47 FILMS: 43. THE EVIL DEAD
In our continuing series of 47 films to see before you are murdered in your dreams we present Sam Raimi’s horror comedy Evil Dead.
I first watched Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead as a kid and it scared the living shit-lights out of me. The word evil in the title seemed so apposite. A genuine darkness lurked in the wood and as the camera swooped towards the cabin, a remorseless intent drove it. It was only when I saw the sequel that I realized that this was a comedy. It wasn’t that it wasn’t funny. When I rewatched it the film was hilarious. The first time the fear stopped me laughing. On repeated viewings it became one of my favorite comedies and now I doesn’t scare me much anymore. But I still have to sometimes get up and walk around the house putting more lights on if I’m watching it.
Following the Scream movies and more recently The Cabin in the Woods, we’re used to the horror-comedy. But what Raimi does with his trip into the woods is give us a comedy that’s still serious about its horror. A group of teenagers go out into the woods for no real reason, find a book in the cellar and inadvertently raise the demons of Candar. Bruce Campbell would carve out a whole career from the humble origins of Ash, but the rest of the ensemble are great too, playing everything with utter conviction.
The gloopy effects go over the top but they hold an essential secret of horror which so many recent entries screw up. Horror should be filthy. Sticky. Nasty. Horror is the adult version of a custard pie fight. Nowadays technology means the blood looks less splatter and more Photoshop. By the end of the film, we have mushy peas and porridge, but it all works. This is old school at its best.