31 Days of Horror: The Evil Dead

Sam Raimi's Drag Me To Hell is out on DVD today and I was going to write about it but I have already covered it here. So while I was going to avoid the more popular mainstream horror movies that everybody knows - I feel the need to present something from Sam Raimi so his first low budget feature The Evil Dead wins the honour.

Made for $350,000 and released in 1981, The Evil Dead was a low budget masterpiece. Spawning two more sequels - the easy to remember Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn and the third film Army of Darkness. Over the top gore and innovative camera work highlight this film series.

For those who have been living under a rock - the story is simple. A group of friends ventures into the woods to stay in a cabin for the weekend. Once they arrive, they find a book - but not just any old book. This is the Book of the Dead. Bound in human flesh, written in blood - the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis. And beside the book is a tape player. And on the tape player is the voice of a professor who found the book and was translating it in his cabin. The Professor then reads aloud the incantations that lie within the book (good thing he recorded it!) - awaking the demonic spirits that lie out in the woods. The demons then start possessing members of the group - one after another.

But not before a good old fashioned tree raping. That's right - a tree rapes somebody. It is as uncomfortable and nasty as it sounds. And they let Sam Raimi direct Spider-Man movies for the kiddies. Bruce Campbell is in the film but his performance is barely noticeable compared to the constant horror that Raimi continually unleashes on the cast. It wasn't until Evil Dead 2 that Campbell became the wisecracking action hero that every nerd knows and quotes.

"Someone's in my fruit cellar! Someone with a fresh soooul! "

While the first is pure horror - Evil Dead 2 (1987) is more of a comedy horror. It mixes the comedy of The Three Stooges with the hyper-kinetic horror of the first movie. It almost plays as a remake rather than a sequel. The story continues with Bruce Campbell - alone in the cabin after the last film still tormented by the demonic forces that were summoned from the first film and then re-summoned by fools playing that damned tape recorder again. Then more cannon fodder shows up and the good times roll. And heads roll. And eyeballs fly. Good times all around.

Army of Darkness was more of action comedy. It departed from the horror roots of the original but because Universal Pictures released the film - more people know it. It's not bad but it's no Evil Dead.

I remember a time where it was nearly impossible to find these movies and ended up paying a pretty penny for the VHS copies. They are quite plentiful now thanks to Anchor Bay and their nearly yearly re-releasing of these films on DVD. Five copies of The Evil Dead and at least four copies of Evil Dead 2 and at least seven editions of the third Evil Dead - Army of Darkness.

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