I’m about to incur the wrath of millions of Bruce Campbell fans when I say this, but the original version of The Evil Dead is not a good movie. Sure, The Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness are classic horror comedies, but The Evil Dead was cheap-looking and seemingly ignorant of how silly it was. It’s hardly the sacred horror cow that its fans make it out to be.
For these reasons, perhaps I’m approaching Evil Dead (without the “The”) free from the leering skepticism I’ve seen elsewhere. The result, as I see it, is a movie that gleefully plays with its characters in much the same way that killer whale plays with a seal before devouring it… only with Evil Dead, the movie doesn’t do its characters the mercy of eating them… that would be too easy and not eeeevil enough.
Evil Dead is a story of teenagers in a remote cabin getting tortured and killed in various grisly ways after finding a book that was tied up with black plastic and barbed wire with writing that says “Do not read from this book.” You would think that would serve as sufficient warning, but no… these must be the only teenagers in the history of anything to read a book not only when it wasn’t required, but also when it was strictly forbidden!
As a result, the minions or hell or another dimension or forest spirits or something begins to possess and torture them one by one.
Stupid teenagers. Should have left the book alone!
But seriously, the plot of Evil Dead could fill a thimble, but the sheer brutality of it all is undeniable. The characters in this movie are quite literally tortured and, whether you like them or not, you can’t help but feel sorry for them when they are stabbed in the eye with a needle or are forced to cut their faces off with shards of broken glass.
The best thing about this movie is that the characters are actually likable folks for the most part and, even if they aren’t people you would have as your best friend, I think that you could at least agree that they don’t deserve their fates. Perhaps that is the strength of Evil Dead? Bad things happen to good people? Really bad things. Bad, horrible, evil, sadistic things.
The atmosphere of the movie is incredibly well done. There are sets in the movie that you can almost smell the rotting stench of through the screen. Just another way that Evil Dead keeps you uncomfortable and puckering.
Evil Dead knows when to pay homage to its predecessor, but also knows when to deviate for its own sake. Sure, I would have liked to have seen a bit more humor in its frenzied malevolence and the final boss battle is incredibly disappointing after such an impressive build up, but this is a good old fashioned splatterfest that grants no mercy to its characters or to the audience. You’ll be watching this movie and wincing at the same time and wondering to yourself why you are finding it so darned fun.