August 30, 2012

The Evil Dead (1981)

"Five friends travel to a cabin in the woods, where they unknowingly release flesh-possessing demons."

The trouble with rewatching a lot of the movies from "The Vault" is that they have lost all their shock value. Because I've seen them so many times, the effect is like some gruesome looking wallpaper, and never more so than in the case of "The Evil Dead".

It's not that I don't like "The Evil Dead". It was a serious horror movie with some nicely done gore if you take into account the low-budget and time it was made. It just doesn't hold up too well under closer scrutiny today. There are a lot of people dreading the remake, sequel, or whatever it will turn out to be, but I'm quite looking forward to an update which doesn't involve so much stop-motion animation and plasticine.

Allegedly, "The Evil Dead" was made for $375,000 which was actually quite a large sum of money to put into a horror movie back in 1981. All those filmmakers that use "The Evil Dead" as the inspiration for their own backyard epics with their budgets of less than $2000 really need to stop being so delusional, quit relying on Kickstarter e-begging, and take out some loans just like Sam Raimi did if they want any real credibility.

Even with the huge budget that "The Evil Dead" had, it still comes across as very amateur compared to the more comedic sequel/remake "Evil Dead II" (1987). The acting is atrocious and the dialogue, sparse though it is, isn't exactly a strong point. Any scene involving Scott (Hal Delrich) where he's being an asshole or starts laughing really makes me cringe.

I can't even say that Bruce Campbell as Ash doesn't rub me up the wrong way nowadays either. Given that he's the unlikeliest of heroes anyway, he doesn't have very much charisma in "The Evil Dead". Although it looks as if he's trying to act occasionally, more often than not he's just going through the motions or mugging at the camera.

As for the girls, I don't have anything good to say about them. Cheryl, the one with the big nose who shows her left breast and gets raped by a tree for all of ten seconds, is very annoying otherwise, and Linda (Betsy Baker) looks a lot better when she's in the "scary doll" make-up. Shelly does a little bit better possibly because she was clearly the oldest there, but she hardly stands out even as one of the Dead. Since they were all replaced by "Fake Shemp" people for much of the movie anyway, it's impossible to tell who put the most (or any) effort in at all.

I know a lot of people really like the "groundbreaking" POV camerawork, but it has always irritated me. Yes, it was clever, but it had no effect on me other than causing dizziness. Couple that with all the overly loud music, banging, screaming and shouting, and "The Evil Dead" becomes something designed to cause a headache rather than scare the crap out of you.

Having said all that, you probably wonder why I still consider "The Evil Dead" to be one of the best horror movies ever made. It's simple really. Although the "The Evil Dead" wasn't the first "cabin in the woods horror", it was the first and most supernatural "cabin in the woods horror" that I remember.

Back in the day, I had to watch a bootleg version of "The Evil Dead" after it got banned as a video nasty which made it seem even more special than it really was. Of course, it got re-released with cuts to the "tree rape" and "pencil in the foot" scenes, and those scenes became something of a legend before the internet came along and forced the "uncut" version to get half a dozen different releases.

As you can see, my present copy of "The Evil Dead" came free with a British newspaper. I don't have any of the "Book of the Dead" editions, steelbooks, or however many other versions are currently in circulation because, basically, I don't get anything out of rewatching the copy I do have.

"The Evil Dead" had its time. Although it was supposed to be serious, it was good for a "bit of a laugh" with friends. Now it's just one of those "must have" cult movies that everybody has in their collection and will probably never watch again.

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