Five young people go to an old cabin in the woods and mistakenly summon the most evil, vicious, not to mention, sniggering demons you could imagine. Will the kids make it through the night? That's the plot of Sam Raimi's infamous feature film debut and what it lacks in narrative weight, it compensates for with a relentless pace, disturbing atmosphere, as well as some imaginative displays of dismemberment.
Shot on 16mm at an initial cost of $85,000 in 1979, it was finished two years later. "The Evil Dead", is a first film that easily surpasses other notorious horror debuts such "The Last House on the Left" or "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre". The influence of The Three Stooges on its comical creative trio of director Raimi, producer Robert Tapert, and lead actor Bruce Campbell gives the film a playful but unsettling feel. While they would take this humour further in "Evil Dead II" and "Army of Darkness", here it blends effectively with the squirming gore that gives the film its reputation. A pencil stabbed into an ankle is amusing in a Stooge-like way, but when its point repeatedly digs and gouges into the recipient's flesh, we're given enough time to contemplate our own ankle under attack and are left feeling appropriately horrified.
A bold use of lenses and lighting, not to mention the homemade Steadicam (the camera was fixed to a plank of wood carried by crew members to create the sweeping point-of-view shots of the demonic force), creates a genuine creepy ambience that will haunt you when you next take a walk in the woods. Apart from the ill-advised trees-that-rape scene, "The Evil Dead" is one of the great modern horror films, an even more impressive when one considers its modest production values.
Read a review of the DVD.