A while back, I heard some young girls cooing over Bruce Campbell. Evil Dead 1 is where many of you probably got to know him. I can’t speak for the ladies, and have no opinion of his looks (thank you very much). I’m here to mention his role as Ashley in this horror feature and to give you my opinion of THAT. Ahem!
This movie is pure horror that fully embraces its B-horror rating, using it to its full advantage. It is a classic that employs some pretty interesting low tech techniques.
The movie opens with the shot of a foggy marsh. Through the logs and fallen trees, the dark waters bubble and boil mysteriously. We get the feeling that something evil is lurking. When the camera pans the area, the suggestion is that something is flying through the woods. A spirit perhaps?
Whatever it is, it’s watching. Waiting.
Then we are taken to a view inside a car where a group of friends are headed to a cabin in the woods. They’re young, they’re handsome, they sing and they’re up for a good time. As they approach the cabin though, we hear an ominous pounding noise that cuts through their gaiety like a bear at a picnic.
Suddenly, everything gets verrry quiet – not a sound, except “Bang!” “Bang!” “Bang!” When the camera cuts over, we see that the pounding sound is actually the porch swing banging against the side of the cabin.
“Oh yes,” we think. “It’s all good,” but the unnerving feeling that something is wrong carries forward…
Inside the cabin, which is fairly rustic by today’s standards, the group is busy. They’re merrily doing those things that campers do – unpack, cook dinner, drink wine, start exploring. In the main room is a trapdoor to the cellar. The kids must, must, must (by horror movie standards) explore those places they have no business being, and down below, they find a hideous looking book and a tape recorder.
The book is ancient but the tape recorder is amazingly in good shape. It’s one of those newfangled reel-to-reel types. 😉
What is on that tape sets off the terrifying events that make this movie one of the scariest ever – back in its day. The voice on the tape is someone who stayed at the cabin previously who provides an accounting of what happened to him there. He mentions the hideous book and its subject, including the fact that it is The Book of the Dead. It is a grimoire, full of spells and incantations to conjure and control demons.
Unfortunately, the voice also begins narrating the spells inside the book! And stupidly, the kids stand there listening, letting the tape run while the spell is . . . well . . . spelled out!
What happens next is, all the demons who were flying around in the opening scene (remember the bubbling water in the foggy marsh?) have all been summoned TO THE CABIN! Smack dab where the kids are having their fun.
But the grisly part is this: as the tape rolls along to the end – since they didn’t think to turn it off [shakes head incredulously] – the voice finally mentions that the only way to conquer the demons who possess the bodies of the living is to dismember the bodies they have possessed!
This makes Evil Dead 1 a frightening film of evil, demon possession, and the hacking of body parts in order to survive.
For those of you who like being scared, Evil Dead 1 does have its moments where you want to crawl away or crawl out of your skin, but I’m warning you. Some of the low tech effects are a bit cheesy. On the other hand, the atmosphere, camera shots and other techniques make it a delightful, horrifying classic with a twist of humor.
I give this film two stumps up! However, I only have one, so it’s one stump and one thumb! Sweet!
Give it a watch if you’ve never seen it, or give it another watch if you have. It’s a good one.