Sunday, 23 June 2013

Film Review | The Evil Dead (1981)

The Evil Dead seems to have had something of a resurgence of interest of late due to the fact that a big budget remake-cum-reboot was released earlier this year. Despite generally being quite well-received (certainly in comparison to other recent horror remakes), there was outcry amongst many fans of the original 1981 film that anyone even dare touch such an iconic entry into the horror genre. More than anything, that serves to prove just how loved The Evil Dead is by many, making it one of the most enduring cult favourites in cnematic history despite its shoestring budget and fairly basic structure.

It's clear from the very start that Sam Raimi's directorial debut was created with very little money in the coffers. This is the direct opposite of Raimi's most recent CGI-heavy feature, Oz The Great And Powerful, leaving the director only his skill behind the camera to create the story and tone of his piece. Raimi understands precisely how to generate fear and tension from the simplest of techniques, and builds up the creepy atmosphere brilliantly during the film's first half before allowing himself to go all out in the final forty minutes or so. The inventive nature of Raimi's low-tech monsters and gore, clearly influenced by the stop-motion style of Ray Harryhausen, retains its charm more than thirty years after the film was first released. Many modern horror films can barely manage thirty days, which reinforces Raimi's talent as a filmmaker even further.

The cast do well as a whole, but there's a reason this was the film that made Bruce Campbell's name in cult cinema and horror circles. Whilst his performance at the start of the film is perfunctory, even forgettable, by the time most of the other actors performances involve being creepy and possessed (a task at which all do effectively) Campbell shows an energy and over-the-top charm that is impossible not to enjoy. His turn is never Oscar-winning stuff, but it fits the tone of The Evil Dead perfectly.

If you're looking for a complex story with lots of character development, The Evil Dead will almost certainly disappoint. The story can be summed up in one sentence, and there are several elements introduced to hurry the monsters along without any further depth added to them later on. And, although it's not surprising that a film made over three decades ago for such a small amount of money has some notable cracks now showing, it's also something that cannot be ignored entirely. For all of its B-movie charm, The Evil Dead does feel dated at several points, particularly during its rather clunky opening act. Overall, however, this remains an enjoyable and inventive horror cult classic, as well as a solid document of a young Sam Raimi's cinematic flair and creativity.


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