The Evil Dead (1981)
PLOT: Five friends travel to a cabin in the woods, where they unknowingly release flesh-possessing demons.
What happens when you get some kids who are fans of The Three Stooges, some cameras, and a lot of fake blood? We're about to find out. A very minimal start to the movie, with what looks like someone just randomly running around with a camera in the middle of the woods. Then, a group of young adults heading to a cabin in the woods nearly get into a wreck with a tow truck. You'll note the usage of Dutch angles and weird POVs. What I'm trying to say is this is clearly a Sam Raimi movie. We're shown the various locations we'll be seeing in the movie, and right away, weird shit happens and the audience is made aware that this place is fucking weird, people are being controlled by outside forces, and there is something in the basement. I can appreciate the lack of bullshit here. Just getting straight to the point.
Down in the cellar, the men find a strange book. It has a face, and inside are bizarre drawings of monsters and skulls and eye balls. Totally metal. There's also a weird dagger next to it. Ash finds a tape that belonged to an archaeologist, about his excavations of Kandahar and the Sumerian book of the dead. Bound in human flesh, inked in human blood, it deals with demons and resurrections. The tape keeps playing, and the archaeologist read some incantations, which gets things wonky. It's been kind of boring, and almost like you're watching an amateur film. Then a tree rapes a girl. I'm not going to gif a tree ripping a girl's clothes off, very exploitative tit and crotch shots, then a branch punching her in the clam. It's some seedy shit, especially since this seems like something shot with a slightly better than consumer grade camera.
The tree chases her back to the cabin, where of course no one believes that a tree just raped her. But she convinces Ash to take her back to town. Surprise surprise, the bridge is out. And now she's a deadite, stabbing with pencils, throwing people around. They're able to get her locked in the cellar, so there's that. Whatever is out in the woods is coming for the cabin. Everything is from its perspective, so you never actually see what it is. It's obviously some kind of demonic creature possessing people. The most impressive thing about this movie is Bruce Campbell's bumping abilities.
So one of the other girls gets possessed, and you think they kill her with the Kandaharian dagger, but all she does is scream for 2 minutes straight, then spits up milk, then comes back to life and gets chopped up with an ax by the guy who isn't Ash, because Ash is kind of a timid little pussy.
Ash is left in the house with his girlfriend and other buddy is now possessed or dying or crazy, and they're all trying to drive Ash crazy. It seems to be working. The trick that works the best is to go from deadite back to the normal person, then SWERVE and go back to the deadite when you aren't looking. There's some classic Raimi rhythmic cuts, and the movie has improved a lot just being focused on Ash instead of all the other people. Ash is now forced to go from timid to bad ass just to stay alive. He still can't bring himself to cut his girlfriend's head off, though. Well, until he's forced to, at least.
The last 20 minutes or so are basically Raimi's demo reel, being comprised of nothing but his weird camera angles and editing that would become his trademarks. Actually, the whole movie is. The book of the dead is thrown into the fire, the deadites melt, and Ash is safe. OR IS HE?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?
The book of the dead is thrown into the fire, the deadites melt, and Ash is safe. OR IS HE?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?
This is not a good movie. It certainly doesn't stand the test of time, but there is plenty of low budget trash that you can overlook based on its strengths. This is watchable entirely on Bruce Campbell's charisma and likability (which only comes into play starting about half way through the movie) and Sam Raimi's inventive camera work and editing. You can forgive a low budget movie for not being great, especially in horror, if they at least have an original idea and inventiveness. A haunted house mixed with almost The Exorcist style possessions is not particularly original or inventive. This movie was young people testing out the limits of their creativity and skills, and as such should be looked at as more of a home movie released to the public. You can see the flashes of where the series goes (in fact, many shots are repeated outright in the next two films, but played for laughs), where Raimi's style would go, and Bruce Campbell's likability shining through.
But the movie itself has characters you care nothing about outside of Ash, a story about as basic as can be, ultra low budget effects that rely on shocking gore that isn't all that shocking because of how cheaply made it had to be. I won't say it is outright bad, but it isn't far away from that. Certainly not a classic of the genre or even the series.