Bruce Campbell as Ash
Ellen Sandweiss as Cheryl
Richard DeManincor as Scotty
Betsy Baker as Linda
Theresa Tilley as Shelly
By The Zombie Master, Lee Roberts
Before such cinema classics as Spiderman, Darkman, and The Quick and The Dead, there was a 30 minute, extremely low budget, film called Within The Woods that was created by a couple of film students to sell investors on the idea of a full length feature called Book of the Dead. The students were Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell and the film would eventually be released as The Evil Dead. One of my all time favorites.
We start our journey in an Olds Delta 88 with five friends traveling to a cabin in the backwoods of Tennessee for the weekend. Upon entering the cabin Scotty (Richard DeManincor) decides to see what is in the cellar after they hear a noise. When Scotty does not immediately return, Ash (Bruce Campbell) goes into the cellar only to be purposefully scared by Scotty. They find a book, some notebooks and tapes which they take back upstairs to investigate further.
The book turns out to be the “Book of the Dead”, an ancient Sumerian text that is supposedly inked in human blood, bound in human flesh, and contains incantations that deal with demons and demon resurrection. The tapes contain the voice of a man that not only describes the book but also recites the incantations out loud. This in turn awakens the evil spirits and begins fatally possessing the friends one by one starting with Ash’s sister Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss). Eventually Scott, Scott’s girlfriend Shelly (Theresa Tilley) and Ash’s girlfriend Linda (Betsy Baker) also become possessed and it is left up to Ash to attempt to make it through the night alive.
Stephen King once said that The Evil Dead was “the ultimate experience in grueling terror”. How right he was. Sam Raimi shows off the originality of his film making skills that he will later bring to larger budget films. The camera work is incredible. Raimi’s style will always be distinguishable from the other directors in Hollywood. He has a love for the fast and aggressive shots that have become unmistakable.
The blood and gore is top notch and even over the top for 1981. So over the top, that it was one of the first films to be labeled as a “Video Nasty” in England and is still banned in Malaysia, Iceland, Ireland, Singapore, and German theaters. I wonder if that is what my mother meant when she said, “If it is worth doing then it is worth doing right.”
The Evil Dead also introduced us to Bruce Campbell and the character of Ash. The two fit together. You cannot think of one without thinking of the other. Nobody has been able to match the ability to portray the “abused hero” with such tenacity as Bruce Campbell. He will forever be known as one of the greatest “B” movie actors of all time. The Evil Dead is not your typical horror movie. It is not your typical zombie movie either. As a matter of fact, there is nothing remotely typical about it. Though not intended for those with weak stomachs, I highly recommend The Evil Dead for any “discerning horror freak”.
**Note from BHM Editor Don Sumner** Since the first time I saw this movie in 1992 it has been one of my absolute favorites. Everyone who knows me has seen my rendition of a dramatic moment in The Evil Dead: I begin by standing with my back to the “audience”. Then say “Ace of spades…queen of spades…four of hearts, eight of spades…Jack of Diamonds JACK OF CLUBS!!!!” and then turn around to face them and scream loudly.
Of course, nobody gets it, but I know. This was the instant that Cheryl became possessed.
When I introduced The Evil Dead to my “Sunday movie group”, which consisted of myself and my friends Kelly and Wendy, I was immediately put on “movie probation”. I was not allowed to suggest the movie for the weekly get-together for a full THREE WEEKS afterward. They didn’t get the genius of The Evil Dead. They clearly were not Horror Freaks.
What is the moral of this story? Well, the fans of the mass-market horror of late may or may not appreciate the awesome nature of The Evil Dead. I know Kelly and Wendy did not, but they are still good people. If, however, you are a true aficionado that doesn’t require slick Hollywood mega-productions to appreciate an incredible movie then I imagine that The Evil Dead will join your list of all-time favorites and classics of the horror genre.
Just watch out for the woods, and wear clean panties…