Anyone who knows me personally knows I have a bit of a beef with horror films. I went to film school for college, and in-between classes, we would of course be trying to make films of our own. So, what would be the easiest and cheapest kind of film for a film school student to try and make? Horror films. There were so many horror films that were made during my tenure there that I pretty much grew sick of the whole genre as a result, and thus my viewings of horror films, even from the list, have been done with much trepidation and a weary heart. It’s probably this reason that it’s taken me so long to get to The Evil Dead, even with having seen it before; even though it’s been a while, I still remember the cheese and camp factor that came with this one. Well, whether it was merely the healing salve of time, or that I was merely in a good mood tonight, I don’t know, but my rewatch of the original Evil Dead was actually quite enjoyable.
If you’re familiar with the genre of horror in the last 20-30 years or so, you already know the plot to this: five teens/young adults head to a cabin in the wilderness for a weekend, where they end up unleashing demons who possess them and prompt lots of killing and bloodshed. Par for the course, but it needs to be mentioned that all the rest of the films that would invoke this same style of plot and would run the same course did so because Sam Raimi designed the course to begin with; to not realize the contribution and influence that The Evil Dead made to the genre is to, at this point, be willfully ignorant. Now, that being said, it’s still pretty hard to be genuinely scared when the film itself doesn’t take itself all that seriously. All the campiness and cheese factor that I remembered was definitely still there, but probably amplified now that hordes of wannabes have followed in its wake. Even with the technicals, this film is not at all concerned with its seams showing. Elements of the production are introduced and utilized exactly when, and most if not all of the film is highly telegraphed, even to 1980s horror standards. There were still a few notable things that popped out at me other than the undead demonically possessed youngsters; the camerawork was, for such a low budget feature, quite exceptional, having a great number of standout shots throughout the film, including notable use of the POV shot, especially the now-iconic closing shot. The effects, on the other hand, haven’t dated very well, particularly the stop-motion effects used in the climactic sequence. But hey, given the extreme camp factor, this can even add to the experience if you’ve got the right mindset for it.
The horror genre aside, I’m actually a little surprised how much I liked this, even after having seen it before, albeit a very long time ago. It basically stands for everything that I find disagreeable with the state of horror films today, but that’s because it was such a game-changer that the genre itself evolved to copycat the film in damn near every way, and so after a decade or two of the same it just became, to someone like me, unbearable. This was a good example of my philosophy of watching films as if I were watching it for the first time in the year it was first released, a philosophy that is admittedly hard to follow at times, but the camp factor of The Evil Dead was so high that to see it any other way would be to see it as just another of the kind of horror films that I laid out as being unbearable to someone like me. This is right up there with Halloween and the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, though it is up there for different reasons, but it has certainly earned its spot in the annals of horror film lore, as well as its slot on the list.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10