the screws begin to turn once the demonic forces have been unleashed among these hapless travelers.
The surrounding area of the cabin tend to come to life and become its own character once the demons have been released from their confines and Raimi brings forth the claustrophobic tension and unease we’d see later in John Carpenter’s The Thing, as this unseen force slowly corrupts the likes of every character and we soon watch in wait wondering who among these four people will reveal themselves to be a twisted creation of this pure force of evil and what punishment they’ll inflict on one another when they do show their true colors. And once they do it makes for wicked imagery turning a game of cards in to a fight for life and death, and Raimi even transforms a tragic burial in to a sick game of peekaboo that is adorable when we meet Ash and his girlfriend but is just utterly horrifying when we know she’s been consumed by the darkness and is now just toying with him.
While some of the effects are ancient, the movie still has an indefinable charm to it that guarantees a damn good time even for the most cynical horror geek who creams at the sight of CGI. While the joints are creaky here and there, “The Evil Dead” is in the league of “Night of the Living Dead” and “Jaws” where it continues to be immortal and outlive other horror classics in the face of changing movie going sentiment and horror cynicism. It’s a moody little nightmare worth the watch.