September 1, 2016
The Evil Dead (1981)
Grade: 59/100

Director: Sam Raimi
Stars: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Betsy Baker

What it's about. Five college students vacation in a cabin in the remote woods. They are Ash (Bruce Campbell), his sister Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss), his girlfriend Linda (Betsy Baker), plus Scott (Richard DeManincor) and Shelly (Theresa Tilly).

Because it is a movie, they encounter the Book of the Dead in the cellar, along with a reel-to-reel recording that summons demons to life. The women are possessed first, and become murderous, cackling creatures wearing garish pancake makeup. They must be dismembered to be stopped, but not before they inflict severe damage on Scott and Ash. Scott also becomes possessed, but as the director's best friend, Ash is spared until the final shot.

How others will see it. Made on a shoestring budget by Raimi and Campbell, who were barely in their twenties and had to assume high interest loans to complete the editing. The film was distributed by Irvin Shapiro, who had made a mint on the original Night of the Living Dead.

The Evil Dead soon acquired notoriety, due to its lurid scenes and grotesque special effects. The video release was in demand worldwide. The movie was banned in Germany, and heavily edited in other countries. Everywhere, it made lots of money, and became a favorite of sadists and horror aficionados.

Bruce Campbell went on to become a successful actor, especially on television. Sam Raimi had yet greater success, directing the first three Spider-Man films and also raking it in with the 1990s "Zena" and "Hercules" syndicated series.

And of course there were sequels to The Evil Dead, including two movies, one of which was quite good, as well as an exploitative television series, "Ash vs. Evil Dead", starring Bruce Campbell and former Xena Lucy Lawless.

Today at, the original 1981 movie has a huge 142K user votes. I expected a wide gender spread, but men favor it by only a 7.6 to 7.3 margin. Women over 45 also grade it 7.3, and probably yuck it up as much as do teenage boys as the college girls turn into wild-eyed demons.

How I felt about it. As can be said for the film careers of both Campbell and Raimi, this is not a movie to be taken seriously. It can only be viewed as a comedy. True, one has to get past the early, boring scenes, until Shelley makes the monumentally bad decision of wandering into the haunted woods alone at night.

Both Raimi and Campbell put everything they had into the movie, and as cheap indie horror films go, it is somewhere in between The Blair Witch Project and the original Night of the Living Dead. That is, it isn't bad, and it isn't seminal. The young filmmakers managed to make a pretty good movie out of what should have been a real stinker.

Reading the goofs section at, there is a laundry list of small things that went wrong, but what went right is the movie's feel. The demons are confident that they will kill all five students, and take their time doing so, enjoying the process. Scott and Ash are repulsed by what they must do to survive, but the rules have changed for them, and everything is fair game.