Halloween Scene: The Evil Dead (1981)

the evil dead While flipping through Netflix’s instant horror offerings the other day, I came across The Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2. I found myself hovering over the poster images trying to decide whether I wanted to watch these movies again. I couldn’t quite put my figure on why I wouldn’t want to watch these films. When I was a teenager, these were two of the movies very high on my list of need-to-watch horror flicks. Heck, I even owned both of them on VHS, but for whatever reason, they never became the kinds of movies that I watched over and over again like I did/do Halloween and some other favorites.

Well, I did sit down and re-watch this film that I haven’t seen all the way through since college. And you know what? I really liked it. Like a lot. I also think I figured out a few of the reasons my mind told me I didn’t want to watch this film, but I’ll get to those a bit later. 

The film itself — directed by Sam Raimi and starring Bruce Campbell, of course — finds a group of friends in their late 20s traveling to a cabin in the middle of the woods for some relaxation time. What they don’t know is that this particular house holds a supernatural book called The Necronomicon (ie The Book Of The Dead) and the forrest is filled with invisible demons. As the story progresses and the demons make themselves known, Campbell’s Ash starts losing his friends who get taken over by the evil beings. They play with him emotionally and rough him up physically, but ultimately, he proves himself worthy of surviving for a pair of sequels and a ton of comic book appearances.

The version of Ash that lives in my head is a bit smarmier and more over-the-top, basically the version seen in Army Of Darkness, but this is a more reserved version of the character. He’s a charmer who does his best to deal with this insane situation. And speaking of insanity, this group gets stranded in the middle of nowhere surrounded by their friends-turned-possessed-monsters. There’s one in the cellar and another just sitting there talking like a little girl. It’s just creepy city. And, even though some of the make-up gets a little cartoonish, these are still scary looking individuals with menace just oozing out of them.

All in all, this is an incredibly well put together, bloody film that also plays on certain fears incredibly well. It’s all the more impressive when you realize that it was basically shot by some friends in the woods. Sure, there was a crew involved and a somewhat sizable cast, but it’s great reading stories about how Raimi and Campbell worked together on all aspects of this movie, even creating innovative filming techniques that have been upgraded and are still used to this day. I know I’m not saying anything unique, but this is a great movie that everyone should check out once.

So, why didn’t I want to watch it? Several ingredients went into that cocktail. First, I got a little burned out on the myriad of DVD offerings for both of these films. Yes, that’s a silly reason, but that explains why I never added this to my DVD collection and thus haven’t watched it on the regular the past few years. Second, I really don’t like Sam Raimi’s more recent films. Unlike a lot of people, I just-about-hate Spider-Man 2 and like everyone else I think Spider-Man 3 is just a mess. I also wasn’t very impressed with his return to horror Drag Me To Hell. This doesn’t happen to me often, but in this case an artist’s later work really soured me on the idea of their entire output.

But, one of the biggest reasons goes back to my childhood. One time when my parents went away for a weekend I had this babysitter. I think she was a neighbor’s kid who would have been in high school at the time. I woke up at one point and came downstairs to see her and a few friends watching a movie where a tree attacked a woman. Anyone who’s seen Evil Dead knows the scene I’m talking about. I don’t remember anything else about the weekend, but that scene stuck with me. I wasn’t emotionally scarred or anything like that, but it certainly freaked me out.

evil dead re release

Years later, when I finally watched this movie in high school I remembered all that and on some level it freaked me out, but on another I think I was glad to finally face the thing that scared me as a kid. Still, I’m thinking some of the youthful fear stuck around and kept me from wanting to watch this movie again on some level.

Now that I’m older, though, I’ve seen and experienced so many more things that that’s just a small echo in my memory. Still, it reminds me how careful I have to be when watching these things late at night. I do my best to keep Lu from these things, especially now that she’s getting into her scared phase, so anytime I hear even a rustling from her room, I pause whatever I’m watching and make sure it’s not frozen on some freaky scene. The kid’s got plenty of time to get into this stuff on her own, but I don’t want to accidentally expose her to these movies too early for obvious reasons.

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