“The Evil Dead”, or “Young Sam Raimi Is a Sick Dude” by Caitlin McGrane

Posted on May 12, 2013

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So, The Evil Dead. It’s been re-made very recently by Fede Alvarez, and has received some not-so rave reviews, which is odd given that the original director (Sam Raimi) is one of the producers of the new one. My favourite film critic, Mark Kermode, recommended that listeners to his show should watch the original for it’s classic appeal, and reject the new version. Apparently the remake is far nastier, and has a far less playful feel. As a non-horror fan, I have taken Mr Kermode’s advice. I must start off by saying that it is very weird. Like, real weird. Made in 1981 on a miniscule budget, the film has become something of a ‘cult classic’. Kermode has quoted Raimi as having said that his intention was to create a horror-comedy in the style of The Three Stooges, but with blood and guts substituted for custard pies. He doesn’t disappoint.

Horror pastiche

Horror pastiche

The film opens with the five characters, Scotty (Hal Delrich), Ash (Bruce Campbell), Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss), Linda (Betsy Baker) and Shelly (Sarah York) in a car on the way to an isolated cabin. Things begin ominously; with smoke rising from various parts of the wood as the car narrowly avoids hitting an oncoming vehicle. They eventually make it to the cabin and then shit gets real. They find a “Book Of The Dead” and a tape recording of some demonic incantations.

What follows is the deterioration into hellish possession for nearly all the characters, including one particularly infamous scene involving Cheryl and a tree. When asked about this particular scene, Raimi is supposed to have said something to the effect of “It was the product of a childish imagination… mine.” Indeed, the film came under great scrutiny when it was released and was almost banned under the Obscene Publications Act in the UK and was considered a “Video Nasty”. The lack of CGI special effects are really noticeable (in a good way) because it serves to ramp up the outlandish craziness.

It seems to me that what makes The Evil Dead such a successful film is that it is almost a pastiche of the horror genre, and knows when it’s being ridiculous. Raimi seems to take those moments and run with them, thus creating some fabulously outrageous scenes. I’m not a horror fan by any stretch of the imagination, and I laughed pretty much the entire time. I had a friend come round halfway through and he spent the rest of the film basically like that .gif of Martin Freeman: “What the fuck is that?”

The Evil Dead is probably best enjoyed in the company of friends. On my own it felt weird to be laughing as Cheryl goes berserk with a pencil, or contemplating just the sheer amount of blood that gets thrown around. Maybe invent a drinking game where every time you see a horror film cliché you have to take a drink? You’ll be hammered within about 20 minutes. It’s gross, it’s splattery and it’s good fun.

Caitlin McGrane is You’re Dripping Egg’s resident film reviewer. Her column, Here. Hare. Here. is released every Friday.

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