“Kill her if you can, loverboy.”
The Evil Dead may not have invented the cabin in the woods trope, and I wouldn’t even say that it perfected it, but God is this movie fun. Sam Raimi starts his career at the height of lunacy, with Evil Dead and even more-so the sequel, throwing horror tropes and sharp comedic timing into a crockpot of crazy. I think these movies are considered dated or derivative, but there are few horror movies that have nearly as much fun as this twisted classic.
The film follows a group of friends spending the night in an old log cabin in a far-out forest. They read an evil incantation from a journal they find in the basement, and it awakens evil spirits which aim to possess any living thing they can get in their clutches. The group is led by Ash (Bruce Campbell), the only one with the slightest survival skills. Ash faces the evil spirits head-on in a comedic, action-packed horror countdown to see who can survive until morning.
I mentioned recently that I love clean horror: when the setup is so simple that it seems nonexistent and you only remember the movie for its meat. Evil Dead and its first sequel are some of the meatiest horror movies ever made. This is a movie of heroes versus spirits, and this conflict is written and photographed with such joy that you can’t help grinning from ear to ear. This movie is scarier than the others, likely because it’s the least comedic, but the balance is still wildly entertaining, and loose ends are tied up beautifully while setting up the sequel in a quick, exciting way.
I also love the mood that Evil Dead builds from the opening shot. The camera is used for clunky but engaging POV shots of the spirits moving through the forest. Every scene is photographed in a similar way: indicating a young director with some lessons to learn but a tremendous amount of gusto and ambition. There’s no hesitation with The Evil Dead, and in a genre where hesitation is perhaps the biggest problem facing the landscape, this nearly 40-year-old film is a breath of fresh air.
It’s worth reiterating that The Evil Dead isn’t among the most well-crafted horror movies, but I think it’s among the best for how much enthusiasm it brings from start to finish. There’s nary a dull moment in this movie. It feels electric and sinister, imbued by some evil steroid that never lets it hit the breaks. And for that, I truly love it.
Films Left to Watch: 844