In the Autumn of 1979, Sam Raimi and his merry band headed into the woods of rural Tennessee to make a little film called The Evil Dead
. They emerged with a roller coaster of a film packed with shocks, gore and wild humour, a film that remains a benchmark for the genre. Ash (cult favourite Bruce Campbell) and four friends arrive at a backwoods cabin for a vacation, where they find a tape recorder containing incantations from an ancient book of the dead. When they play the tape, evil forces are unleashed and one by one the friends are possessed. Wouldn't you know it, the only way to kill a "deadite" is by total bodily dismemberment and soon the blood starts to fly. Raimi injects tremendous energy into this simple plot, using the claustrophobic set, disorientating camera angles, and even the graininess of the film stock itself to create an atmosphere of dread, punctuated by a relentless series of jump-out-of-your-seat shocks. Much of the film's energy is supplied by the "Raimi-cam," a gliding, swooping, rushing camera that suggests a dislocated, otherworldly point of view while injecting a lively if spooky fleetness to the pace. Though it's no comedy, Raimi's dry wit and cinematic cleverness pervades the entire film. The Evil Dead
lacks the more highly developed sense of the absurd that distinguish later entries in the series--Evil Dead 2
and Army of Darkness
--but it is still much more than a gore movie: it marks the appearance of one of the most original and visually exciting directors of his generation, and it stands as a monument to the triumph of imagination over budget. --Simon Leake, Amazon.com
On the DVD: For a film made on the tiniest of budgets and shot in 16 mm, The Evil Dead looks impressive in this widescreen 1.85:1 anamorphic print, even if the picture quality is never going to rival that of 35 mm. The revelation here is the soundtrack, with optional DTS 6.1 audio mix, which showcases Sam Raimi's bizarre assembly of sound effects and Joseph LoDuca's minimalist Bernard Herrmann-inspired score. Director Raimi and Producer Robert Tapert chat amiably about making the film on the first commentary track, but the real treat is Bruce Campbell's "alternate" commentary, which is not only extremely informative but laugh-out-loud funny, too. Among other nuggets we learn that: the distinctive moving camera effects were created by strapping the camera to a plank held between two people who had to run very fast through the woods; most of the actors were so worried about appearing in a horror movie that they made up stage names for the credits; and Raimi's 73 Oldsmobile has since reappeared in almost every one of his films. A trailer and stills gallery complete the extras package. --Mark Walker
A low budget gore-fest about a group of American teenage yuppies on holiday in a remote cabin in the Tennessee mountains. They discover an old book which, once they have read it, summons up all kinds of horrors: the trees come alive and so do the dead, who take over the bodies of the living. Sam Raimi directs.