The slasher genre has a pattern—teens go to an isolated place like a cabin, they encounter some kind of terrible villain, and they are picked off one by one in increasingly gory and inventive ways.
This is a format that was first introduced in the 1970s, and since then has grown in both popularity and scope. Although often formulaic, they continue to scare and thrill audiences to this day.
One of the most notable entries in the genre is the 1981 horror movie ‘The Evil Dead,’ directed by Sam Raimi. As far as slasher/supernatural horror movies go, this is a classic and features some of the most iconic scenes that you’ll ever see in a movie.
But how well does this classic stand the test of time – is its cult status deserved? We’re going to take a look at this movie to see how it stacks up today.
The plot is simple – five University students go on vacation to a remote cabin hidden away in the heart of rural Tennessee.
From the get-go, there are supernatural elements at work, and we get the impression that something is wrong with this cabin, that something is watching our cast members.
Once inside, they find a trap door and an ancient Book of the Dead alongside the belongings of an archaeologist. At first, they treat it as a fun part of their trip, but soon enough one of them becomes possessed by a demon.
Trapped in the woods with no way out, they are forced to deal with the demonic forces building within the cabin.
Without getting too much into spoilers – the results are bloody and the movie unfolds into one of the most violent movies that the 80s had to offer.
This movie was shot over 12 weeks around the end of 1979, and the work that went into the experience is obvious.
With a small budget and real cabin location in rural Tennessee – the actors and crew went without comfort for much of the time of the shoot. This only adds to the performances and overall gritty feel of the movie.
It’s impressive how much they were able to do with a small budget, and without the help of CGI, that modern horror movies often rely on. Expect lots of practical effects, shaky camera techniques, and gallons of fake blood to douse the actors.
The violence and horror scenes are so well done that the movie was banned in multiple countries upon its release.
Whilst it might not quite stack up to the level of visceral gore we’re used to seeing in the modern day – there are still many scenes in this movie that are shocking.
Why is it that horror directors love tormenting their actors? Stanley Kubrick in his 1980 movie ‘The Shining’ is infamous for his alleged treatment of actress Shelley Duvall, but it’s one of the reasons why her performance is so iconic.
The same kind of method was employed with the cast of The Evil Dead, with many of the cast members visibly drained and kept to a tight schedule. In fact, some members of the cast and crew had to sleep in the actual cabin where the movie was shot.
This does wonder for any scene where an actor needs to show terror, and you can see that a lot of love and attention went into creating believable masks of fear.
We’d like to put special emphasis on the performances of Bruce Campbell who takes the role of the student hero of the movie, and Ellen Sandweiss who plays the demonically possessed Cheryl Williams.
Sam Raimi is a cult legend for a reason. One of his best achievements in this movie is the general atmosphere that he was able to create through a mix of camera work, location, shot selection, and practical effects.
The sheer intensity of some of the horror and violence in this movie is one of the main reasons why it has endured through the years and become so iconic.
The horror genre has shifted through the years, with many people believing the 1970s and 1980s are its shining moments. Whatever your opinion is, it’s clear to see that the origins of a lot of the horror movies we love today come from this time period.
In conclusion, the 1981 movie The Evil Dead is a horror classic for a reason. We’d recommend it most of all for those who are big fans of the slasher genre and want to see one of the most formative moments of the genre.
The Evil Dead sparked a franchise with a few notable entries, with the most recent 2013 remake a positive addition to the series.
If you’re looking for some nail-biting splatter, demonic possessions, and a classic slasher format then this movie will not disappoint.
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