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8 September 2011

The Evil Dead (1981)


Those of you old enough to remember the battle between Betamax and VHS will probably be able to remember the British phenomenon of the early 80s that was the 'Video Nasty'.

My sister's so ugly, we keep her locked in the cellar!
The Evil Dead, Renaissance Films 1981

I just watched one of the original video nasties - the Evil Dead.

If you don't know or have forgotten, Video Nasties were the first real attempt to start classifying videos in the UK. It was fairly limited in scope; They were only concerned with banning 'bad' films, but the whole movement caught the Public's imagination and ultimately resulted in the Video Recordings Act of 1984.

I remember it all as being a bit of a marketing gimmick. Certain film distributors used it as a means of selling crap films. My limited experience of Video Nasties tended to be pirated copies that floated about from sweaty hand to sweaty hand. And the films usually were pretty terrible... on all counts.

Ash (played by Bruce Campbell) doesn't look right
without blood on his face
The Evil Dead, Renaissance Productions 1981

So what made for a Video Nasty?

Well, you were pretty much guaranteed blood, guts, gore, violence and nudity. It was all a far cry from what film makers get away with today... but it had a certain appeal at the time. :-)

Can I talk about the film now?

Shelly (Theresa Tilly), Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss) & Linda (Betsy Baker)
The Evil Dead, Renaissance Productions 1981 

The Evil Dead is a bit of a fun. Here we have Sam Raimi and his crew trying out all the cool horror film tricks and techniques they could lay their hands on, with as much blood and guts as they could squeeze in on their limited budget. I view it as Braindead's younger brother (or older brother - depending upon your point of view).

There is a story, but really it's secondary to the action. For what it's worth...

Five college kids (Yeah right! These guys look old enough to be teachers!) take a holiday up in the darkest most tangled forest in Tennessee. They turn up at a remote rustic cabin and things start to go wrong pretty much as soon as they arrive.

All good horror stories start with a cool car and a crusty shack
The Evil Dead, Renaissance Productions 1981 

Supernatural powers are at work!

After accidentally unleasing some malevolent spirits by playing an old reel-to-reel tape recording of an ancient Sumerian incantation, the group find themselves fighting for their lives. Oh dear! Will they survive the night? Will they live long enough to see the invention of CDs or cheer at the marvel that is the MP3 Player?

I know it's old, old news, but I won't explain any more... just in case you haven't seen the film yet.

The characters are weak. The story is so-so. The acting is pretty poor. The film making and special effects are definitely the stars of the show. Raimi does a great job of putting together some memorable scenes. He employs pretty much every trick in the book to build up tension, create a few shocks, and make you laugh. It's a fairly enjoyable ride.

Are you sure you want to be reading the Book of the Dead?
The Evil Dead, Renaissance Productions 1981

One scene that has stuck in my mind from the very first time that I ever watched this film was the bit where Cheryl (played by Ellen Sandweiss) is attacked by the trees. Sounds a bit odd, but check it out... you can't miss it. I think that this scene was the real reason that the film was branded a video nasty in the first place. You'll see far worse these days, but it remains an iconic moment for me.

The 'Deadites' are also great. I don't think that they are referred to as Deadites in the film itself, but this is the name that has been given to the poor unfortunate Possessed. They're funny without descending into farce.

(Scott) Richard DeManincor plays with his new rifle
Spot the homage to The Hills Have Eyes
The Evil Dead, Renaissance Productions 1981

Okay. This film is 'Cult'. You're either going to enjoy it for what it is, or not. I think that I'm erring on the side of enjoying it. Despite it's age, it stands the test of time pretty well and has been hugely influential in the Horror genre.

And there are 2 sequels to watch with the promise of a fourth film on the way. Watch this space for reviews!

On the Triple-B I'm going to chop up 4 friends with a chainsaw and bury them in the woods. On second thoughts, perhaps I won't...

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