Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

THE EVIL DEAD


THE EVIL DEAD (1981). Written and directed by Sam Raimi.

Ashley (Bruce Campbell) and four friends travel to an isolated cabin in the woods where they discover and play a tape recording of incantations from the "Book of the Dead" which can resurrect demons. Which is exactly what happens. Before long -- and after one woman has apparently been raped by malevolent, moving roots -- the women in the party are possessed one by one by demonic forces that transform them and turn them into murderous, cackling hags that only dismemberment can kill. This is another in a long line of Exorcist-inspired films, and in its own way was also a bit influential, though it's much less impressive now than it seemed nearly thirty years ago. The movie, full of comic book gruesomeness, is like a nightmare come to life, and is sometimes effective and sometimes clumsy, often employing shock techniques that were old-fashioned even in 1981. Some feel the direction and camera work of the film are "masterful." Well ... not quite. Raimi's screenplay fails to provide three-dimensional characters. The true stars of the film are the FX people and the make up artists, whose work is excellent. Some of the acting is awkward, although Campbell isn't bad. The best scene has a paranoid Ash all alone in the cabin wondering what on earth is going to happen next. Raimi would go on to direct much better films.

Verdict: Lively, once it gets going, but perhaps not lively enough. **1/2.

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