The Evil Dead (1981)

Director: Sam Raimi

Oh Bruce, how young you were once. What a difficult film this is, at least for me, because I’ve never been entirely sure how to view it. The problem is that, although I’ve never seen Evil Dead 2, I know it was meant as a comedy as much as a horror film, and as such I think I’ve always seen the original Evil Dead in a similar light. And yet I don’t think it was actually meant to be. I’ve only seen it once before, that was a lot of years ago via a rather old VHS tape; tonight was my second viewing and I still don’t know just how seriously this thing was actually meant to be taken… One thing is sure: it was kind of hell to make, with various injuries sustained by the cast and a crew that weren’t entirely sure of what they were doing, a substantial budget and shooting schedule blowout, to say nothing of the living (cast and crew all living together in the cabin they were shooting in… Raimi’s idea, apparently, was that if the filming was horrible, some of that horror would end up in the film itself. And yet, and yet. Maybe it’s just me, but there’s something… I don’t know, self-conscious (for want of a better word) about the enterprise, something kind of almost wilful about its extremity. Something somehow impossible to fully take seriously, just the way it’s so massively OTT (particularly the “possessed” acting), I wonder how much the people involved were aware that it could be viewed as absurd, unintentionally or otherwise, how much did they view it that way themselves. Is it that sort of reaction where you laugh at something horrible to protect yourself from it, or do I just respond to it the way I do because I know how the sequel was intended and am, perhaps wrongly, viewing the original in the same way? I don’t know. Either way, revisiting it tonight was an awful lot of fun; it’s actually much better made than I remembered (the “shakycam” stuff is remarkable), and the end result displays more ability and proficiency than was perhaps actually involved in the making. As the producer says in the making-of piece on the DVD, there’s a visceral quality to the thing; it’s not a film of high-quality dialogue and acting and stuff like that, but it does have other strengths that it plays to rather well.

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