Franchises of All Time
The "Evil Dead" Films
The Evil Dead (1981)
Evil Dead Films
The Evil Dead (1981) | Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn (1987) | Army of Darkness (1993)
The Evil Dead (1981)
Film Plot Summary
Five Michigan State University students in the 20s, who were spending a weekend in a remote Tennessee cabin, inadvertently unleashed (or raised from the dead) dormant, demonic evil spirits from the ominous surrounding forest. In the cellar, they found an archaeologist's reel-to-reel tape-recording account of a cursed and forbidden book ("bound in human flesh and inked in human blood") named the Naturon Demonto (or Book of the Dead). It was found among the Khandarian ruins of a Sumerian civilization, and filled with ancient burial practices and funerary incantations, and information about demonic resurrection.
Unaware of the after-effects, they played one of the tapes of ancient spells, and unleashed demonic forces, coming supposedly from the woods. Afterwards, one by one, each of them, except Ash Williams (B-movie icon Bruce Campbell), became violently possessed by 'evil dead' forces. [The film was extremely effective for its super-fast POV shots of the demons approaching.]
In the film's scariest and most infamous (and gratuitous) predatory tree rape scene, Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss) was attacked in the woods outside the log cabin at night by vines and tree branches that wrapped around her neck and limbs, stripped her of her clothes, caressed her and then spread her legs ("It was the woods themselves, they're alive") - one tree branch suddenly impaled her in her crotch.
After Cheryl was chased back to the house (with quick POV tracking shots), she was soon transformed into a demon zombie with a greyish white face and superhuman strength. As a result, she floated above the floor, spoke with a ghastly voice, and grabbed a pencil from the floor and jabbed it into the ankle of Ash's girlfriend Linda (Betsy Baker). Cheryl had to be confined in the basement fruit cellar with a padlocked trapdoor leading up to the living room.
The next to be possessed was Ash's sister Shelly (Sarah York) who chewed off her own hand and had to be dismembered with an axe by Scotty (Hal Delrich) and stabbed. Ash and Scotty dragged her body parts in a sheet outdoors, where they buried them.
Next, Linda was discovered to be possessed (although she could revert back to her human self to fool Ash). Scotty died from massive injuries inflicted by trees when he tried to walk out of the area, while Ash struggled to subdue flesh-possessed Linda, whom he first stabbed and wanted to chainsaw into pieces, but finally beheaded with a shovel after he attempted to bury her - as she spurted blood from her neck stump onto his face.
Cheryl (who escaped from the cellar) continued to attack Ash as well as a zombified Scotty, whose eyeballs had to be gouged out.
Battling for survival and to stop both of them, Ash threw the Book of the Dead into the fireplace - and the light of dawn saved him (as their bodies deteriorated, in time-lapse photography), although the film ended with a fast-moving evil dead spirit rushing through the forest toward Ash.
Film Notables (Awards, Facts, etc.)
This was the first installment of the popular cult Evil Dead trilogy, a low-budget, non-humorous B-grade gore-fest horror film with the Stephen King quote-tagline: "the ultimate experience in grueling terror." Writer/director Sam Raimi's debut film was the ultimate "cabin in the woods" story, although it had very little dialogue, plot and character development. It could be compared to director/writer Jack Woods' Equinox (1970) - another tale of a cabin in the woods, four friends and a professor, an occult tome and crazed demonic forces.
Evil Dead was originally titled: "Into the Woods" - the title of the pitch film used to acquire potential investors. It told about five college students who drove to a remote shack, played a reel-to-reel tape recorder with incantations, looked into a old book with demonic drawings and incantations, and summoned up bloody hell.
22 year-old writer/director Sam Raimi created some of the most exuberant, inventive, comic-book, tongue-in-cheek parodies with horror themes ever produced - starring Bruce Campbell as the one-armed protagonist with a chain saw. Famed future director Joel Cohen co-edited the film with Raimi.
Due to this film's graphic violence in a few of its scenes, it was banned in several European countries. In the UK, the film was subject to obscenity trials and various censorship cuts - particularly the misogynistic tree-rape scene. On-screen blood and gore would have given the film an NC-17 rating if Raimi had presented the film to the ratings board when it was first released.
With an initial production budget of only $375,000, the film grossed almost $11 million (upon re-release).
The Evil Dead was remade as Evil Dead (2013), the debut feature film of director Fede Alvarez (and produced by both Raimi and Bruce Campbell). The remake affectionately retained all of the blood, gore, and slapstick horror of the original film.
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