Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Franchises: The Evil Dead. The Evil Dead (1981)

If you got really excited when you saw that I'm going to take on this franchise, you might want to reign it back in because, and I know I'm not going to win any new fans by saying this, this is a series that I'm not really into, especially this first film. Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness I can get some entertainment out of but this movie just doesn't do it for me... and I don't really know why. I can understand and appreciate why it became such a big cult phenomenon (it just feels like a movie that was destined to be one) and I can also respect some of the stuff Sam Raimi and his crew were able to accomplish with virtually no money, but, try as I might, I've never been able to really get into it and enjoy it as a whole. I'm not going to call it an overrated piece of shit, because I don't think of it in that way, but I don't enjoy it like so many others do. I'm not exactly sure when I first heard the title but it had been in the back of my mind for some time, particularly when, at a makeup effects show at Universal Studios in Orlando, a host mistakenly said that Tom Savini did the effects for it, and when someone I knew told me that it was the goriest movie they'd ever seen. Over the years, I gradually learned who Sam Raimi was (I first really became aware of him through his first Spider-Man movie) and who Bruce Campbell but, the first time I ever saw anything from The Evil Dead was on some Halloween specials made for Bravo in 2004, particularly the 100 Scariest Movie Moments. The scenes they showed, such as bits of the trailer, the claymation meltdown at the end, the POV traveling through the woods, and Ash getting drenched in blood down in the basement, looked interesting and the film did seem to have some energy and ingenuity to it, which I thought was cool. I saw some more clips from the film, as well as the other two, when James Rolfe featured it on his original edition of Cinemassacre's Monster Madness in 2007 and that piqued my interest even more. Finally, it was the following summer when I bought Anchor Bay's three-disc Ultimate Edition of the film and was ready to become another diehard fan of the franchise... which, as I've said, just didn't happen.

Again, I don't know exactly what it is that keeps me from enjoying this film but I can theorize. One of the big factors I can definitely point to, though, is that I was not in a good headspace when I first sat down and watched it. I was going through a very rough period in my life then and was so distracted and miserable when I tried to watch the movie that it did not take at all. As a result, the movie has been a bit tainted for me because it always reminds me of that really rough patch of my life. Another, more to the point, factor is how, because I had seen so many other low budget horror films made around that time by the time I got to this one, it didn't come across as anything that special. Yeah, it had impressive, nasty gore and some innovative camerawork and editing, but nothing else. It was just another movie about a bunch of dumb kids (and I stand by that assessment) getting butchered in the woods and, in my humble opinion, movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the Friday the 13th movies had done that same thing in a more effective and entertaining way. And finally, and this goes back to the bad headspace I was in when I first saw it, there are a number of things about the movie that either confuse and cause me to become overly nitpicky or just downright annoy me. It's a shame, I know, and I'm not happy about it, but that's just the way it is and, no matter how hard I try, I can't really get past those issues. I'll go into more detail throughout the review but the short version is that there are many, many other low-budget horror movies made around that time that I get much more entertainment out of than The Evil Dead.

I'm not going to sit here and deny that Sam Raimi is a talented filmmaker, because he is. Like I said, the stuff that he was able to pull off in this movie, like the really inventive camerawork and editing, as well as the special effects and gore, are quite impressive, especially when you consider the microscopic budget he had to work with, and I do enjoy the energy he often puts into his movies (which is a reason why I like Evil Dead II more than this), but at the same time, I'm not the biggest fan of him. I do enjoy his Spider-Man movies (which, truth be told, are the only other movies of his aside from the Evil Dead films that I have seen) and I probably would enjoy other films of his like A Simple Plan, The Gift, and Darkman, the latter of which I saw a tiny bit of as a kid but don't remember anything about, but I've never felt compelled to seek out his work. Also, something about him that kind of rubs me the wrong way is how he really doesn't seem to give a crap about the cult fanbase of this series at all. He's been involved with all of its different incarnations, true, but his absense on the special features of the movies' various releases and the fact that he produced a remake of the original film instead of another sequel, which is what the fans had been begging him for, kind of speaks volumes to me. Plus, I also don't like how it seems as if he was the reason we didn't get a sequel to Freddy vs. Jason involving Ash, saying that he didn't want to do that in case he did do an Evil Dead IV but then went ahead and did Drag Me To Hell and the remake instead. Even though Ash's involvement wouldn't have meant anything to me personally, I just wanted to see Freddy and Jason together in a movie again! What's more, I've read that Raimi is not a horror fan, is much more into comic books and slapstick comedy, especially the Three Stooges (which is alright with me, since I love the Stooges), and only did The Evil Dead in order to break into the film business. I can't fault him for that since a lot of filmmakers have done the same thing because the horror genre is a fast and easy way to do so, but that also says to me that, despite directing a couple of sequels, when this became a big cult thing, Raimi just kind of shrugged and went, "Whatever," instead of feeling a big connection to it and its fans (well, that said, there is his substantial involvement with Ash vs. The Evil Dead, so maybe I'm speaking out of turn here, but that's vibe I've always gotten).

You know what sucks the most about my not caring much for this movie? The fact that it's, by and large, the most well-known horror film, or film period, to come out of my home state of Tennessee. Looking at this movie, I instantly recognize this kind of terrain, with woods surrounding a small town, cabins and houses deep in the woods, in the middle of nowhere, and the way the surroundings look remind me so much of what it looks like around here during autumn. In fact, my father and his friends own a hunting cabin deep in the woods (it takes about an hour to drive out there) that looks a lot like The Evil Dead cabin, complete with a swing on the front porch, which is another fixture of this area. And since my house is in the woods a little bit, as well as because I like this type of isolated setting anyway, there are a number of things in this movie that do speak to me personally. If only I liked the movie more.

The biggest strike against The Evil Dead for me is the fact that the characters are complete morons and that the acting and lines are horrendous for the most part. I know you shouldn't expect Oscar-worthy performances in a low budget horror film with a bunch of people who'd never been in a movie before, and I can enjoy a lot of other movies where that is the case, but it really gets to me here. One thing that always irks me is when people don't respond to something the way they should and for me, that happens way too much here. For instance, when Cheryl first gets possessed and levitates up into the air while speaking in that demonic voice, afterward Linda says something along the lines of, "Did you see her eyes?" I'm thinking, "That's what struck you?!" And after she's been locked down in the cellar and is constantly banging on the underside of the hatch, Shelly starts saying stuff like, "Why does she keep making those horrible noises?" and, "Look at her eyes. Look at her eyes! For God's sake, what happened to her eyes?!" Again with the eyes. Why are the eyes the most shocking thing to you when you saw her levitate and become a full-on ghoul that stabbed one of your friends in the ankle?! Speaking of Cheryl, when she goes outside after the tape has been played and the demons have been revived, she says, "I know you're out there. I heard you. I heard you in the cellar!" What is giving you the idea that what you're hearing out in the woods is the same thing that you heard in the cellar earlier? And, again, some of the lines, including some that have become fan favorites, are just stupid to me. "We can't bury Shelly. She's a friend of ours." Was that supposed to be funny, because it wasn't to me. Or, "An animal? An animal? That is the stupidest thing I ever heard of!" Does that not sound like something you'd expect to hear in an Ed Wood movie? And finally, "I told you not to play the tape. You knew it was upsetting her. You just don't know when you're taking something too far." First of all, he's acting as if playing the tape made that tree branch crash through the cabin window (which may have been the case but still, he shouldn't have any cause to suspect that at this point), and second, Bruce Campbell's delivery there is awful. Believe me, I know how stupid and pretentious of me it is to complain about the acting in this kind of movie but, when you've got a group of brain-dead characters and dumb lines to go along with the poor acting, I'm not going to care about what happens to them and so, the gory mayhem is only going to excite me so much.

Here's major strike that the series at large has against it for me: I am not a fan of Bruce Campbell. I know he's the face of the franchise, he's a big cult film star, and the character of Ash is a beloved icon of the horror genre, but I've never really liked this guy. He's given good performances in some movies, with one of his best in my opinion being in the original Maniac Cop, I have enjoyed his appearances in Raimi's Spider-Man movies, and he has made me laugh in some interviews I've seen with him, but something about him kind of rubs me the wrong way, especially when I hear him being a prick to people at conventions and the like. I will say, though, that over the course of the Evil Dead movies, he does get better as an actor and manages to refine the character of Ash, whereas here, it's pretty rough. His acting, as I mentioned up above, isn't the best, and Ash doesn't have much of a character to him either, coming across as a, kind of funny but, mostly bland guy. On that note, it is interesting to look at the character that Ash would become in the following films, particularly in Army of Darkness, where he's a snarky, sarcastic action hero with lines like, "Gimme some sugar, baby," and then look at how he began as just another character in a small group. I'm guessing that's what Raimi was going for: make Ash a normal guy who gets thrown into this madness, endures a night of pure hell as his friends get possessed and he's forced to kill them, and is ultimately the last man standing. While I don't care much for the character himself here because I find him to be a bit bland and because of how rough some of Campbell's performance and lines are, I will admit that, during the film's last act when he's the only one left and is simply trying to survive the night, he does look like he's in fear for his life, is being put through the wringer, and has just about reached the end of his rope. I will give him props there and also note that he's far from my least favorite character.

That dubious honor goes to Scotty (Richard DeManincor, alias Hal Delrich), who's just an annoying dickhead. Everything about this guy, from his overly snarky attitude, his refusal to take anything seriously at first, and the way he seems to love picking on Cheryl and is completely dismissive of how freaked out she is, really get on my nerves (plus, that stupid line of his that I mentioned earlier never fails to make me just want to punch him square in the mouth). But even worse than all that is how, when the shit hits the fan and his girlfriend gets possessed, he doesn't hesitate in beating on her and hacking her to pieces. Granted, he did pull her out of the fireplace after he forced her down into it and killing the possessed is the only way to get rid of the demons but, at least Ash showed some true compassion and love his girlfriend when he was forced to kill her; Scotty doesn't even bat an eyebrow, as if Shelly meant nothing to him. Hell, she probably didn't, seeing as how he threatened to punch her when she made a remark about a joke he was telling early on. And finally, after that chaos is over, Scotty, once and for all, shows his true colors when he decides to abandon his friends and attempt to get away from the cabin. The blunt way he tells Ash that he doesn't care what happens to Linda just gets to me, to where, when I first saw it, I thought, "Wow, just as I thought: a douchebag." So, to hell with Scotty, and he didn't buy it nearly soon enough for me.

If there is someone in this movie whom I can say is my favorite, it's Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss), and that's for two reasons. One, she's the only one during the film's first quarter who realizes that there's something weird going on with the cabin and the surrounding woods, mainly because the evil forces target her specifically at first, and is sensible enough to want to get out while the getting is good. After she gets violated by the woods themselves and runs back to the cabin, she does the really smart thing and tells Ash, "I'm not staying here!" I don't know how she expected everyone to believe her story about being attacked by the woods themselves but at least she has enough sense to tell Ash to drive her back to town. The other reason I kind of like Cheryl is for the very notion that, for whatever reason, the evil spirits target her from the get go, forcing her to draw an image of the Book of the Dead on her drawing pad, freaking her out by moving the hatch that leads to the basement, and, of course, raping her in the forest with brambles and vines. Don't know why the demons went after her before anyone else, to the point where she's the first one to get possessed, but it did make me feel for her a bit, especially since you never see the real Cheryl again once she's taken over and her body ultimately disintegrates into a nasty mess at the end of the movie. (Plus, it also doesn't hurt that I like Sandweiss as a person in interviews. She's really entertaining to listen to.)

The other two women in the cast, Linda (Betsy Baker) and Shelly (Theresa Tilly, alias Sarah York), are interchangeable to me in terms of characterization. The only that's kind of memorable to me before they both become possessed is Linda, mainly because she's Ash's girlfriend and because of that moment where she and him play that game with their eyes, where he's acting like he's asleep as she tries to take this present for her out of his hand. That was a nice moment, actually, and I liked how Raimi called back to it later on when Ash is about to bury her, not realizing that she's not dead. Shelly, on the other hand, was the least memorable of the group to me before she got possessed because she did virtually nothing and, what's more, the only reason why she became more memorable to me after she got taken over is because of that long, drawn out death scream she gives off when she's been stabbed in the back and how, if you think about it, she's the only one who gets completely dismembered, per the instructions by the professor on the audio tape. And Linda, of course, is memorable once she's possessed as a result of that, "We're gonna get you," song she sings constantly, as well as her sing-song way of speaking in general. Personality-wise before they both get taken over, though, I'd really be struggling to come up with anything because they're so bland.

One of the best things the movie has going for it is the setting. Like I said earlier, I like movies that take place in very isolated, out of the way, environments, and this is definitely one of the prototypical examples of that genre. That cabin is a very cool, ominous setting for this type of movie, and I like how it has an air of menace about it as soon as they arrive, with just how far into the woods it is and that porch swing smacking against the wall and suddenly stopping when Scotty walks up to the front door. The best shot in the entire film to me is from the inside of the cabin when he first opens the door and the light pours in, illuminating that deer-head (which, if you look at it closely, doesn't seem quite right) on the wall and the fireplace, giving off an eerie atmosphere. Another thing about the cabin is just how rundown and raw the place looks, like it has been abandoned for years (which was the truth in reality), and it makes you wonder why anyone would want to go there voluntarily, let alone stay. As if the main part of the cabin wasn't ominous enough, you have the creepier, even more rundown, basement, with the constant sound of dripping water from the pipes and nary a lightbulb, as well as weird stuff like a film projector and a record player, which is to say nothing of the Book of the Dead, the dagger, and the tape recording of the incantation that resurrects the demons. And lastly, you have the tool shed, which looks downright ferocious and skin-crawling with all of those gritty power tools, including the chainsaw, and that slab that's big enough to hold a human body makes me wonder exactly what the place was used for before it was abandoned. So, if nothing else, I applaud the filmmakers for finding a really good location and it's a shame that the cabin burned down and only the chimney remains because it would have made for a nice, profitable tourist attraction.

The film's very look also helps with the atmosphere and the mood. 16mm always gives a more raw, gritty, and realistic feel, and that makes it easier for the movie to not only feel a little more real than it would otherwise (particularly like the following films) but also to have a really dark, grim aesthetic. The black spots on the screen seem to go a little darker than on normal film and, when you combine the picture quality with the often overcast sky during the brief daytime scenes, you already have something of a subtlely unpleasant feel even before the sun goes down. The picture quality also seems to fluctuate, sometimes looking very lush, while other times looking very dry and kind of muted color-wise, resulting in some scenes feeling warm and inviting and others much more cold and ominous. And no creepy-looking nighttime scenes in the woods would be complete without some thick fog, which Raimi always seems to be pumping into the shots, giving off something of a Grimm's fairy tale vibe.

Sam Raimi may have very little money to work with in his early films but that never stopped him from innovating with the camerawork and editing and The Evil Dead, despite having a meager budget of somewhere around $350,000 to $500,000, is definitely no exception. Like I said earlier, this is where I feel the film is able to overcome the shortcomings I think it has and really shine. The often talked about traveling POV shot, where the camera feels like it's either floating just above the ground or screeching through the woods while gracefully swerving around obstacles, is so effective and memorable and yet, was so simple to pull off by putting the camera on a plank of wood and having two people on either side to carry it around that it really shows how inventive Raimi is with that kind of stuff. Equally impressive is the camerawork you see during the climax, where the camera is either upside down, tilted at an angle and staying where it is while still panning with Ash as he runs by it, creating a rather odd visual, behind a swinging clock pendulum in a shot that frames Ash's face, rushing towards his face to frame it at an angle, or panning past some ceiling rafters with Ash as he walks in the room down below (complete with an inexplicable, "Wha, wha-wha," sound whenever it passes over a beam). Another good shot is the titled angle of the shadow of Scotty's hand creeping across a curtain, preparing to yank it back, which I know Raimi himself has said is his favorite shot in the film and I can't blame him for feeling that way. I also really like some of the stuff he does with the editing, like the really quick cuts combined with the often sharp close-ups on things to create montage, such as when Scotty knocks Cheryl down into the basement and, as he chains up the hatch, you see quick shots of his hand looping the chain through the latches, ending on a close-up of Scotty as he sits down, with Cheryl gently pushing him up and down from below. Another such sequence that comes to mind is when Ash straps Linda to that cutting block in the shed and prepares to dismember her with the chainsaw, composed of a number of quick close-ups of his hands latching the hooks on the chains, hoisting the block into place, turning on the saw, and holding the blade right above her. And finally, you have that nice play on Ash and Linda's eyes during that warm scene between them, which is brought back in a more sinister way later on when Ash attempts to bury his now possessed girlfriend.

Some of the visual gags and ideas that Raimi comes up with range from creative to downright sick. On the former side, you have stuff like the lightbulb filling up with blood (which I smile at as a nice, horror homage to a classic gag in one of the Three Stooges' best shorts, A Plumbing We Will Go), the film projector in the basement starting up in Ash's face and the light becoming red while blood drips on the lens as a record player starts playing a Dixieland tune, and the glass in a mirror inexplicably becoming water when Ash touches it (I still can't figure out how that pulled that off, although it was no doubt very simple). But, on the other hand, you have other stuff like the notorious rape by the forest. While it's not as graphic as you might think it is, that last zinger of the branch suddenly jamming itself into Cheryl's crotch is still like, "Oh, shit!" Fortunately, she manages to get away after that but still, wrong doesn't even begin to describe that idea. (It's funny, in looking for images for this review, I kept coming across that shot time and time again but I didn't think I should put in here because I might have gotten in deep trouble, so I settled for the shot right before it instead!) Just as sick is Shelly gnawing her own hand off after the wrist has been cut, which goes on for an excruciatingly long time (as do some other parts of this movie, as I'll get into later). And finally, you have the most disturbing idea in the whole film to me, which is how Ash is forced to beat on the girlfriend that he clearly has a fair amount of affection for when she's possessed and almost dismembers her with a chainsaw before deciding to just bury her. As if it wasn't messed up enough, she then rises up out of her makeshift grave and attacks Ash, forcing him to knock her head off, resulting in her headless body falling on top of him and squirting a big blob of gore onto his face. Just look at how their relationship is at the beginning of the movie and juxtapose it with this ending. Pretty demented stuff, right?

Given the low budget, the makeup designs for the possessed characters that Tom Sullivan created were pretty basic and crude, with latex and acrylic paint put on the actors' faces, which was a real pain to wear, and those big, glass contact lenses that were even worse, making the actors completely blind and to constantly be removed, but they get the job done. Each one of them is also unique to a specific character, with Linda having the most simple design, with discolored patches all over her face, along with gray-colored eye-lids and the blank eyes, while Cheryl's goes from also looking fairly basic when she's first possessed to suddenly becoming much more demonic when she's thrown down into the cellar, with her skin becoming haggard and gray, her hair turning gray, and blood constantly pouring out of her mouth. Shelly's demonic makeup, in the short time where she's taken over before she's dismembered, is nothing less than a nasty mess, with big chunks of flesh missing from her face and blue-colored veins creeping up her neck. I think my favorite of the makeups, though, is Scotty's because of how skeletal his face becomes, as well as how downright nasty he looks with that orange-colored skin and the similarly-colored eyes, the latter of which make the eye-gouging shot even more cringe-inducing for me. The voices of the demons are straight out of The Exorcist and have a very electronic feel to them, including those distant ones that say, "Join us," but regardless, I have mixed feelings about them. Sometimes, I can deal with them, but most of the time, their texture and sound really get on my nerves (which, even though I'm not a big fan of The Exorcist either, is something I've never felt about the demonic voice there), especially when they're yelling and wailing on and on, as often happens. The worst of all is Shelly's death scene, where she just keeps howling and howling for what feels like an eternity and I'm about ready to scream, "Shut up and die already!" Cheryl's taunting Ash from down in the basement, like, "Help her if you can, lover boy!", also irritates me, as does Linda's, "We're gonna get you. We're gonna get you," especially with her facial expressions. In case you can't tell, that's another strike against a movie for me if the monsters annoy me more than anything else.

If the demons make you think of The Exorcist, than the Book of the Dead, especially the drawings inside of it, and the mythology surrounding it feel like something that H.P. Lovecraft would come up with. I've always felt that the book itself looked better in this first film than it does in the sequels because of how crude and simple it looks, which it makes it feel more real, whereas in the other movies, the bigger budgets and higher sophistication of the materials made it feel more like a prop. It's akin to how Leatherface's mask in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre really looked a flayed off face that had been stitched up and had dried with age, whereas in the other movies, no matter how well-designed it was, it always looked too professionally-made to feel real. (Speaking of Leatherface, does a book made out of human flesh not sound like something he would make?) I really like the design of it here, with the pained, deteriorated face for the cover and the stretched, dried skin for its entire exterior, and the idea that everything within it is written and drawn in human blood is a pretty sick one as well. That dagger that Ash and Scotty find down there as well also looks like something straight out of Lovecraft, with the little, screaming skull on the back tip of the handle, the entire handle looking like it's made out of bone, and the sharp, refined-looking blade. While the makeup designs for the demons may have been pretty crude given the circumstances, Tom Sullivan was able to come up with some really cool props with the meager funds he had to create them (I've heard, though, that he can be quite a dick to anyone who creates a replica of the book, even if they're not planning to get any money out of it).

Innovative camerawork and editing, nice bits of atmosphere, and well-designed props aside, the all-around best thing that The Evil Dead has going for it is the copius amounts of thick, nasty gore throughout. While I don't agree with the person who told me that it was the bloodiest movie ever made, given some of the other movies I've seen over the years (particularly Peter Jackson's Dead Alive), it's definitely up there due to how ridiculously gruesome things get. You've got a really painful-looking stab in the ankle by a pencil, complete with the pencil digging around inside while blood oozes out; Scotty getting his face sliced open by the possessed Shelly; the long moment where Shelly bites off her own hand (a good-looking prop, as is the ankle used in the previously mentioned moment) before getting dismembered by Scotty; Scotty getting mangled off-camera and showing up looking like death on two legs; Linda licking some of Ash's blood off the dagger and spewing out some milk-like stuff when she gets stabbed in the back with it; and her head getting knocked off by a shovel, followed by the body falling on top of Ash and squirting blood all over his face. And that's all before the climax, which is where things get even crazier, with the cabin itself bleeding into lightbulbs, out of power sockets, onto a film projector, and the pipes in the basement filling up with blood before spilling it all out all over Ash. The final confrontation between Ash and the two remaining demons also gets pretty nasty, with Cheryl getting a chunk of her face blown off, Scotty's eyes getting gouged out as thick, syrupy blood pours of his sockets (that always makes me cringe), and the possessed being destroyed along with the book, their bodies melting and disintegrating into bloody, rotten messes and with Ash, even at this point, unable to avoid being sprayed with more gore. There's no telling how many gallons of karo syrup they went through while making the movie but I guess they figured if, nothing else, their movie would be remembered as being one of the juiciest ever made at that time.

Just as impressive as the gore are some well-done instances of physical effects and uses of animation. Cheryl getting attacked by the vines and branches in the woods is done really well, with a nice set of techniques that I'm sure include reverse photography, being used to make it look as if her clothes are being ripped off, her hands held to the ground, and her legs spread open by the plants (and do I need to say anything else that I haven't already said about the branch that swoops in to finish the job?) One really startling image is when Ash sees black, spider-web-like veins erupt out of the stab wound in Linda's ankle and quickly creep across the side of her leg right before she attacks him. I think that was done with simple animation one frame at a time and, like Greg Nicotero said in a documentary on the film, the way it looks here is much more unsettling than if it were done completely through CGI. Speaking of which, even more impressive than that is the stop-motion meltdown sequence at the end of the movie, showing Cheryl and Scotty's bodies fall apart and disintegrate before completely rotting. It's a very well-done, surreal, and nasty sequence that really hammers home the over-the-top, cartoonish nature of the film, particularly when the Book of the Dead comes to life as it's being burned and sticks out a long tongue, and is still quite a sight even by today's standards. There are a number of different stages to it as well, with the initial disintegration, a quiet pause to show some stuff like green-yellow goop oozing out of Scotty's sleeve, the demons' hands bursting out of the bodies, and then the actual rotting, complete with Cheryl's body falling and splattering Ash in the face. You know that it must have taken forever to pull that off and get it just right, especially with the little money they had, making it all the more impressive that it came out looking as good as it did.

As gory and gruesome as The Evil Dead is, though, I've always been surprised that, not only was it controversial, but that it caused enough of a stir to become a video nasty over in England and Sam Raimi almost had to defend it in court. The reason I feel that way is simply because I can't fathom how anyone took it seriously enough to get offended by it. Yeah, it's extremely gory, but it's so over-the-top and cartoonish, and also has such a strong supernatural angle to it, that, as others like Edgar Wright have said, it doesn't deserve to be lumped in with stuff like Cannibal Holocaust, I Spit On Your Grave, and Faces of Death. Raimi was almost even brought up on obscenity charges for the film, which I'm guessing more than likely stem from the tree rape scene, the one scene that Raimi himself regrets doing and is what prompted him to make the sequels less about horror and more about comedy. Other than that one scene (which, in and of itself, is not the worst rape scene ever put to film, sadly), though, I still find it hard to see why those kind of charges would be leveled against Raimi since, again, it's not like he was doing what Ruggero Deodato was and killing animals onscreen (maybe if you count him perhaps taking a bit too much glee in torturing his actors and putting them through a horrendous shooting experience, though). And apparently, the judge agreed and dropped the case, with Raimi not having to say a single word in court. It's really funny looking back at this furor and seeing how much things have changed over time, with The Evil Dead now often available at mainstream store-chains like Wal-Mart around Halloween (I've actually seen I Spit On Your Grave at Wal-Mart, which I never expected in a thousand years!)

Alright, even though I've been giving the film a lot of kudos at this point, I'm afraid we're going to end this review with some other, major complaints that I have which, combined with those I mentioned earlier, keep me from absolutely loving the film like so many others. One of them is something that I've touched on already, which is how some sequences feel very, very drawn out. I've already mentioned how excruciatingly long Shelly's death scene is, with her biting her hand and getting stabbed in the back with the dagger, and her wailing all the while before she's finally dismembered, but there are other scenes that go on just as long for me, like some of the really bad dialogue sequences (for instance, that moment where they're about to have dinner and Ash is trying to remember a toast a Greek friend of his once said), the attack scenes with the demons, particularly when Scotty is creeping around, looking for the possessed Shelly, and the bits with Linda and that song she sings, and, the scene that irritates me the most, the drawn-out sequence of Ash strapping Linda to the cutting block in the tool shed and preparing to cut her up, which ultimately leads to nothing. Yes, I know praised the editing in that scene and mentioned how sick the notion of it is but that only lasts so long for me, as do the rest of the props I have for the film, before I start to get antsy and wish that Raimi would move along, which he didn't in that case. It's weird. Even though the film is only 85 minutes long, I often find myself getting impatient and, dare I say, bored with it, to the point where, by the end, I've had more than enough.

Given the low budget, I was expecting Raimi to do what George Romero did with his early films and use a lot of library music for the score but, to my surprise, the film has an original score. But, that said, the score by Joe LoDuca, who has worked with Raimi and Bruce Campbell a number of times over the years, is another aspect of the film that doesn't do much for me. There are some memorable themes here and there, like the soft, ominous piece when they first arrive at the cabin and when Scotty unlocks the front, the church-organ-sounding piece when the hatch to the cellar suddenly flies open, the skittering, string piece during one of the first demon attacks, and, probably the best part of it, that Dixieland tune that starts playing in the cellar and is also heard during the ending credits, only to become gradually distant and echoing before fading to the sounds of flies buzzing (a nice, eerie touch, I might add), but for the most part, I don't remember much of the score. (In fact, there are some that I can't specifically think of now but I do remember them kind of getting on my nerves.)

In the end, The Evil Dead is a film that I can say I admire more than I like. There's no denying that Sam Raimi put a lot of thought and imagination into the film's construction and was able to overcome the limitations of the budget in order to create a lot of inventive camerawork and editing, some spectacularly nasty gore and makeup effects, and some well-executed special effects, as well as give the film some genuine moments of atmosphere due to the location. But, all that said, the movie is still very flawed, with some really dumb characters, less than stellar acting, and bad dialogue from the inexperienced cast, a plot that had been done many times before and more successfully in my opinion, long sequences where the film's good qualities quickly lose their luster and I'm sitting there wishing that Raimi would move on, monsters that I find more irritating than scary, and some music that's mainly either forgettable or just plain annoying. I know I'm in a small minority on this and I expect some flack but, again, I don't deny that the movie does have merit and I will say that it has more going for it than some other "cult classics" that I've seen (i.e. Madman). It's just that the flaws are too much for me to overlook. If you're one of its many fans, great. Continue to enjoy it. I, however, have other horror films made around the time of The Evil Dead than I enjoy much more and I think it's best I stick with them rather than try to force myself to like this, which I've kind of been doing since 2008.

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