It’s that time of the year again. The month of October is upon us. So to celebrate, we at Full Circle Cinema put together another curated, month-long series with Screen Screams. This year, we will be checking our clocks as we wait in anticipation for the forbidden delight we call “the midnight movie”. And with midnight movies comes a variety of projects that are perhaps too niche for the masses. Today, we take a look at the film that put Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell on the map: The Evil Dead.
There’s a certain type of film that always strikes me with awe and fills me with admiration. The kind made with the smallest budget and the most passionate people. With films like Brick, for example, they are just filled to the brim with creative passion and the need to make something great no matter the circumstances. Take all of those components and you get an incredible independent film. That is the case for The Evil Dead, the first film from Sam Raimi. Once called “the ultimate experience in grueling terror”, The Evil Dead was made on a shoestring budget, using a proof of concept short film made by Raimi and friends to get financing for what would soon become a feature-length The Evil Dead. Scrounging up whatever money and resources they could, the production of The Evil Dead alone is an admirable one.
Moreover, the film is of the highest quality when it comes to horror. The Evil Dead takes its time with its setup, which is surprising considering its runtime. The film lets the viewer really settle in the atmosphere with the characters. When things start going though, expect full-tilt horror and gore that was extremely innovative for its time.
The Evil Dead revolves around a group of friends who go to spend the weekend at a cabin in the woods. Their trip takes a turn for the worst with the discovery of a “book of the dead”. Not long after their discovery, they accidentally summon unspeakable evils. As they’re slowly either taken possession of or picked off one by one, the film leaves just Ash (Campbell). The story is as bare-bones as it gets, while still delivering on scares and horrors with creative practical effects. The Evil Dead embraces its campiness to the fullest, and much of what would become a staple of Raimi’s filmography has its origins here.
The film as a whole is a headstrong plunge into the manic cabin in the woods horror. Part Texas Chainsaw in its macabre scare and part looney tunes with some the line delivery, it is a unique film. While future installments of the series would go on to embrace the more campy side of things, The Evil Dead is the only film in the series to truly embrace the horror genre more than anything else. That’s in no small part thanks to the low budget. Add to that the fact that this is Raimi’s first feature, and you understand the leaning towards horror.
In the era of ‘video nasties’, The Evil Dead stood out from the rest. The campy spirit of the film helped to bolster some lackluster effects. Moreover, the innovative camera work makes for some of the most impressive shots in the series. The POV camera that rushes at whoever the evil wants to consume was quite innovative back in 1979. And even now, it has not lost one bit of impact. Overall, The Evil Dead makes for an incredibly fun and terrifying watch. The film had everything going against it in terms of production and budget. But the sheer creativity and determination form those involved helped elevate the film to the status it now has. The Evil Dead sits comfortably as an inspiration for so many films after it, and helped define the genre. – Ernesto Valenzuela
The Evil Dead is available to stream on HBO Max.