The Evil Dead

Review No. 473

Drop “Dead” funny meets plain awesome.

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WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY SAM RAIMI. STARRING BRUCE CAMPBELL (ASH), ELLEN SANDWEISS (CHERYL), HAL DELRICH (SCOTTY), BETSY BAKER (LINDA), AND SARAH YORK (SHELLY). DISTRIBUTED BY NEW LINE CINEMA ON APRIL 24, 1983. PRODUCED IN ENGLISH BY THE UNITED STATES. RUNS 1 HOUR, 25 MINUTES. NOT FOR CHILDREN, DUE TO GORE.

THE EVIL DEAD WAS WATCHED ON MAY 4, 2013.

“Join us…” –the voice of the evil force (Sam Raimi)

The Evil Dead is the very moment where drop dead funny meets plain awesome. It only gets better when this moment lasts an hour and a half–and leaves you wanting more. When I think of a top two in my “so bad it’s good” horror flick list, it’s always Troll 2 and Friday the 13th. And no, that list doesn’t change now. I can’t call The Evil Dead “so bad it’s good” because that’s me stating it’s, essentially, a bad movie. The Evil Dead makes both Troll 2 and Friday the 13th look classy. That’s not bad. That’s badass.

Let’s take away the technicalities for a little while. The Evil Dead takes the old “group of friends in a cabin in the woods” storyline and gives it an over-the-top makeover. The results are unforgettable, old-fashioned fun. You thought the blood in Halloween looked like ketchup? It looks like grape jelly here. Did the zombies in George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead seem a bit too hokey? You obviously haven’t seen a zombie that has veins drawn in Sharpie marker. Was Jack Nicholson’s “Here’s Johnny!” a bit too disturbingly hilarious in The Shining? It’s likely you’ve already heard of the infamous scene that sets The Evil Dead into action, so I guess that settles that. Yes, it all does sound god awful, but then again, to see is to believe.

A great horror movie could deprive you of your sleep, so that it can have a few hours to linger in your mind and haunt it nonstop. The Evil Dead just might keep you up in order to remind you of all the classic moments it offers. It created a new tolerance of blood and gore for Hollywood (even as a production by college students, not Hollywood auteurs) in the early 1980s; although we’ve seen more gratuitous presentations of gore since then, the B-movie flavor makes it a flick like no other. It’s uninspired, but in a somewhat similar light, so is Mel Brooks. The Evil Dead is campy to no end, but that’s not at all a bad thing when the campfire is an eternal flame.

Postscript: The granted NC-17 rating marks the worst choice from the MPAA since they reissued Psycho with an R rating. Yes, The Evil Dead is graphic, but it’s also clearly fake in every low-budget-ish way. It’s just so easy to come up with titles that present ample graphic violence–with far more realism–and seem to have no problem avoiding the NC-17. Regardless, the film is noted online as having that same NC-17, but all available video copies have been marked “unrated.”

TOMORROW, ON CINEMANIAC REVIEWS…

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (@2:00); Evil Dead II (@4:30)

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