“The Evil Dead” chops the Daily Horror Movie up with a chainsaw

Claire Gordon

For movie buffs, the month of October means one thing: 31 days of horror movies. With tons of horror flicks to choose from, The Daily Texan is going to be providing a daily horror recommendation. Whether you prefer ghosts, zombies or stark explorations of the human condition, we’ll be featuring horror films of all flavors. Check back every evening for the movie of the day. Today, we revisit Sam Raimi’s horror classic “The Evil Dead.” 

When I was 17, I accidentally watched “The Ring.” I was terrible with scary movies, and sure enough, I couldn’t sleep for weeks. I even moved the TV out of my room, and this was when a TV weighed approximately 5,000 pounds. Since then, I have watched exactly one horror movie, and that is only because my evil overlords at The Daily Texan have ordered — or, more truthfully, politely asked — me to do so, and that movie was “The Evil Dead.”

 “The Evil Dead” is the 1981 film that became a cult hit, made for next-to-nothing and making director Sam Raimi and star Bruce Campbell into household names. It then spawned two sequels and a reboot. It’s the type of horror movie that even I can get into, not plausible enough to be frightening, gory enough to satisfy and delightfully overacted in an earnest sort of way. It’s also old enough that I’m going to put in spoilers, because it’s been out for 32 years and if you get mad, then you need a new hobby.

The story is the usual horror plotlin: Five friends in a remote area accidentally summon the dead using a Sumerian version of the Book of the Dead, and Ash (Campbell) must dismember everyone, even his girlfriend, if he hopes to get out alive.  It’s a slow start, but once the blood starts flowing, it never lets up. 

After a slightly odd scene where Ash’s sister Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss) gets possessed by a demon and sexually assaulted by a tree, all hell breaks loose — demons are possessing everyone except Ash and it’s time for some good, old fashioned blood and gore. Torn between killing or becoming a crazy demon himself, Ash uses a shovel, hatchet, conveniently found Sumerian skull dagger and shotgun against the resilient hell spawn. After chucking the book in the fire, Cheryl and bestie Scotty (Hal Delrich) die in a spectacular claymation sequence and dawn breaks. Ash walks out of the cabin to presumably begin a new life, somewhere really far away where no one will wonder where his four friends went.

In the last minute of the film, Raimi throws a wrench into the works and reveals that Ash didn’t triumph against evil, the demons are still after him. As the camera races to a close-up of his screaming face, the movie ends. It’s a really gutsy move to end with a cliffhanger like that, especially with a movie that is in no way guaranteed to lead to a sequel. 

The special effects were done on a tight budget, but Raimi put in as much gore as possible, leading the movie to be banned in England due to graphic content. “The Evil Dead” is over the top in every aspect with campy acting, strange camera angles and buckets of blood, but it all meshes together into a great flick. I can’t give any horror movie higher praise than to say I can’t wait to watch the sequel, “Evil Dead II.”