The Evil Dead (1981)

the evil dead poster 1981 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 8/10

Intense, non-stop action

Low budget sometime shows

Movie Info

Movie Name: The Evil Dead

Studio: Renaissance Pictures

Genre(s): Horror

Release Date(s): October 15, 1981

MPAA Rating: R

evil dead movie possessed demon

I really need a neck massage

A group of friends decide to take a nice weekend camping trip to an isolated cabin in the woods.  Ash (Bruce Campbell), his sister Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss), their friend Scott (Richard DeManincor), Scott’s girlfriend Shelly (Theresa Tilly), and Ash’s girlfriend Linda (Betsy Baker) think that a weekend will be a relaxing break until they discover the Naturom Demonto and a recording in the cellar of the cabin.  The Book of the Dead unleashes something in the woods and that something is hungry for flesh.  Now, the campers are finding themselves fighting for their lives and hoping they can see the dawn.

Written and directed by Sam Raimi, The Evil Dead is a low-budget horror movie.  Based off of Rami, Campbell, and Robert Tapert’s short film Within the Woods, the movie gained a cult audience and spawned a franchise.

I first saw The Evil Dead in high school.  Watching it, the movie left a big “what the hell?” question in my head and pre-internet, the only option was to rush out and rent Evil Dead 2…which didn’t help answer anything.  The low-budget movie is one of those movies that shows that even with a little budget, amateur actors, and a small crew that a fun and creepy movie can succeed.

evil dead dissected body

Friends don’t chopped up friends

The tone of The Evil Dead is the hardest thing to lock down about the movie.  Often marketed as a horror comedy or sometimes even a black comedy, the first film is much less comedic than the sequels which almost parody events in the first movie.  Regardless of the state of the sequels, there is a lot of humor in The Evil Dead as the characters hack and slash their way through demonically possessed former friends in a bloody mess.  It does have jumps, but it is a great movie to watch with friends.

Some of the laughs are a bit unintentional due to the acting.  The cast is really young and you can see a lack of experience in how to handle big emotional scenes.  As scream queens, Ellen Sandweiss, Betsy Baker, and Theresa Tilly aren’t bad, but any drama is a challenge.  Richard DeManincor is the most forgettable of the bunch and that is largely due to Bruce Campbell’s survivor “Ash” which became a cult figure as well (more so due to the sequels).  Campbell doesn’t have the snappy one liners that made the character famous in this version and his acting chops aren’t quite where they need to be to keep the dramatic aspects.

evil dead ash bruce campbell

Ash is not having a good weekend

The movie had a whopping budget topping off around $400,000 which made the millions the film created in revenue one of the most successful independent films.  The film is sloppy and gory and combines modern practical effects with things like stop motion and more classic movie techniques.  The result is a strange moving movie that began to define Raimi’s style of shooting.

The Evil Dead is now a classic.  With sequels, comic books, remakes, and a spinoff TV series, the movie has grown from a small movie that could to its own legacy.  People who are really in touch with things like Ash vs. Evil Dead or Army of Darkness might have problems going back to this older, gorier film with less outright humor (especially since Evil Dead II essentially remakes the movie in its opening sequences), but if you are a fan of horror, The Evil Dead is a must.  The Evil Dead was followed by Evil Dead 2:  Dead by Dawn in 1987 and the movie had a soft-reboot in 2013.

Related Links:

Evil Dead 2:  Dead by Dawn (1987)

Army of Darkness (1992)

Evil Dead (2013)

Ash vs Evil Dead—Season 1 Review and Complete Episode Guide

Ash vs Evil Dead—Season 2 Review and Complete Episode Guide

Ash vs Evil Dead—Season 3 Review and Complete Episode Guide

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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