The Evil Dead – Sam Raimi – A bunch of college kids go to a cabin and, on finding a ‘book of the dead’ and a creepy old tape player, accidently summon evil spirits. Isolated in the deceptively expansive (on the inside) cabin they are possessed, turning one by one into hilariously cheap incarnations of the undead.
What makes this an enduring cult classic (I imagine) is the plucky relish and confidence with which Sam Raimi, and the cult worshipped Bruce Campbell, tackle the genre in this DIY labour of love. Yes: it is clearly cheap. Yes: it is clearly very tongue in – mutilated - cheek. And yes, the acting is god-awful. But, for a genre that survives through the undying obsession of its fans, the palpable enthusiasm throughout The Evil Dead is what both endears the film and elevates it beyond its, frankly ridiculous and inept nature, to a celebratory glory of laughable horror.
All the flaws, traditions and structure of horror cliché are enjoyably emulated and mocked by the young cast and filmmakers (all around the age of 20 when the film was made). Whether this includes rushing into dangerous situations without need, while simultaneously further destroying any shred of realism through a hysterical monologue (who is she talking to? She is on her own! Etc), or whether in the age-old horror convention of an obligatory boob shot – the comedy horror is consistent, silly and admirably clumsy. Listening to Bruce Cambell’s film commentary provides the perfect companion, there is no confusion over whether we should laugh or not as he relates the importance of his ‘method acting’- after we have witnessed a glorious example of ‘amdram’ incompetence.
There are also a couple of interesting sidenotes (known, I’m sure, back to front by forum frequenting, ardent cult fans)- for example: Raimi used a recorded sample from Orson Welle’s classic The Third Man, to provide diegetic noises of atmospheric wind. The film also ends with a brilliant plasticine animated demise; skulls rot and bodies explode – all via the painstaking, frame-by-frame technique of animation. A fittingly DIY end to this budget banquet of continuity errors, tubes of spurting blood, hammy acting and cheerfully executed lo-fi horror comedy. Without a surplus of sophistication, atmosphere or funding, and without the burden of a well-written script or carefully considered plot – this is instead, unbridled, unashamed and technically terrible- and therein lies its enduring strength. It’s fun. Oh yeh, and there is also a scene in which a girl is raped by a tree…naturally. So, with its crown of arboreal violation, The Evil Dead was bound for cult success! 8/10