JUMPSCARECUT: The Evil Dead (1981)

Directed by: Sam Raimi
Cast: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Richard DeManincor, Betsy Baker, Theresa Tilly



There’s something so incredible about chaos in film. When things suddenly turn into a madhouse of hysteria and gut-wrenching agony, you know you’re in for a wild ride experience. Sam Raimi’s 1981 film, The Evil Dead, delivers the pandemonium on a platter, spewing out eerie disorder and gross unravelment. Rightfully so, it’s gone on to be one of the major cult classic hits that just happens to fit the season. It’s very nauseating at times, and actually very difficult to recommend, but we wouldn’t want to hide this gem from you, no way! We uncover and revisit The Evil Dead this month to remind ourselves of that practical effect heaven of the early 1980’s, and also to tickle that unearthly, Halloween-time fix.

So much of what makes The Evil Dead enticing to the eyes is its lush use of practical effects and just how that imperfect style delivers today. It’s very much a product of its time and dated in its most goriest, atrocious scenes. Still, considering all of its production limitations, it’s a staple to feed your bloodlust this time of the year. The spooky gods would be proud! Of all those tales in film of people getting murdered in isolated locations, is no different story-wise, although a pioneer of sorts.

When Ash (Bruce Campbell), his sister Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss), and their three friends (Richard DeManincor, Betsy Baker, Theresa Tilly) rent out an old cabin in the desolate woods for some time, they really aren’t expecting to be slashing each other come nightfall, but you how these things go. As they explore the place, they find vile ritual items in the basement which includes animal products hung from the ceilings, and eventually the discovery of the Book of the Dead. As they find and play a recording of ancient incantations, it summons an air of evil in the remote area that soon inhabits them one by one as the night begins.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t all festive horror fun. The scene that just befell part of the film’s integrity was Cheryl’s attack in the woods just prior to her possession. It’s a very, very uncomfortable thing to watch. One could argue that it was unnecessary, ill-advised, and just plain horrid. To the film’s advantage, it does get muddled over in the night as craziness ensues. Raimi isn’t totally out of the woods with that one, though. As you find out, the film doesn’t lay any emotional existence onto its characters, hoping that the audience will latch onto the gore and filth of its survival instead. When it works, it works, and there’s a lot to marvel at in the middle of its fight. When the group have to lock Cheryl away when she gets possessed by the ancient evil, she plays around with everyone, later even taunting Ash as he fends off those who were once his friends. It’s a clustered bunch of gruesome effects and the way it goes batshit crazy is quite the time to pass. This film is dreadfully entertaining, blowing through its low budget with genius care to effects and smart production.

The Evil Dead is a flick to seek out because it’s disarray wrapped in homegrown butchery. From the wicked claymation at the end sequence to its insane makeup effect prowess (credit to Tom Sullivan), it’s a part of the canon that caters to escapism and the suspension of common belief. Betsy Baker’s riotous act sitting at the door frame is reason alone to watch this maddening getaway.


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