The Evil Dead

Released:  1981

Cast:  Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Hal Delrich, Betsy Baker, Sarah York

SUMMARY:  During spring break, five students from Michigan State University decide to stay at an isolated cabin in the woods.  In the group, there are two men:  Ash (Bruch Campbell) and Scotty (Hal Delrich), and three women:  Ash’s girlfriend Linda (Betsy Baker), his sister Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss), and Scotty’s girlfriend Shelly (Sarah York).  On the way to the cabin, their car nearly runs into an oncoming truck when Scotty (the driver) is not paying attention; when they cross a bridge later, it begins to collapse as they are on it.  The cabin itself is rundown and extremely isolated, making all of the students a little uneasy.  That night, Cheryl is sitting in the living room drawing the clock on the wall when it suddenly stops.  At the same time, her hand starts moving involuntarily and draws a face.  The event soon stops, and Cheryl decides that she was just imagining things; as such, she doesn’t say anything to the other members of the group.  Later as everyone is eating, the cellar door (a trapdoor in the floor of the living room) flies open on its own.  Despite the pleadings of the girls, Scotty goes downstairs to check things out.  When he fails to come back quickly, Ash also goes down.  In the cellar, the boys find a tape and a player, along with an old book.  They bring everything upstairs, and start listening to the tape.  The recording was made by a man who once stayed at the house, and had found the book.  He reveals that it is a Sumerian version of the Book of the Dead, bound in human skin and written in human blood.  He also reads some of the chants in the book – unbeknownst to the group, this actually unleashes great evil.  Due to the pleadings of the girls, the tape is shut off at this point, but Ash later finishes listening to it.  Just after they stop the tape, a tree branch comes crashing through the cabin window.  Cheryl is thoroughly spooked, and decides to go to bed.  However, before going to sleep she believes she hears someone talking, and goes outside to investigate.  She goes deeper and deeper into the woods (and farther away from the house), until she is suddenly attacked by the trees.  They form long creepers which bind her hands and feet, and even sexually assault her.  Luckily, Cheryl manages to escape and make it back to the cabin.  Cheryl demands that Ash drive her back into town immediately.  However, on the way, they discover that the bridge they had previously crossed has completely collapsed, blocking their only way back into town.  Since only Scotty knows another way out, the two return to the cabin.  Cheryl has calmed down, but suddenly begins saying that the demons will kill all of them; she then attacks Linda and stabs her in the ankle with a pencil.  Her face becomes extremely distorted, and the others realize that she is possessed.  After a struggle, they lock her in the cellar.

A short time later, Shelly also becomes possessed, and attacks Scotty.  Due to his relationship with her, Scotty is almost unable to fight back; he does so only after realizing that she will kill him if he doesn’t do something.  Remembering from the tape that the only way to truly stop the demons is to dismember them, Scotty forces himself to go after Shelly with an axe.  He and Ash then bury her outside the cabin.  After this, Scotty decides to go out looking for the trail which should take them back to town.  Linda has gone to bed, and Ash checks on her, believing that she is safe.  However, when he reenters the living room, he finds that Linda is not fine:  she is possessed, and has followed him.  However, she simply sits in the doorway laughing maniacally – she doesn’t try to attack.  Scotty soon returns, and it is evident that he has also been attacked by the demonic trees.  To Ash’s dismay, he learns that there is no trail back to town.  Scotty then passes out.  Suddenly, Linda begins talking to Ash in her normal voice; when he turns around, she again looks normal.  Ash is relieved to have her back, but becomes suspicious when Cheryl also begins to talk normally from the basement.  When he leaves himself unprotected, both girls revert to their demon form, and Linda attacks him.  After a struggle, he locks her outside the cabin, but she finds her way back in and tries to stab him.  Ash is able to get the knife and stab Linda, but is unable to dismember her.  He tries to simply bury her, but she bursts out of the grave and attacks again; in desperation, Ash decapitates her with a shovel.  When Ash gets back to the cabin, the cellar door is open and Cheryl is gone.  He retrieves a shotgun, then goes outside looking for Cheryl.  He shoots her in the shoulder, but has to go back in the house (and into the cellar) for more shells; while in the cellar, he notices that blood is seeping out of the house.  When he gets back upstairs, the now-possessed Scotty attacks Ash, and Cheryl manages to break in.  However, as he struggles to fight them off, Ash notices that the Book of the Dead is too close to the fireplace, and has started to smolder – as have Cheryl and Scotty.  Ash snatches the book and throws the whole thing directly into the ire.  As it disintegrates, so do Scotty and Cheryl; almost immediately, the sun rises.  Believing that he is now safe, Ash walks outside.  He is attacked by an evil force which hits him from behind; just as he screams, the film ends.

MY TAKE:  This is one of those low-budget horror films that turned into a huge hit (it seems to be a bit of a trendno other genre has experienced such success on so little money).  According to Bruce Campbell, the guy who played Ash, the movie was made for $90,000, which even in 1979 wasn’t very much.  The cast and crew was made up of friends of his and Sam Raimi’s (the director), who learned as they went along.  The movie became a huge hit, and Bruce Campbell is currently started in the just-premiered series Ash vs. the Evil Dead.  Personally, I thought it was pretty typical of a horror movie.  This may be because it’s 2015, and gazillions of horror movies have been made since then, most of them with the same basic plot.  In addition, the villain in this movie is some evil spirit, which (as you probably know) fails to inspire terror in me.  Given the year that this movie came out, I expected it to follow the basic plot, and I wasn’t too disappointed.  First of all, it focuses on a group of teenagers/young adults (apparently the only ones stupid enough to get themselves into these situations) at an isolated location, with virtually no contact to the outside world.  The dumb-ness really starts when Cheryl hears voices outside.  She’s had a couple of really odd situations by now, including the clock-hand thing, and she still goes outside, alone and in her bathrobe, to check it out.  The entire group probably should have left after this, or at least driven as far away as they could.  Instead, they stay at the cabin, and they KEEP GOING OUTSIDE, which seemed like a colossally bad idea to me.  Even though Cheryl got attacked, and both she and Shelly have gone off their rockers, Scotty goes outside by himself.  One by one, they all attack Ash, who somehow manages to fight them off.  The only real surprise for me was that Ash was attacked at the end, because it didn’t fit the pattern (and he obviously survives, since he has a new TV show! – I know, people in 1981 didn’t know that, but still).  The entire time the other four were attacking, that living room clock was stopped, and it was dark outside.  After he offs Scotty and Cheryl, the clock starts again and the sun rises.  It just doesn’t make sense (which I know is a dumb thing to say about a horror movie).  It’s not that it was a bad movie – it’s pretty well acted, and it’s not cheesy or anything – it’s just that by now, the plot has become routine.

RATING:  Typical horror movie.


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