The Evil Dead
by Gary Schultz
One of the best horror films of the ’80s, directed by Spider-Man’s Sam Raimi.
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The Evil Dead is the cult classic horror film that started the careers of director Sam Raimi, producer Robert Tapert and B-movie cult icon Bruce Campbell. To truly appreciate The Evil Dead you have to appreciate the process it went through to be created. The Evil Dead is a low budget horror film that was shot mostly on location in a cabin in the woods during the winter of 1979-1980. Evil Dead didn’ t find distribution until 1981. This film had a low production budget of about $90,000.00 invested by a group of dentists that the guys (referring to Sam, Rob and Bruce) managed to find through tedious efforts of hunting down investors to fund their little independent nightmare. The budget of course became much higher once distribution and prints were to get made. They shot it on 16mm, went over budget and turned what was supposed to be a six-week shoot into a twelve-week shoot. Interesting side note is that Sam and Bruce were only twenty years old when they started filming and they were all crew from Michigan. Go Midwest filmmakers! This film spawned two successful sequels The Evil Dead 2:Dead by Dawn and Army of Darkness. The journey of the hard times on The Evil Dead set is now legendary and you can find several books on this film and the making of this film, not to mention all the endless websites dedicated to The Evil Dead films. I own and would recommend a book called “The Evil Dead Companion” and of course Bruce Campbell’ s first book titled “If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B-Movie Actor.”
The story goes something like this; five friends go to a cabin deep within the woods for the weekend. There they find the Necronomicon also known as the Book of the Dead and the taped translation of the text by the professor who also owns the cabin but is nowhere to be found. Once the tape is played, the evil living within the woods is released. One by one, everyone becomes possessed zombies or more preciously evil deadites. The last man standing to fight the evil forces is Ash, played by one of the most underrated actors of the last twenty years, Bruce Campbell. Ash gets his ass kicked a lot but manages to spit out some quick one-liners. The evil force is never seen except in the form of smoke but you are frequently brought into the force’s racing POV which features some of the most intense indie camera work of it’s time. This style of running with the camera through objects and running with the camera to create tension and shakey POV has become a Sam Raimi trademark and imitated by others (including myself).
The Evil Dead is a true independent horror film and its efforts should be regarded in the same class as the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the original Night of the Living Dead, or the first Friday the 13th. The heart and dedication from this small crew of filmmakers is seen in every shot. This movie is scary, funny at times and features a very young, very green, Bruce Campbell acting his twenty-year-old ass off and performing his own stunts. This is the same film that features Ash’s sister getting rapped by vines and branches from the possessed trees. This film takes risks and that’s what good indie films do. The sequel to the The Evil Dead is regarded in some groups as being even more sought after than the first movie mixing in more comedy with horror. The third movie in the series is Army of Darkness, which is more comedy and adventure but features Ash at his cockiest. I suggest watching The Evil Dead with a group of cool people that like blood, guts, violence and Bruce Campbell. For some reason I usually end up watching The Evil Dead around Christmas time after The Christmas Story marathon is over. Is that strange?
So here’s what we’ve learned so far: Bruce Campbell is a badass mo’ fo’. Robert Tapert, aside from producing most of Sam Raimi’s films also produced the Hercules and Zena television series. He also married Lucy Lawless. The Evil Dead spawned Sam, we knew him then the rest of the world knows him now as the director of Spiderman and Spiderman 2.
Gary Schultz is an independent Chicago filmmaker and critic to the world at large. And he’s a big Sam Raimi fan.
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