Five friends, Ash, Linda, Scotty, Cheryl and Shelley go to a remote cabin in the woods for a short break. After a few hours of teenage fun and as daylight ends, they realise that the cabin and surrounding woods have an evil mind of their own.
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Sam Raimi’s cult classic shock horror was made on the premise of “Making the audience hurt” and hurt it does when viewing a pencil point repeatedly stabbed into an ankle, digging and severing the recipient's flesh while witnessing the facial agony and blood pouring out of the wound. The Evil Dead remains a testament to the power that low budget films still have to disturb us.
The visual art in horror films is in the aptitude to create suspense, fear and tension, to be able to bring the audience to a level where they jump or scream. Raimi achieves this perfectly by keeping the evil entity off screen and depicting it via shots of the demons eye view. Taking on this vantage point, the audience becomes as possessed as the characters as they cannot escape the relentless camerawork that swoops swiftly low on the ground, over cars, circling the house, abruptly breaking windows, smashing through doors and crushing down trees.
The controversial rape scene that Raimi regrets filming only adds to the dark comical, unsettling nature of the film. Reminiscent of the crucifix scene in The Exorcist it is uncomfortable to watch and emphasises the unyielding evil presence in the woods as well as the impregnation of Cheryl causing her to be the strongest of the demons.
The acting throughout is flat and the dialogue at times ridiculous, but this appends to the sinister and dark atmosphere as the characters appear detached from reality and reasoning. Raimi’s emphasis is on gore and gratuitous violence as limbs get hacked up and eaten off, faces burnt, eyes gouged out, skin scratched off, heads battered with planks of wood and a finale of gruelling decomposition. There are no romantic subplots apart from Ash’s brief attempt at being soppy and there is no clear resolution, no priests to exorcise the demons and it is evident Ash does not escape them.
Once labelled a “video nasty” The Evil Dead is one of the great modern horror films and much like the Texas Chain Saw Massacre the desire for the screeching, blood, guts and gore to cease is vital and a sigh is released along with Ash for the emergence of daylight.