SPOILER WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
Like in every horror movie, a group of twenty-something teens heads to a cabin for a weekend of beer and reefer madness like the kids like. But this time (well, like most times) they find an ancient book bound in human flesh in the basement. Bruce Campbell ensues.
There's gore by the gallon, including some things I just couldn't watch (that pencil!).
4/5 The Classics.
The first credit at the end of this movie is for a bunch of Fake Shemps. A quick google informs me that a Fake Shemp (term coined by Sam Raimi, in this very film!) is a person standing in for an actor, only shot from the back, or only their hand or something is visible. This is based on the fact that when Shemp Howard of the 3 Stooges died, they still had to complete 4 more shorts, and they did so with a stand-in, the original Fake Shemp.
The best thing overall about this movie is that they just went for it. They never stop to say "is this too much?" It's all too much, and it's supposed to be. Movies so often dial things back, and I don't mean sex and violence and all that, but rather just weirdness. Most movies wouldn't dismember someone right in front of you while they're still alive (and even semi-alive afterwards). A lot of things in this movie are the things other movies wouldn't include because it's too over-the-top, too unbelievable, going to look silly no matter how good your effects are. Sam Raimi doesn't care (or didn't back then!), he will film what he wants because it's the story he wants to tell, whether that's gonna come out looking ridiculous or not. I've actually observed this same thing in Hercules and Xena as well. Other shows would never have Hercules swallowed by a sea monster and doing battle with its internal organs, because there's no way to do it without it looking stupid. And believe me, that is
true! But it's the story they wanted to tell, so they don't water it down by saying "well, maybe he just wrestles a big shark" (okay, that would also look stupid...). Don't let your limitations fetter your expression, put it all out there like Sam Raimi!
This movie includes an interesting notion, perhaps unintentionally. You see, demons are evil, right? So they'll kill you, or torture you, or destroy your soul, we all know that stuff. But what no other movie has dared to consider is that another very evil thing to do is to annoy
someone! There are demons in this movie that will have you reaching for the volume knob just to stop the laughing/screaming/screeching/giggling. They are truly driving the characters insane, and sadly the audience at the same time. I actually think this is a brilliant notion - why wouldn't
demons try to be as annoying as possible as well as deadly? They're supposed to be the epitome of evil, after all. But anyway, the worst moment is sitting through extended scenes of one of the possessed girls, who sits there giggling like a baby for five minutes. Just because it's a good idea doesn't mean I want to hear it! Overall, this whole movie is very loud and noisy. It's not a slow burn, it's exploding in your face and pretty grating.
A Suspension Bridge Too Far:
In a movie this crazy, you're either in or you're out. But one thing that pushed my limits was the two separate times that Ash found himself with a bookcase falling on top of him. They'd break apart and then he'd be laying there under a board
, like the little particle-board boards that make up the side of a cheapo bookcase, and he couldn't get up. He'd have to struggle it off of him over a minute or so. It was so absurd. I'm sure they could've found heavier-looking bookcases to make that work.
Well, I already told you there's a group of twenty-something teens going to a cabin! And an ancient evil book with a curse in it you should never read aloud. They don't actually read it, they just play a tape of somebody else reading it, which leaves me wondering why the curse ever stopped being active in the first place, or why the cabin is in decent shape and everything is put away. I guess the demons got bored after they killed everyone, so they left and then somebody came and cleaned up the place for the next visitors. Anyway, this movie isn't too tropey, nobody else would dare copy the madness. Few tropes unless you count Sam Raimi tropes - it's about 99% Raimi-Cam. Nearly every shot is through some crazy angle, from a demon's perspective or just insane.
This movie from way back in 1981 really does hold up, at least for me. As I mentioned in other parts, it's just sheer insanity on film. But in a fun, goofy way, not some kind of disturbing Cronenberg thing. And there's Bruce Campbell! The budget was nearly zero, but honestly most of the effects are solid and still hold up. The "river of blood" effect in this movie, almost 20 years before Event Horizon, is infinitely superior (because it's actual corn syrup blood stuff, not red water. To be fair, it's also about 1000 gallons less, but I bet the budget is about 1000 times smaller as well). This is definitely an amateur production, and it shows, but it shows in a way that you can easily see that Sam Raimi is going places. It's not any wonder at all that he's one of the biggest directors today when you see what he accomplished here with nothing, and how much style he put into it. Oh, and hey, there's a claymation ending! I told you, they just went for it.
In my mind, Evil Dead 1 and 2 are a bit mixed up (understandably, since Evil Dead 2 is basically a remake), and I kept waiting for Ash to chop off his own hand in this movie, but it never happened.
Never read books.