Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead

We all have to have things to pin the blame on. The very first Evil Dead film, which was made in 1981 by Sam Raimi on a meagre budget of $375,000, is one of mine. Up until the time I finally got around to seeing it, my horror film fare was restricted to classic black & white Universal and RKO Pictures, and the occasional Hammer Horror. I’d vaguely heard of these video nasties that were doing the rounds at the time, but I had absolutely no interest in them and thought they were pointless – besides, back then, I have to admit I was more than a tad squeamish.

I remember my mate Dan inviting me around his place one evening for a beer ‘n’ film session. There were a couple of movies on offer, all of which (except Evil Dead) I’ve forgotten the titles of. ED was the main attraction, and so I stayed late because Dan told me it was an absolutely brilliant, if brutal, film. I got through about a quarter of it before I made my excuses and bailed out (sad, I know). (One other thing I remember about that night – I had to walk through a dark cemetery on my way home!). Then, some months later, when my parents finally bought a video player (top-loader!), I hired the film and tried again. This time I got to the bit where the newly-demonified young woman starts chewing her hand off – and I bailed again, as it made me feel physically sick. This brand of ‘horror’ film was obviously not for me. Or so I thought.

It wasn’t long after that that the film was classified as one of the notorious ‘video nasties’, alongside the likes of Snuff, Driller Killer, Cannibal Holocaust, Faces of Death and I Spit on Your Grave. In fact, it wasn’t until 2001, a full 17 years after being classified as a ‘nasty’, that it was released uncut. Certainly, it’s a very graphic film, containing lots of bloodshed and a very uncomfortable rape scene perpetrated by a vine tendril (a scene which Raimi himself regrets including). BUT, if you watch the film closely, there’s a great deal of humour in it, which tends to make the bloodletting scenes less horrific. Even so, despite the level of violence contained in the film, I have never thought that it ever deserved being shoved in with the ‘video nasty’ lot, as some of those are quite horrific (although equally, there are more than a few on the list that make you wonder just how utterly squeamish the compilers were – some of these were so laughably made that it was almost painfully obvious they were created using shoddily cheap special effects).

The plot revolves around a group of students staying at an isolated cabin in the woods one summer vacation. While there, they discover The Book of the Dead (as you do) and some tape recordings, the playback of which resurrects a demon. One of the girls gets possessed (which mercifully kills her) and she becomes a deadite (which isn’t so merciful). The only way of getting rid of the demonic infestation is to physically dismember them. Cue axes and chainsaws. And so, quite literally for the students, all hell breaks loose and it become a race for survival.

Although it received mixed reviews at the time of its release, it has since become a firm favourite amongst horror afficianados. More than that, however, is the fact that it gave us one of the more endearing (and enduring) horror characters, Ash Williams (played by the brilliant Bruce Campbell). There were two sequels, each getting sillier than the last, and there are persistent rumours that a fourth film is being worked upon, with Sam Raimi once again directing. There are also rumours that there’ll be a face-off between two other horror franchises in Freddie vs Jason vs Ash, but this appears to be more wishful think than anything else (although, I do have to admit that it’s a delicious-sounding premise).

And yes, I finally got to see it all the way through and, more to the point, loved every second of it. I found that it appealed to my blackly humorous outlook on life after all. But, you may well ask, why do I consider it as one of the things on which to pin blame on? Quite simply, it introduced to me a whole new world of horror, and set me off on a video- and book-collecting frenzy that lasted 20 years or more. Sadly, all the films, on video cassettes as they were, deteriorated in the shocking conditions of some of the domiciles I’ve had to endure over the years. I do have a few on DVD, but I have very little patience to watch films these days – I very rarely watch anything on TV, even when something interesting comes on. The books, too, have mostly all gone, due to me having to sell the majority just to feed myself.

However, all is not lost. Gradually, things are beginning to get better, although there’s still a hell of a long way to go. I still retain my love of the scary and frightening, especially in its literary incarnation, and I am slowly rediscovering books I got rid of, as well as stories and books I should have read years ago. And, to think that, if I hadn’t watched a low-budget horror movie all those years ago, then, in all probability, this blog and my foray into short story writing would never happened. So, if you ever get to meet Sam Raimi, then you can either shake his hand or slap him for that. At the very least, you too will have something to blame it all on. =)

One Response to “Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead

  1. Ahhhh you have to love ED – I must have been one twisted sister, because not only did I watch it all those years ago.. I laughed! I still class it as a favourite movie and Bruce never fails to make to smile – that and his boom stick. I can even forgive him turning up in Hercules!

    I think I would shake his hand Moon! Not sure how I would feel about a sequal.. its been far to long now!

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