I am making my way to thirty-one horror films in October and decided to rewatch the Evil Dead Trilogy. There are many great things to love about the Evil Dead Trilogy. Each film does some great stuff, and despite the continuity being reset in each of the sequels, the trilogy is one that holds a special place in my heart. While most people latch on to the awesomeness that is Bruce Campbell’s comedy in Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness, the first film is the best example of Sam Raimi’s abilities as a filmmaker.
Evil Dead is a great example of Raimi’s work
The opening moments of the first film and the evil that follows is one of the scariest film experiences I’ve had in recent years. The sequence I’m referring to begins with the shot from the cabin that depicts the porch bench swing slamming rhythmically into the wall. The framing of that shot features the bench in the foreground that slowly reveals the five characters standing in the background as it continues to slam into the wall. As the scene moves on and Scott (Richard DeManincor) goes to find the keys, the swing continues its haunting beating on the wall. When it suddenly stops once Scott puts the key in the door, the tone is established that this will not be a fun weekend getaway.
Then there is a scene with Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss) drawing the clock. The variety of shots that Raimi uses in this scene, including the POV from inside the clock, are masterful. The rapid editing and close-ups that lead to her hand being possessed and sketching the book of the dead is intense and as scary to the viewer as it is to Cheryl.
The movie is full of scenes like this, and I think this fact is often overlooked. It’s understandable why so many latch onto the sequels. They’re fun, silly and Campbell’s campy style really elevates the character of Ash compared to his fairly subtle and heartbreaking performance in the first film. There is no wise-cracking in the first film, but his acting chops are tested as he endures some terrifying events while losing his loved ones – a test that Campbell passes expertly.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the sequels as much as I love the first one… however, I think the first one may be my favorite horror movie. It genuinely scares me and disturbs me on numerous occasions. The hopelessness I feel throughout the film regarding any one of the characters making it out alive only deepens the fear. Yet, Ash survives, but it is not without much sacrifice. It’s definitely a film that deserves to be held in high regard at the power of creative filmmakers and dedicated friends. I give Evil Dead (1981), Evil Dead II (1987), and Army of Darkness (1992) the Must See rating.