Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—The Evil Dead (1981) ***½

X, 85 min.
Director/Writer: Sam Raimi
Starring: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Hal Delrich, Betsy Baker, Sarah York

The remake of Sam Raimi’s cult classic “Evil Dead” opens in theaters this Friday. The remake is produced by Raimi and has been given full blessings by the original’s star Bruce Campbell, who became an underground cult acting hero through his work on Raimi’s original horror/comedy trilogy. What strikes me about the trailers of the new movie is that there doesn’t seem to be any hint that the movie retains any of the comedic elements that made the first films underground hits. In revisiting the original film, with a title that include a “The” that was somehow dropped through the mysterious ways that film’s take on their own lives, the more serious tone that may encompass the new version makes a little more sense.

When most people remember “The Evil Dead”, they generally are actually remembering “Evil Dead II”, which was sort of a remake in itself of the first film. The original movie was made on such a tiny budget ($357,000), it remained very underground. When Raimi obtained ten times that for a sequel, he pretty much remade the first film in the first ten minutes of the second and expanded on his ideas from there. I think he looked at the inadvertent campiness of the first film, which was caused by the low budget, and changed his initial direction for the material.

What I’m getting at is that “The Evil Dead” was really intended to be a very serious and very scary movie. Many people can’t get past the poor production values, although Raimi does an incredible job making the best of what he’s got with innovative camera work and an economy of production design. Did you ever notice how the cabin looks much bigger from the inside than it does from the outside? He uses this expansion of space as an aspect of the horror.

“The Evil Dead” is actually surprisingly disturbing considering its meager budget. Although some of the acting is questionable and creates that sense of camp that Raimi capitalized on in his sequels, the actual story and its execution are done in earnest and work well as a legitimate horror flick. It is perhaps the ultimate “cabin in the woods” horror flick. That was until Joss Whedon’s “The Cabin in the Woods” out did the entire genre last year. But that was a funny horror movie too. Perhaps “Evil Dead” will be the scariest cabin in the woods horror movie ever, as Raimi may have originally intended.

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