I usually try to keep away from posting articles about the huge horror films that everyone has already seen a million times, because I feel like everyone’s already said everything that needs to be said. But I had a request to say a little something about The Evil Dead, which is perfect for this morning when I’m writing a quick article at the last minute due to the fact that I’m super stressed with a sick kid home from school! The same child constantly tells me I’m too long-winded when I post, so this one’s for you, buddy!
I think we all know the story of The Evil Dead. College students go on vacation to a remote cabin in which the previous owner had awakened malevolent ghosts by recording himself reading from the Necronomicon. Being idiots, they go ahead and play the tape, with the obvious results of demon possession and death, and some less obvious results like chainsaw thrills and demon ballet. I find this to be an effective horror film.
I particularly like the scene in which the lead character, Ashley, and his sister, Cheryl, try to escape only to find that the bridge is out. It’s not just out though, it’s so out that the iron parts of the bridge are twisted and crooked so that they look like the legs of a giant spider. Then the camera goes up into the air to show Ashley and Cheryl freaking out and looking tiny on the ground, which is an old Orson Welles inspired technique usually employed to show the audience that the camera is an omnipotent eye (am angry God, or in this case a devil) viewing the characters, and also to communicate that the characters are truly and completely screwed. If you think about it, only something very powerful could actually move the supports of a bridge in that way, so you can feel the characters’ fear. Most spirits just whisper smartass comments and maybe make some dust motes look like lights on camera, if the ghost shows on cable TV are true. The pencil to the Achilles tendon is pretty disturbing too, in my opinion. I know the body horror effects in this film are cheap, but that one lingers on the pencil twisting around and inspires a wince of empathy.
I found out about six years ago, to my great disappointment, that a lot of people think The Evil Dead is more of a joke than a horror film. A friend who doesn’t usually watch horror films asked me to recommend something because it was October, and so I took him to a midnight showing of The Evil Dead. I was super irritated with the atmosphere because the packed house was laughing all the way through the film like they were at a screening of Birdemic instead of a classic horror film. My friend tended to agree with them, and was a little annoyed with me for taking him! I know there was some intentional humor here, but not enough to cut up all the way through the movie!
Then my nephew, who was at the time a young teen who liked to stay with us on the weekends and binge on horror movies with us, also reacted as if it was a camp classic; in fact, he brought it up again when he was at my house this past Thanksgiving!
I guess it’s almost as if different people have different tastes. Have you ever showed someone a film in all seriousness to find out that they think it’s supposed to be funny? People seem to have a similar reaction these days to Hellraiser, which I also thought was an effective horror movie.
My copy of The Evil Dead is the HBO Cannon Video release, which I believe is the second home video release. It’s a personal goal to pick up a Thorn/EMI copy in a clamshell case, but that one is a little pricey.