Horror has a history, and within that history are certain key points that determined the direction in which it would take and ultimately, whether it would survive censorship. Video nasties from the 80’s were integral to the evolution of horror movies and one such video nasty is The Evil Dead.
It needs little introduction really. Banned for containing some graphic scenes and then released under the radar in other incarnations by bootleggers, this is as synonymous with the era of the video nasty as moonshine was to prohibition in the US.
The Evil Dead tells the tale of 5 friends who go to stay in a log cabin in a remote wooded area – yes, nothing new to us nowadays, but back in the 80’s this was still a completely viable horror location.
There’s something strange about the place and when the friends discover a trapdoor to the basement, they find an odd looking old book and a tape machine.
Inevitably they listen to the tape (well you would wouldn’t you?) but this has terrible consequences as the voice recites from the ‘Book of the Dead’ which turns out to be a manual for summoning demons.
Soon after murderous evil spirits possess members of the group and what follows it a horrible, bloody night of terror.
Those of you who have seen Evil Dead 2 (but not the first) will think that this plot sounds identical. In truth, it’s pretty much the same story.
Due to The Evil Dead‘s reputation, it’s far more likely that you’ll have seen the sequel. It is great in its own right, with improved effects, aruably an improved story and comedy elements which ultimately make it less scary but generally more entertaining.
Oh, plus it wasn’t banned.
But it was the success of the first that made the (what is essentially) re-imagining possible and when you consider the tiny budget and limited resources that were available for the original film, the end product seems all the more amazing.
The Evil Dead was made way before CGI and many of the special effects and equipment were made on-the-fly for specific purposes during the film.
Okay so it looks pretty bad in places (the high definition blu ray perhaps makes the imperfections even more glaringly obvious) but when you consider how these results were achieved, you can’t help but be impressed.
And it’s also clear to see that many of the techiques and shots used have been employed in many films since. It has no doubt had an ongoing influence on the horror genre.
If nothing else, it can serve as a tutorial on how to make a bloody good horror film. Any aspiring directors producers should take note (as it seems that many have lost the plot).
The various elements just slot together seemlessly: sound effects, soundtrack, visual effects, acting, story…
And of course, eductional and historical value aside, this is a great old horror movie. One of the best.
You have the genre-defining boxes ticked with secluded location, group of teens and an unseen force that makes them turn on one another.
The effects, although seriously dated are quite excellent and still horrible enough to affect even the hardest modern horror enthusiast.
The dialogue is kept to the essentials; the acting, although a little hammy, is convincing when it counts and the imagination behind the scenarios means that you are never sure which direction the film is going to take.
If you haven’t seen The Evil Dead, you should make doing so a priority. And if you are already a fan of this artifact of horror history you owe it to yourself to grab it in its purest form – on high definition format!