Thursday, October 01, 2009

“We're going to get you. We're going to get you. Not another peep. Time to go to sleep.”

Welcome, weary internet travelers. Those expecting the…usual crop of RMWC reviews may be distressed to find that the management has…changed recently. Pay no heed to the dripping sound you hear in the other room, it will stop soon enough. Pay no attention to it. Instead, I direct you here, to 1981’s The Evil Dead, a small, unassuming little film made on a shoestring budget in 1979-80

Its an innocuous little film about five college students from Michigan taking a vacation to a cabin in the Tennessee woods. There, they find a disturbing recording and a mysterious, ancient book that can unleash ancient demonic forces upon the world.

Ashley J. “Ash” Williams: A very young Bruce Campbell plays one of the students. He is much nicer guy than his buddy Scott, and has brought the gift of a small magnifying-glass pendant that he gives to his girlfriend in a touching, tender moment. When things begin to go wrong, he doesn’t exactly know how to react, though who could, seeing their friends and girlfriends falling victims to the Evil that is unleashed.

Cheryl: Ellen Sandweiss plays Ash’s sister, a young, artistically inclined woman who immediately feels that something is wrong with the cabin. She is also the first who wishes to leave. Being the odd one out, naturally she is the easiest target for the Evil, and it would take a heartless villain indeed to feel no sympathy for what happens after she runs out into the woods. Those of a…sensitive constitution may want to look away when the-- No. Why spoil the surprise. Cheryl is also the first to become a deadite, a human being killed and possessed by the Evil, and spends most of the rest of the movie locked in the cellar, providing more than a fair share of creepiness. Deadite Cheryl (and the Fake Shemps playing her, along with Sandweiss, under the makeup) is surprisingly, the movie’s Badass.

Scott: Richard DeManicor plays Ash’s buddy. He is much, much more of an asshole, one that deserves what fate has in store for him.

Linda: Betsy Baker plays Ash’s girlfriend. A nice enough character, though Ohio State fans will wish to see her die for wearing a Michigan sweater. Their dark wish is granted, and she becomes the second freakiest deadite, one possessed of a horribly disconcerting laugh.

Shelly: Theresa Tilly (under the name Sarah York) plays Scott’s girlfriend, though there is little to the character besides.

Numerous other actors appear under heavy makeup effects as “Fake Shemps” which are stand-ins for the regular actors when the regulars couldn’t be there. This tidbit is only included because among these Fake Shemps were Ted and Ivan Raimi, brothers of the director, and implying that there is a Ted Raimi Death Scene in this film.

Sam Raimi did not have much of a budget in the making of this film. Instead, he went with creating atmosphere, innovative camera shots and with practical effects. Stop motion is used here and there in the film, and considering the budget, it is quite passable. A lot of blood and other fluids are spilled for the film, but the real highlight are the camera tricks Raimi uses. Possibly the most “signature” shot of the film is that of whatever the unseen Evil is moving forward through the scenery at an unnatural speed, usually chasing an intended victim. Simple, effective and very, very atmospheric.

The script by Sam Raimi follows most of the commonly acceptable horror movie tropes. Characters are generally archetypical and not that highly developed. The dialog is serviceable and shows potential. Where the writing excels is in pacing and building tension. The Evil has a presence early on, but the actual attack does not begin until a bit into the film. When it does, however, it never lets up. The movie is also notable for subverting the common trope of the survivor of a horror movie always being the last girl left. Since he’s the main character of the trilogy, it is quite obvious that Ash is the one to make it through this movie, but audiences at the time did not know that.

The score by Joseph LoDuca is entirely appropriate and contributes to the unnatural mood of the film. The score does stand out at two points where the music is optimistic and jaunty as terrible things happen or are about to, such as during the ending credits (and the music begins to slow down as the credits continue rolling)

Sound effects are utilized with excellence in the film. Doors slamming, a swinging chair banging against the side of the cabin, the sound of a chainsaw revving up. All are expertly used to contribute to the atmosphere.

The Evil Dead is not a perfect film, but it is an exemplary low budget, independent horror movie that launched two major careers. It succeeds very well in creating a menacing mood, for providing actual creepy moments and for being a legitimate horror movie. As one of the very important horror movies of the 1980s and a cult classic in its own right, it is absolutely recommended

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